Dyson will not supply medical ventilators to help the NHS treat Covid-19 patients after the government told the engineering firm that its services were no longer required.
Sir James Dyson, the company’s billionaire founder, said the company had already spent around £20m on the project but would not be seeking any public money to cover its costs.
The government had lodged a provisional order with the company for 10,000 of a prototype ventilator called the CoVent, which the company designed in a fortnight.
The order was conditional on the device receiving regulatory approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
While the MHRA is not thought to have rejected the CoVent, approval was expected to take some time and the NHS’ need for ventilators has so far proved lower than the 18,000 that health secretary Matt Hancock said might be required.
“[Our] people welcomed the government’s challenge,” said Dyson, after the Daily Telegraph reported his company had been told to stand down.
“Mercifully they are not required, but we don’t regret our contribution to the national effort for one moment. I have some hope that our ventilator we may yet help the response in other countries, but that requires further time and investigation.
“The team have worked 24/7 to design and manufacture a sophisticated ventilator in a short timeframe – I hope they can spend this weekend with their families who will not have seen them for weeks.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “A number of devices are […] going through the necessary tests for regulatory approval. No decisions have been made on those devices and we will provide an update in due course.”
The government commissioned several companies to supply 10,000 brand new ventilators each, awarding contracts to Dyson, defence company Babcock and a Cambridge-based group called Sagentia, a subsidiary of Science Group.
But none of the companies has so far received regulatory approval for new devices.
Dyson’s is the second project to be abandoned, after an effort involving the Renault and Aston Martin Red Bull Formula One teams was stood down due to a change in the specifications set by the government for new devices.
The only group to have secured regulatory approval and supplied ventilators to the NHS in significant numbers is Ventilator Challenge UK, a consortium of manufacturers that focused on scaling up production of proven devices, rather than building new ones.
The consortium has delivered more than 250 to the NHS, expects to reach production of 1,500 by early May and could supply up to 20,000 devices made by Oxfordshire specialist Penlon and Luton-based Smiths Medical.
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