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Innovative design and technology company, Cambridge Design Partnership, in conjunction with a leading business research body, has identified that one of its designs, an ‘oxygen concentrator’ originally designed for the military, could be repurposed to address a pressing need in hospitals and clinics within the developing world. Cambridge Design Partnership is now seeking NGO or device-manufacturer partners to support the development of this design into a product that can provide a reliable supply of oxygen for health settings in resource constrained countries.

Of the 10 million children that die worldwide each year* 95% occur in the developing world. A staggering 4 million of these deaths occur through respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia after birth. A large portion of these deaths could potentially be mitigated through the provision of adequate and timely oxygen supplies.

The World Health Organisation has previously recognised that although oxygen-provision is a basic requirement in saving lives, oxygen is rarely available, and is often lacking in the developing world. Current solutions include oxygen concentrators that are powered by unreliable electricity supplies and heavy, expensive oxygen cylinders that rely on transport infrastructure. These do not provide a workable solution for many remote hospitals and clinics in resource poor settings, leading to both unnecessary deaths and excessive expenditure in medical aid.

Cambridge Design Partnership’s Oxygen Concentrator was originally developed in 2011 as a way of delivering life-saving oxygen to frontline battlefields. It works by cycling air pressure in chambers filled with a gas absorbing substance to concentrate atmospheric oxygen to 95% purity.

The oxygen concentrator crucially does not rely on mains electricity, something that is vital for hospitals in rural districts where electricity supplies are often unreliable, and where the medical needs can be greater. It can be configured to run off mains power but internal fuel can take over if this supply is interrupted, to enable a continuous supply of oxygen. Based on a unique micro-engine developed by Cambridge Design Partnership it can run on a variety of readily available, cost-effective fuels, including ordinary diesel, making it much more cost-effective to purchase and run. The design is straight-forward and intuitive to use, and as it would be supplied with all necessary equipment for a 10 year lifespan, it is also reliable – key attributes for a successful product in this environment.

“The Oxygen Concentrator won the Defence and Security award at The Engineer Technology and Innovation Awards 2011. Following this success we set out to identify opportunities to put this work and research to wider use and extend it beyond the military,” said David Foster, Partner, Cambridge Design Partnership. “Strangely, in certain respects, a military environment where resources are limited is similar to the challenging environments often faced in developing countries. Adequate provision of oxygen, a basic right for the injured, could have a huge effect in addressing child mortality rates in resource constrained countries.”

Cambridge Design Partnership commissioned the world leading University of Cambridge Judge Business School to examine alternative markets in developing world countries for which its design might be applicable. The resulting feasibility study identified a clear and potentially life changing demand for the device across huge swathes of Africa and South Asia.

To discuss potential partnerships to help support the development of the Oxygen Concentrator, or for more information, please contact us at

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