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GIRO Conference 2020 Webinar Series

02-13 November 2020

About this event

This year's GIRO has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the general insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's GI Online Learning Resource area.

For GIRO 2020, we have simplified the booking process – multiple webinars can be booked at the same time. IFoA members also receive a discount for every 4 webinars booked together (see pricing information below). Simply view the schedule below, and then hit the 'Book now' button.

For all general enquiries regarding GIRO 2020, please contact niki.park@actuaries.org.uk

The Brian Hey Prize

Submissions are once again welcomed for this year's Brian Hey Prize. Established 20 years ago, it has served as a reminder that research excellence is an indispensable ingredient to the success of the GI actuarial community. Past winning papers have covered an exciting array of topics by a diverse set of authors, reflecting the multitude of challenges faced by the GI sector. 

To enter your research for this year's prize, please email your paper to Event Manager Niki Park at niki.park@actuaries.org.uk. Submissions must be sent by Thursday 8 October. 

After the closing date, submitted papers will be considered by the GI Research and Thought Leadership (GIRTL) Committee with the winning entry being announced later this year.

Supporting GIRO 2020 

We would be happy to discuss bespoke sponsorship opportunities that will offer online global exposure of your organisation to an engaged and relevant audience.

For further information please contact Hannah.watson@actuaries.org.uk

Additional resources

You may find the following resources useful.

Online webinars (GI)

Online learning resources (video and audio)

Free Sessionals

Working Party Updates

Working party updates will be pre-recorded and made available from 2 November. Please see the below list of those on offer at this years GIRO. 

Third Party Working Party

Analysis includes trends in frequency, severity and burning cost for third party bodily injury claims (split by claim size); total third party property damage; and total own damage claims compared and contrasted with environmental and legislative changes. The aim this year will be to update the working party’s traditional analysis based on industry data up to 31 December 2019 and then consider emerging trends during 2020, that will, no doubt, be dominated by COVID-19, and what they might mean for reserving, pricing and possibly even capital.

Speakers: Simon Black and Robert Treen

 

IFRS17 Working Party update

The IFRS 17 for GI working party would like to provide an update including the newly published final standard and deep diving into a couple of implementation hot topics.

We have also been developing a series of component reports including measuring the illiquidity premium, PAA eligibility, reinsurance, communicating uncertainty in an IFRS 17 world - which we would love to summarise and share to support actuaries actively involved in IFRS 17 implementations.

Speaker: Alice Boreman and Jamie Grant

 

Developments in the Insurtech Scene 

The IFoA GI Insurtech Working Party has been carrying out research focused on the four main technologies driving innovation in insurance: IoT devices and sensors; video, image and audio processing; blockchain and parametric solutions; AI, big data and robotic process automation.

We would like to present the findings to GIRO, including:

  • An overview of each technology
  • The applications to insurance
  • Data and analytics
  • The impact on actuarial work and opportunity
  • Examples of actual use cases

Speakers: Ed Plowman, Cherry Chan and Harjit Saini

 

PPO Working Party Quantitative Survey Update

This session will cover: 

  • An overview of the most recent PPO data analysis (year end 2019).
  • There will be a focus on PPO Propensity trends but we will also pick out key differences/trends we see.
  • We will also compare the quantitative results with what we heard from our contributors as part of the qualitative survey carried out over the year end 2019.

Speakers: Patrick Tingay, Chris Francis and Peter Towers

 

Machine Learning in Reserving

The aim of the General Insurance Machine Learning in Reserving Working Party (MLR WP) is to help develop the use of ML techniques in reserving. Our GIRO session would cover presentations from our  workstreams: Survey: We have asked UK, US and Canadian personal lines insurers for their views. How many are using ML for reserving? What difficulties have they encountered? What are their plans? How can the IFoA help? Foundations: We are curating resources and practical examples of using machine learning for reserving for newcomers to this area. In the presentation, we will give an overview of some of the material we have prepared to date. Research: Nigel will briefly discuss what research papers are already out there, and present the Baudry paper, a specific example of how ML can be applied to individual claims, and introduce the code he has written to allow replication of this work by all. 

Speakers: Sarah MacDonnell, Grainne Maguire, James Tanser, Kevin Kuo, Nigel Carpenter and Jacque Friedland

 

Solvency II Practical Review Working Party Update

Has Solvency II remained resilient amidst the pandemic? Has it achieved its objectives? Will there be change in (re)insurer behaviour following Covid 19?

(Re)insurers have been impacted differently, from those facing minimal impact, such as motor insurers, against those facing lawsuits, such as commercial insurers exposed to business interruption. The industry has already started seeing changes in behaviour such as reviewing policy wording. Are there other changes to look out for?

To answer these questions, the working party has gathered views via market surveys and analysis of publicly available data, the results of which will be presented during this talk.

Speakers: Amrita Pattni, Amerjit Grewal and Nina Ndebele

 

Can we Trust Reserving? Reserving Process Validation under Covid-19

Experiences from London market, personal and commercial lines actuaries & explores the impact of Covid-19 on Reserving Process Validation. 

This will explore the impact on validation processes and look at the slow reaction of AvE and business planning processes, inadequate leading-edge data and reaction to potential second waves/vaccines. 

The key is to equip actuaries for validation in a world under stress with a robust validation framework. 

This needs to be achieved whilst reserving actuaries struggle with time and resource. 

This session will look at the lived experiences of reserving actuaries and reserving process validation through the pandemic.

Speakers: William Diffey, Laura Hobern and Malcolm Cleugh

 

A Practitioner’s Introduction to Stochastic Reserving: The 1 Year View

I will present an overview of the Pragmatic Stochastic Reserving Working Party's recent paper "A Practitioner’s Introduction to Stochastic Reserving: The One year view" which can be downloaded from the working party's page on the IFoA website here

https://www.actuaries.org.uk/system/files/field/document/A-Practitioners-Introduction-One-Year-View.pdf

The talk will be introductory. I will describe and discuss three commonly use methods for calculating one-year reserve risk: the Merz-Wüthrich formula, the Actuary-in-the-Box, and Emergence Patterns. I will avoid technical details as far as possible, and attempt to give an intuitive description of the methods, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

Speaker: Robert Scarth

 

A Practical Guide to Better Reserving in the Wake of Covid-19

"What should (reserving/ pricing/ capital) actuaries do different in light of Covid (to BSRCH).  And a practical guide on how to do it"

  • How to see and assess the process:
    • Open system thinking
    • Insurance factory analogy
    • Engineering analogy
    • Control charts
  • How to work out what is most important for you:
    • Go through Company Business Model and ask questions
    • Group answers into common themes
    • Prioritise themes and items within them on expected importance/ impact
  • Strategies for exploiting the identified opportunities (your deficiencies!)

Speakers: Chris Smerald and Ian Thomas

 

Opening Up a Good Actuarial Report

The Good Actuarial Report Working Party have been thinking about how ideas from outside the actuarial profession – like Systems Science – can help us think more carefully about our communication challenges.

In addition we will share some tips from our own experience on how to enable a revolution, not just gradual evolution, in your actuarial reporting templates.

Join us for a brief presentation followed by an opportunity to share your own report writing challenges and discuss ideas, tips and techniques to help you delight your readers and get great feedback.

Speakers: Chris Smerald and Matt Byrne

 

Plenary session Mon, 02/11/2020 - 10:00 - 11:00 IFoA Leadership Address

This session will be presented by Tan Suee Chieh, Stephen Mann and Annette Spencer

This session will be free. 

Workshop Mon, 02/11/2020 - 11:10 - 12:20 Pricing session - Pricing for Innovation: A Good Practice Guide

Shifts in the risk landscape and technological advances have created a step-change opportunity for the specialty and commercial insurance industry to add value via innovative products and approaches. It will, however, need to better anticipate and meet client needs in a fast-moving world. Pricing is key to this, and our presentation outlines the journey taken by, and conclusions of, an actuary-led, cross-functional and cross-market working group in creating a good-practice guide to pricing for innovation.

The talk will cover:

  • Motivation and context for the group
  • High-level summary/conclusions of the guide
  • Ongoing work and market engagement

Speakers: Amrit Santhirasenan, Hyperexponential Ltd, Kamaal Basran, Markel and Trevor Maynard, Lloyd's of London

Workshop Tue, 03/11/2020 - 13:00 - 14:00 Lloyd's Update

Annual Lloyd's Update

Speakers: Emma Stewart and Catherine Scullion, Lloyd's

Workshop Tue, 03/11/2020 - 11:00 - 12:00 Capital Session - Machine Learning for Capital Modeling

This session will cover: 

  • Current methods used for Capital Modelling (Cash flow model with linear regression) can turn out to be inefficient as the data keeps on increasing . The idea assumes linearity and  can give out of sample scores sometimes
  • Current methods are more connected to Monte Carlo methods
  • Use of Machine Learning Algorithm like Random Forest for Capital Modelling 
  • Explaining Random Forest Algorithm 
  • How it would boost the results and performance
  • Achieving R squared value up to 99% as compared to around 80% to 85% in Linear Regression

Speaker: Harsh Jaitak, Kuwait Reinsurance K.S.C.P

Workshop Tue, 03/11/2020 - 16:00 - 17:00 Reserving Session - Effective Governance for Boards - Reserving

Many insurance company directors do not have deep technical expertise, yet reserving is technically complex. This presents challenges for directors in regards to effective oversight. Other factors such as bias, undue management pressure and poor communication skills can exacerbate the situation.

The paper offers insights into how reserving works, explains common problems, and provides key questions to be posed to the actuary – it is essentially a “how to guide” for directors involved with reserving.

Whilst the papers is intended for non-actuaries, our presentation aims to give insights on how actuaries can best communicate with non-executive directors.

Speakers: Steve Wilson, Brian Brown, Milliman and Stefan Holzberger, AM Best

Workshop Wed, 04/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Pricing Session - Personal Lines Disruption and the Impact of COVID-19

The personal lines insurance market in the UK and worldwide has been subject to increasing levels of disruption, the most recent of which is COVID-19. We will discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the UK personal lines insurance market with a focus on underwriting performance by product during 2020 as well as the outlook for the future of product offerings. We will also share themes from customers as to personal lines product design and which features appeal to them.

Required knowledge - Intermediate. We will not cover complex mathematical models or theories.

Speaker: Gianmario Afeltra, Deloitte

Workshop Wed, 04/11/2020 - 13:00 - 14:00 Reserving Session - Improving Reserving through a better Understanding of Case Estimates

As reserving actuaries, we tend to treat case estimates as “data”, even though they are claims handlers’ subjective judgements. Our workshop will share techniques for improving the quality of your reserving by better understanding and interpreting case reserving data. We will apply these ideas to the challenges caused by COVID-19.  We will also show how modern analytics techniques can add value when applied to case estimates.

(Session assumes a working knowledge of reserving techniques)

Speakers: Ed Harrison, Charl Cronje and Richard Holloway, LCP

Workshop Thu, 05/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Capital Session - How is the Evolution of Cyber Threats Impacting the Insurance Market?

Cyber risks continue to dominate the news headlines.

The Cyber insurance market continues to evolve but has some fundamental challenges for wider adoption which is impacting client take-up as well as capacity offered.

In this session, the panel will discuss a number of areas in relation to market background, operational risk and capital modelling including the following themes:

  • how insurers mitigate increasing exposure levels
  • current market trends in buying reinsurance
  • challenges and potential opportunities for improvements
  • the impact of COVID-19
  • the potential future risks as telemedicine gains more traction
  • Capital models and the capital allocated to cyber for both affirmative and non-affirmative risks.
  • The adequacy of capturing cyber risk and allocating an appropriate amount for capital to support the risk.

If attendees have a specific question in relation to any of the above, please submit these in advance of or during this session and we will aim to share our views during the discussion. For those questions which are not addressed on the day, we will be happy to provide our views as a follow up.

Speakers: Visesh Goswani, Aon, Richard Capanha and Simon Cartagena, SCOR and Justyna Pikinska, Capsicum Re

Plenary session Thu, 05/11/2020 - 11:00 - 12:00 Hot Topic - Pandemic Risk Cognitive Biases: Before and After COVID-19

This Hot Topic will cover: 

  • Review of cognitive biases on pandemic risk prior to COVID-19
  • Discussion of the near-misses of the 21st century, which gave early warning of pandemic catastrophe
  • Complacency over pandemic risk after the mild 2009 flu pandemic
  • Discussion of anchoring, availability, outcome and other cognitive biases relating to future pandemic risk
  • Actuarial assessment of cognitive biases pertaining to capital, reserving, pricing and new product development
  • Review of cognitive biases affecting consumer behaviour
  • Cognitive dissonance amongst consumers reluctant to protect against pandemic risk

Speakers: Gordon Woo, RMS Consulting, Will Davies, Insurem and Matthew Attard, Marsh & McClellan

Plenary session Thu, 05/11/2020 - 16:00 - 17:00 Race - A Risky Business

The Black Lives Matter campaign has seen an explosion of individual and corporate awakening and attempts to address known but hitherto implicitly accepted inequities across a range of sectors.

This Panel discussion will explore what the risk of this structural blindness means to our workplace and businesses and the opportunities associated with greater understanding and action.

As actuaries, is there more we can do to quantify and mitigate these risks?

This session is free of charge

Speaker: Chika Aghadiuno, Aviva

Workshop Fri, 06/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 IFRS 17 - Practical Challenges (aka the Difficult Bits)

There are a number of areas of IFRS 17 regime that are particularly challenging for insurers. In this session, we will consider three of them, namely:

  • Coverage units
  • Discounting
  • Outwards reinsurance.

We will consider each area from a practical perspective and highlight such things as uncertainties of interpretation, areas of complication, and judgements required. We will also discuss pragmatic solutions that we have seen and used in practice.

Speakers: Simon Sheaf and Bhavin Bhatt, Grant Thornton

Plenary session Fri, 06/11/2020 - 11:00 - 12:00 Hot Topic - Operational Resilience: The Adaptability of Mankind

Covid-19 has shown how adaptable human beings are. Within very short timescales, we have shown how the office-based financial services industry can transform to remote working whilst largely maintaining continuity. Previous misconceptions of presenteeism and other attitudes diminished overnight. Within this talk, we explore the adaptability of mankind and how we can incorporate this into business’ revised crisis management / disaster recovery plans. For example, do we need to continue maintaining a disaster recover site?

Anticipated delegate learning outcome/experience:

Operational risk cannot always be reduced by holding more capital (e.g. via operational risk).

Whilst there has been significant effort in designing risk registers, disaster recovery plans etc across the market, a majority have not considered a global pandemic in the way that Covid-19 is shaping out. Notwithstanding this, the financial services industry has largely risen to the challenge and adapted as necessary.

Finally, we will explore how can this adaptability be incorporated into future crisis management planning and even BAU planning.

Speakers: Alpesh Patel and Cherry Chan, Barnett Waddingham and Will Scobie, Horizonscan Ltd

Plenary session Fri, 06/11/2020 - 13:00 - 14:00 Hot Topic - How to be Fully Inclusive and Prioritise Mental Health

The senior management of any business should aim to be fully inclusive everyday, to be the place where the feelings and experiences of every employee matter, where everyone is treated fairly and the mental health of all staff is prioritised.

But how do you achieve that?

How do you ensure that all staff feel physically and psychologically safe? How can you help employees by offering support in managing mental health and encouraging them to talk about and prioritise their mental health? And how do you give your people the tools to manage stress, care for themselves and care for others?

This session is free of charge

Speakers: Simon Sheaf and Jen Barnett, Grant Thornton

 

Plenary session Fri, 06/11/2020 - 16:00 - 17:00 Hot Topic - Claims inflation trends within Lloyd’s and the London Market

The aim would be to recognise and build on the work that was presented at GIRO 2019, explore and collate global inflation trends and results of recent studies from the past 12 months (pre and post COVID) and present analysis of inflation trends in selected classes of business using public and anonymised market data, as well as views from key market stakeholders.

Speakers: Stavros Martis, Deloitte and Emma Stewart, Lloyd's

Workshop Mon, 09/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Pricing Session - Practical Experience with Pricing in R

This talk will be of interest to anyone who is weighing up the merits of open source software versus proprietory pricing software. Whilst R provides unrivalled functionality, there are practical challenges associated with using it for technical pricing in terms of performance, ease of use, support, auditability and systems infrastructure. We will explain how these were addressed at NHBC and the costs involved.

It will include a demo of a tool built for GLM modelling in Shiny.

Speakers: Karen Seidel, Stephen Marriott and Samir Khimani, NHBC

Workshop Mon, 09/11/2020 - 11:00 - 12:00 Reserving Session - The Actuary and IBNR Techniques: A Machine Learning Approach

 Actuarial reserving techniques have evolved from the application of algorithms, like the chain-ladder method, to stochastic models of claims development, and, more recently, have been enhanced by the application of machine learning techniques. Despite this proliferation of theory and techniques, there is little guidance beyond heuristics on which reserving techniques should be applied and when. In this paper, we revisit traditional reserving techniques within the framework of supervised learning to define optimal techniques and hyper-parameter choices. We show that the use of optimal techniques can lead to more accurate reserves and investigate the impact on capital requirements.

Speakers: Ronald Richman, AIG and Caesar Balona, QED Actuaries

Plenary session Mon, 09/11/2020 - 16:00 - 17:00 Hot Topic - Insuring Low- Income People against Catastrophes in Developing Markets

Low-income people are the most vulnerable to the effects of natural catastrophic events. With global climate change upon us, this problem will only be exacerbated. This session will provide some cutting-edge knowledge on efforts that are being implemented right now to help low-income people manage these risks more effectively.Ultimately, we want the audience to capture key ideas in new approaches for under-served client segments, developing new products for difficult climate risk, and for risk management to serve low- and middle-income populations. Our session will be interesting and lively enough that the audience will remember key points we discussed and consider how to implement them in their own work. 

Speakers: Michael McCord and Minnie Green, Milliman, Jerry Skees, Global Parametrics

Workshop Tue, 10/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Capital Session - Capital Modelling - When we're not talking about COVID

This session will cover three hot topics from capital modelling.

We will share insights from conversations with over 50 senior capital modellers in 2020 across the London Market and Personal Lines - and practical ideas to address key challenges.

1. Economic Scenario Generators:
- How to stay in control of your ESG during volatile times?
- Which technical challenges are key to address?

2. Latest thinking on dependencies:
- Approaches to better elicit expert judgements.
- How to model explicit tail scenarios?

3. Your team's development:
- How can we all support the next generation of capital modellers?
- Latest views on typical capital modelling team sizes.

Speakers: Tom Durkin, Neil Gedalla and Laun Middleton, LCP

Workshop Tue, 10/11/2020 - 11:00 - 12:00 Pricing Session - FCA Pricing Study

Chloe will present high level findings, discuss how the different players In the value chain might be affected, the anticipated impacts on business models, governance and products amongst other factors. Chloe will discuss challenges and opportunities presented by the findings. Speakers will represent the business/actuarial views as well as conduct side.

Speaker: Chloe Paillot, Deloitte

Workshop Tue, 10/11/2020 - 13:00 - 14:00 COVID-19: Operational Resilience Lessons Learnt: Insurance

Crescendo Advisors conducted structured interviews with risk professionals to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had and to assess how they responded, what they did well, what lessons they learned, and changes they anticipate as a result of the pandemic experience.

  • The impacts on insurance businesses’ operations
  • Going forward, what regulators are likely to expect from firms
  • The challenges that new world of working from home will pose for the design, implementation and documentation of an appropriate functional control environment; and
  • The likely change the cost-benefit dynamic of outsourcing/off-shoring will bring.

Speakers: Isaac Alfon and Shirley Berlinger, Crescendo Advisors, Valerie du Preez, Actuartech

Workshop Tue, 10/11/2020 - 14:00 - 15:00 IFoA Regulatory Update: Thematic Reviews, Quality Assurance & CPD

This is a valuable opportunity to gain insight into significant regulatory activity for the IFoA, which impacts many areas where actuaries provide advice and expertise. The presenters will provide background on the Thematic Review Programme and Quality Assurance Scheme initiatives and an update on current activity. This will include Thematic Reviews which have taken place in 2020 and those planned for 2021. There will also be information on the implementation of the updated CPD Scheme, including developments on reflective practice discussions.

There will be opportunity for questions and feedback to help guide the important regulatory work of the IFoA.

This session is free of charge.

Speakers: Alan Marshall, Katie Wood and Judith Joy, IFoA

Workshop Wed, 11/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Reserving Session - Making better Reserving Decisions using Data Science Techniques

We have found that the biggest steps in improving reserving processes further for both personal lines and commercial insurers have been from improving the decision making in reserving.  Examples of key reserving decisions are:

  • What reserving segmentation should we use?
  • Which reserving class should we do a deep dive on this quarter?
  • Which reserving assumptions require more detailed review? 

Getting these decisions wrong can be expensive. However, data science techniques can help you get these decisions right first time.  

We will share perspectives from an R&D and in-house use in production perspective.

Speakers: Charlie Stone, LCP and Philippa King, Ageas

Plenary session Wed, 11/11/2020 - 13:00 - 14:00 Generational Change

Speaker: Dr Paul Redmond

Plenary session Wed, 11/11/2020 - 16:00 Panel Discussion on Reserving
Workshop Thu, 12/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Capital Session - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The 2019 Climate Insurance Stress Test

The PRA ran its first exploratory climate scenarios as part of the 2019 insurance stress tests. The exercise was designed to create market impetus and provide additional data to inform the PRA’s development of a consistent and effective approach to climate-focused scenario analysis. The findings provide a first step in efforts of firms and the PRA in assessing financial impacts from climate change - exposing strengths and weaknesses of existing climate risk assessment and management frameworks.We hope to accelerate development in bridging gaps in knowledge, data and tools supporting firms in addressing the challenge of transitioning towards a carbon neutral economy.

Speakers: Giorgis Hadzilacos and Stefan Claus, Bank of England

Workshop Thu, 12/11/2020 - 11:00 - 12:00 The Practice of Expert Judgment

This presentation dissects what we call expert judgement and illuminates many of its features though an exploration of available academic and business literature. Actuaries working in non-life insurance will know the constraints that limited data creates for devising forecast of claims, pricing and investment statistics. Expert judgement is an overwhelming element of the numbers we report to decision makers and this presentation will help actuaries develop their skills in this area.

A presentation that will explore the following:

1, Expert judgement in general.

  • Forecasting problems
  • Argumentation and its application to problems characterised by uncertainty.
  • Ramifications of Ethics

2. What methods have been devised to improve expert judgement

  • Results from Phillip Tetlocks research 
  • The Delphi Technique and the role of constructive challenge, including audit.
  • Introduction to how to structure and defend your arguments effectively

3. How can actuaries improve their expert judgement. Addressed as heading 1 and 2 are discussed, giving examples of where actuaries are called to use expert judgement in a court of law as independent experts, Internal model validation and Reserving assumptions.

Speakers: Santiago Restrepo and Peter Moore, BDO LLP

Workshop Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:00 - 14:00 IFRS17 Mythbusters - The Return!

The Mythbusters team wowed GIRO2015 with rockets and exploded several myths about how easy IFRS17 would be for P&C insurers. They claimed IFRS17 would happen, would be a big deal and insurers couldn't simply reuse SII.

Now the team returns, fresh from extensive market research, to reflect on their predictions and share perspectives on learnings as companies grapple with IFRS17. They'll update on the original myths and explore new myths which insurers are currently in denial about, including "we'll just use RM as our Risk Adjustment" and "reinsurance will be easy to deal with". Watch out for more myth explosions!

Speakers: Graham Oswald and Susan Dreksler, PwC

Plenary session Thu, 12/11/2020 - 14:00 - 15:00 IFoA and CAS Collaboration Session TBC
Workshop Fri, 13/11/2020 - 09:00 - 10:00 Bank of England - PRA Update 2020

Speaker: Amanda Istari, Bank of England

Plenary session Fri, 13/11/2020 - 12:00 - 13:00 Applying Skills in a Changing World

Recent high-profile challenges have demonstrated how bringing diverse and cross-industry skillsets together can help us solve critical problems – and is particularly relevant for actuaries as more and more opportunities arise for us to apply our skills in non-traditional areas.

This plenary considers the recent successes in bringing together experts from UCL, UCLH and Mercedes HPPP to manufacture breathing aids to help keep COVID-19 sufferers out of intensive care, considering the key challenges, highlights and experiences of the project.

In March 2020, COVID-19 cases in the UK starting growing at a worrying rate, and based on international experience, an unprecedented demand for ventilation devices was anticipated. The UK government put out their Ventilator Challenge, to chorale the UK engineering and manufacturing community to make mechanical ventilators at scale for the NHS. On 17th March, a team spanning UCL engineers and UCL Hospital (UCLH) critical care teams met to consider how they could contribute. The UCLH lead, consultant intensivist Prof. Mervyn Singer, had been talking to colleagues in China and Italy around how they had coped. Although initially their strategy had been to mechanically ventilate patients, their healthcare systems had quickly been overwhelmed. Instead, they started using non-invasive respiratory support devices called CPAPs, or continuous positive airways pressure devices, and these had alleviated around 50% of patients from progressing to needing mechanical ventilation. This was beneficial, both for patient outcomes, and also in optimising valuable healthcare resource.

One of the engineering leads, Prof. Tim Baker, had previously worked in the motorsports industry, and reached out to Mercedes HPP – the arm of Mercedes who design and manufacture Formula 1 engines. Their MD, Andy Cowell, responded with ‘do not hesitate to call on the full might of what we can do’.

The team knew they needed to deliver a high precision piece of medical equipment, within a month (in order to meet the predictions of the peak of the first wave hitting London). They reverse-engineered an off-patent device, the Philips Respironics WhisperFlow, and evolved its design to minimise oxygen utilisation – a particularly precious resource for treating COVID-19 patients. They also took a systems-level approach to combat supply chain constraints, designing the breathing circuits that connect the CPAP to the patient to minimise oxygen use and improve patient comfort, and also to manufacture accompanying oxygen analysers – which also weren’t manufactured in the UK. From first meeting, the first prototype was back being tested at UCLH within 100 hours, and received regulator approval from the MHRA within 10 days.

Ultimately, the Department of Health and Social Care ordered 10,000 CPAP kits at a maximum contract price of £20M, which the team delivered on 15 April, within a month from the first meeting. At maximum rate, Mercedes HPP were manufacturing at a rate of 1,200 per day. So far these have been distributed to 110 NHS hospitals, working with just-in-time automotive logistics firm G-TEM who guaranteed next-day delivery to hospitals.

The team were dedicated to contributing to the global response to COVID-19, and released their designs and manufacturing instructions at zero cost through an open-source license. These have been downloaded 1900 times across 105 countries, and around 20 teams are now manufacturing in volume, and either have or are close to in-country regulatory approvals (including Australia, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Pakistan, India). For countries which don’t have local manufacturing capability, the team have worked with charities and governments to supply devices directly, including to Bangladesh, Palestine and Uganda.

We will discuss our experiences, the challenges, and highlights.

Speaker: Prof Rebecca Shipley and Prof Tim Baker

Where available, presentations will be sent to all delegates before each webinar.