Foldable incubator based on UK man's decade-old uni project saves babies in Ukraine

James Roberts' product in use in a hospital. Credit: m0m Incubators

Inspired by his university project almost decade ago, a British inventor has created a foldable incubator that's keeping premature babies warm in Ukraine's hospitals and bomb shelters.

James Roberts, initially designed the compact, cost-effective incubator in 2014, when he was a 22-year-old student at the University of Loughborough.

He came up with the concept after watching a documentary about the difficulties of providing newborn care across the world, due to a lack of affordable and robust medical equipment.

James Roberts Credit: m0m Incubators

He won the James Dyson award for innovation shortly after graduating, and was awarded £30,000 to develop the incubator.

Now 75 of the products, which are less than a quarter of the size of a regular incubator, have been sent to war-torn Ukraine.

They are being used to keep infants warm in locations such as draughty underground shelters - for every 1°C a child loses when they are premature, their chance of mortality increases by 28%.

They are also invaluable as the the number of babies born prematurely has almost tripled since before the war, global health agency Unitaid has said, citing stress as a factor in this increase.

In February, ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reported from a maternity hospital struggling with increased patient numbers

Mr Roberts, who set up the company mOm Incubators, said: “It is humbling to see our systems supporting clinicians and saving lives in these very difficult times.

"It goes some way to proving how the mOm Incubator can be used anywhere and everywhere, giving much-needed flexibility to the healthcare system."

On Monday, Roberts was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Princess Royal silver medal for his pioneering product. The institution praised the incubator's "clever" design, while m0m Incubators said it was "exceptionally proud" to have won the award.

As well as in Ukraine, the incubator is also being used in a series of pilots across four NHS hospitals.