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The Response of Midlands Innovation Technicians to COVID-19

Here at Midlands Innovation we have always known that our ‘technicians make it happen’ but we’ve been blown away by the response and dedication of our technical teams to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Technical staff have been at the forefront of supporting our institutions’ efforts against COVID-19, bringing their knowledge, expertise and skills where needed.  

Our technical colleagues are organising Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) donations from our universities to NHS and other frontline services, creating thousands of gallons of hand sanitiser for hospitals and social care settings, supporting our institutions to quickly transition academic teaching online, and ensuring crucial services and ongoing academic research can continue.

They’re keeping essential equipment working, refilling cryogenic liquids and gases, sewing medical gowns/face masks, 3D printing ventilator parts and visors, collating equipment for UK government testing centres and carrying out compliance checks throughout the lockdown. 

As founding signatories of the Technician Commitment, all eight of our institutions are proud to shine a light on the fantastic work of our technical colleagues.  Here’s some examples from our partners.

Warwick University

Warwick University has supplied: 155 FFP3 face masks, 870 glasses (safety and/or over glasses), 20,400 nitrile gloves of various sizes and 1,000 shoe covers to University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust’s Coventry site.  WMG technicians have made 3D printed face masks for the NHS through the 3D Crowd Volunteers UK Group.

Cranfield University

A number of technicians have been utilising their experience and 3D equipment to work on designs for ventilators and PPE visors.

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University of Leicester

A number of technical colleagues have commenced 12-hour shifts supporting COVID-19 testing at the government diagnostic labs in Milton Keynes. The University workshops have made face shields for the NHS and hundreds of face masks, gloves and other PPE have been delivered to the NHS.  

Loughborough University

Technicians have co-ordinated the collection of PPE to donate to the local hospitals and equipment which has gone to the Milton Keynes testing centre.

Technical colleagues are providing equipment refills, safety checks and maintenance to laboratories which have remained open to carry out essential COVID-19 detection research. Technicians are also 3D printing face visors for frontline colleagues.

 

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University of Birmingham

Using their knowledge and experience, technicians at the University of Birmingham have been involved in sequencing the virus using qPCR and robotic nucleic acid extraction platforms. This will allow a greater understanding of the threat and enable the development of a vaccine. It will also support the increase in the nation's testing and diagnostic effort.

Another endeavour has been to develop recipes to produce hand sanitiser. Birmingham City Council has asked for urgent help to make hand sanitiser for their Social Care teams who need to work with the elderly and vulnerable. As stocks of commercially produced sanitiser were running low, technicians at the University have been working on rotas to make, bottle, stock and deliver sanitiser, providing support to the Social and Healthcare sector.

The University of Birmingham has also been involved in providing the NHS with PPE. Since we have reduced our research and teaching activities substantially, technicians have been collecting gloves, patient gowns, surgeon gloves, masks and goggles and offered these items to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Aston University

The hand sanitiser manufacturing process involved technical colleagues in Pharmacy manufacturing sanitiser using the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recipe and distributing the sanitiser across campus and beyond.

There have been donations of PPE to NHS friends and colleagues. As laboratories are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, technicians have collated PPE supplies from across the University, along with medical supplies including saline IV bags, paracetamol and Calpol. All were delivered to the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospitals.  In addition, technical colleagues have volunteered to support the students who are living on our campus on their own.

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Keele University

Technical staff have collated and donated large amounts of various PPE including:

880 boxes of nitrile gloves, 130 pairs of laboratory safety glasses, 150 fluid resistant masks with visor, 1250 fluid resistant masks, 60 other masks, scrub suits, gowns and over 4000 plastic aprons to their local NHS.

Thermo PCR machines have also be donated to the COVID-19 detection centres.

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University of Nottingham

Technical colleagues in the University of Nottingham’s DeepSeq facility are part of a national initiative to map how COVID-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing.

Technical staff across the University have been collecting PPE and arranged for it to be re-distributed as requests come in from NHS, local councils & care homes. Technical colleagues have been collecting equipment and chemicals as requested to boost the testing facilities capability at the government testing centres and have delivered face fit testing kits and solutions to the Queens Medical Centre hospital to boost their ability to face fit PPE for their staff (ensuring a safe fit of PPE and thereby providing proper protection). Technicians have also been involved in the distribution and set up of key equipment in testing facilities.

Our technical colleagues are vital to our institutions and their response to the COVID-19 efforts has been inspirational. A huge thanks to technical colleagues across Midlands Innovation and beyond.

Julie Turner (Loughborough University) and the Midlands Innovation Staff Strategy Committee.