British accessible neonatal incubator achieves first clinical use


A new, neonatal incubator designed, developed and manufactured in Britain saw its first ever clinical use in a UK hospital earlier this month.

Created by James Roberts, founder and CEO of mOm, and his team, this innovative accessible incubator helped to sustain a premature baby at St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey. It has been co-funded by Innovate UK and backed by Holly Branson and James Dyson.

One in 10 babies born around the world are premature, and one million of them die every year.

Three-quarters of these deaths are easily preventable through access to simple intervention such as thermoregulation, or consistent warmth.

Yet, only a small minority of premature babies have access to conventional incubators, which are regularly inoperable or discarded due to a lack of servicing and spare parts. This leads to ‘equipment graveyards’ in many parts of the world.

This is what inspired the creation of the mOm incubator, an alternative to conventional incubators that is:

  • cost-effective
  • compact
  • easy to maintain.

mOm not only provides a life-saving solution in challenging, low and middle income settings, but a more flexible option for neonatal care in the UK and the developed world.

The prototype caught the attention of the James Dyson Foundation, which in 2014 awarded him the global James Dyson Award. James Dyson himself stated that the mOm Incubator has the potential to save thousands of lives.

Now, the early design of 2014 has progressed into a life-saving device, which has been successfully deployed in a clinical setting for the very first time.

James Roberts commented:

Sustaining a child’s life in our incubator for the first time has been a humbling experience and a monumental step in transforming this dream into a practical reality.

It is unacceptable that one million premature babies die each year, when most of these deaths can be easily prevented. An idea that was once scribbled down on paper now has the potential to impact many lives globally.

Peter Reynolds, Consultant Neonatologist at St Peter’s Hospital Chertsey stated:

I am delighted that we have successfully recruited the first few babies into the mOm incubator clinical trial at St. Peter’s Hospital. I am very grateful to their parents who agreed to their participation. Keeping babies warm is a fundamental part of good neonatal care and we are pleased to be leading this evaluation of the new mOm incubator.

Richard Hebdon, Director of Health and Life Sciences, Innovate UK, a co-funder of this project said:

Innovate UK, as the UK’s innovation agency, is a proud supporter of the mOm incubators technology. Its cost-effective technology means it can be a more flexible option here in the UK and has great potential in developing countries all over the world.

This project means a lot to me personally as it is being trialled in St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, where I was one of the first babies to be born in the then new maternity unit. I later worked there in various healthcare support roles in my teens.

Holly Branson, Chief Purpose and Vision Officer at Virgin, said:

From the first moment I met the incredible, innovative team at mOm Incubators in 2016, I knew this was a unique, game-changing, purpose-led company that we should invest in and help grow.

As a family, and a brand, we are passionate about backing individuals who are using intelligence, creativity, expertise, and sector skills to make a positive impact in the world through growing successful, purposeful businesses.

James and the team at mOm are doing just that and much, much more. I’m incredibly proud of all they have achieved and don’t mind saying that the photos of ‘first baby’ being protected in a mOm Incubator made me more than a little emotional.

As the mum of premature children, I know how critical those days in the incubator are. The mOm incubator will make a positive impact to newborn children and society across the world by accelerating access to care.

As my first ‘official’ impact investment, over five years ago, mOm Incubators will always hold a special place in my heart.

Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to:

Top image:  Image courtesy of mOm


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