The James Dyson Award Foundation announced today that English inventor James Roberts has won its international award for a prototype of a cheap, inflatable incubator for premature babies. While a regular hospital incubator can cost more than $40,000 Robert’s prototype, called MOM, is expected to cost just $400, including delivery and testing fees. Roberts will collect a prize worth $45,000, which he will use to continue his work on the project.
Roberts was inspired to build an incubator after learning about premature babies in Syrian refugee camps. “I was watching a Panorama programme on BBC about Syrian refugees, and they had a segment about how there are loads of premature kids dying because of the stresses of war and specifically the lack of incubators out there and the infrastructure to support them,” Roberts told BBC. “I thought there has to be a way to solve that.” MOM’s parts come in a flat package that can fit into regular supply boxes that already get sent to camps. Each part can be replaced if it happens to break, and the incubator requires little energy and can even run off a car battery, the BBC reports. The incubator is manually inflated by mouth, which makes it easy to set up and take apart. The inflatable material is also inexpensive, worked well as insulation, is easy to clean, and is transparent, allowing caretakers to easily check on the baby inside.
Improper neonatal care is a common cause of death among babies in refugee camps. “Every year an estimated 150,000 child births occur within refugee camps,” MOM’s site reads. “Of these child births, 27,500 will die due to lack of sufficient incubation.” A cheap and convenient incubator like MOM could save thousands of lives a year. Roberts is hoping to have the product ready to use by 2017.