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New grants for projects to help ensure the world is in better shape to navigate future pandemics

The Engineering X Pandemic Preparedness Programme, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering (@RAEngNews), has awarded nearly £0.5 million in grants to projects which address the challenges of recovering from the outbreak of COVID-19 and building preparedness for future pandemics.

Twenty-five awards of between £15,000 and £20,000, made to existing awardees of the Academy from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, India and the UK, will enable the development of new engineered solutions to a range of pressing needs. These include the measurement and reduction of viral loads in confined spaces, systems to protect health workers from infection, and innovative low-cost designs for essential equipment such as ventilators, masks and diagnostic devices.

Sustained community transmission is a key challenge in the recovery from the current pandemic and there is a much greater awareness of the important role of engineering in infection control now than before COVID-19 struck. Engineers themselves have learned a great deal about how to mobilise and offer their skills and expertise where appropriate. Grants have been awarded to 14 projects focused on engineering solutions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, ranging from new techniques for vaccine delivery and diagnostic testing to technology aimed at reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious agents in our workplaces, transport systems and public spaces.

Several projects awarded to engineers in sub-Saharan Africa propose innovative adaptive measures which could enable large swathes of the labour force affected by lockdown measures to return safely to work, from street hawkers in Nairobi to university lecturers in Accra.

Professor Peter Guthrie FREng, Chair of the Engineering X Pandemic Preparedness Programme Board, said,

“With these new grants, Engineering X is supporting projects with potential for significant impact, with engineers bringing innovative approaches to the challenges of the pandemic, particularly focusing on ways of easing lockdown.

“Beyond the immediate impacts of these grants, we also want to ensure engineers are equipped to be at the forefront of global efforts to fight future pandemics. Engineering X aims to generate an evidence base of engineering interventions and to develop a global community that will help develop collective resilience and ensure we are in better shape to navigate future pandemics and systemic shocks of a similar nature.”

Engineering X is an international collaboration, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation. This latest initiative from Engineering X has benefited from input from meetings hosted by the Academy for international networks of science and engineering academies (CAETS and Euro-CASE).

The purpose of the meetings is to share insight into how engineers across the world are responding to the pandemic, and to connect organisations and individuals delivering critical solutions and products. The Academy intends to build on this work with similar collaborations in the future.

The twenty-five projects address issues relating to infection control, medical innovation, establishing a ‘new normal’ and effective collective action.

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