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International award for low cost inflatable baby incubator

A Loughborough University graduate has won the International James Dyson Award with his life saving low cost inflatable baby incubator for use in the developing world.

Over one in ten babies worldwide are born prematurely. According to the World Health Organisation, 75% of deaths resulting from premature birth could be avoided if inexpensive treatments were more readily available across the globe.

Created by James Roberts, MOM provides the same performance as a £30,000 modern incubation system, but costs just £250 to manufacture, test and transport to the desired location. The device can be collapsed for transportation and runs off a battery which lasts 24 hours, in case of power outages. The incubator is blown up manually and it is heated using ceramic heating elements.

A screen shows the current temperature and the humidity which can be custom set, depending on the gestation age. An alarm will sound if the desired temperature changes. And for babies that suffer from jaundice there is a phototherapy unit which is collapsible too. MOM complies with British incubation standards – delivering a stable heat environment, humidification and jaundice lighting.

James, who recently graduated from the Loughborough Design School with a BSc in Product Design and Technology, has won £30,000 to invest into further prototyping and testing, with a view to further cost reductions and ultimately seeing MOM mass produced.

He said: “I was inspired to tackle this problem after watching a documentary on the issue for premature babies in refugee camps. It motivated me to use my design engineering skills to make a difference. Like many young inventors, there have been struggles along the way – I had to sell my car to fund my first prototype! The dream would be to meet a child that my incubator has saved – living proof that my design has made a difference.”

James Dyson said: “James’ invention shows the impact design engineering can have on people’s lives. The western world takes incubators for granted – we don’t think about how their inefficient design makes them unusable in developing countries and disaster zones. By bravely challenging convention, James has created something that could save thousands of lives.”

Dr Steve Jones, Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal United Hospital, Bath said: “MOM is a really interesting piece of innovation – I particularly like the integration of phototherapy, as jaundice is a very common co-morbidity alongside prematurity. Its use needn't be limited to developing world scenarios. I could see it being used in the UK to support community midwifery units, or following home births.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 14/196

(1)  The James Dyson Foundation was set up in 2002 to support design engineering education, medical research and local charities in the Wiltshire area.

The James Dyson Award runs in 18 countries. The contest is open to university level students (or recent graduates) studying product design, industrial design and engineering, who "design something that solves a problem.”

What is the prize?

International Winner:

  • The international prize is £30,000 for the student.
  • £10,000 for the student’s university department.

Three International Runners-up:

  • £5,000 each

About James Roberts

  • James lives in Epsom, Surrey with his family. In 2014 James graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc in Product Design and Technology.
  • More information about James and MOM can be found at
  • Invention runs in his family – his grandfather helped to invent the cooling cores used in nuclear reactors. His brother is studying Industrial Design at Loughborough University.

The International runners-up:

QOLO, Japan

Yosuke Eguchi and Yusuke Kiyotani, University of Tsukuba

Problem: Existing wheelchairs can deprive users of physical freedom. Standing up from the chair to perform simple tasks, like preparing food on a kitchen worktop, whilst remaining supported is not possible for wheelchair-bound individuals.

Solution: QOLO is a personal wheelchair that allows people with a disability in the lower limbs to stand up from the chair and some movement whilst being supported. Electric motors can be heavy and expensive. QOLO uses the upper body weight of the user to control passive electrical parts enabling them to sit up and down. For upright movement, the user can move forward simply by tilting their upper body, and turn in any direction by twisting the upper body in that direction.

Suncayr, Canada

Derek Jouppi, RachelPautler, Andrew Martinko, Chad Sweeting, Hayden Soboleski, University of Waterloo

Problem: People are unaware they need to reapply sun cream and can be left with painful burns. Inadequate protection from the sun greatly increases an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer. The current solutions on the market are stickers and wristbands that are uncomfortable and can easily fall off.

Solution: Suncayr is a colour changing marker pen that the user draws on their skin. The ink is UV responsive, meaning that when UV hits the ink, it changes colour - letting the user know that they need to reapply their sunscreen. Suncayr’s pen-like marker is applied directly onto the skin - the user can draw whatever shape they like.

Bruise, UK

Dan Garrett, Ming Kong, Lucy Jung, Elena Dieckmann, Royal College of Art

Problem: Athletes who have reduced or no sensation in a part of their body (e.g. Paraplegics), can struggle with detecting injuries. It can be very difficult to differentiate between a bruise and a more serious injury. Visual symptoms also show up slowly for people with paralysis because of poor circulation. Consequently, serious injuries can easily be left unnoticed.

Solution: BRUISE is a smart injury detection suit for disabled athletes with loss of sensation. It applies a recyclable pressure-sensitive film to indicate the severity of injuries. High risk areas are covered with disposable, made-to-fit film sheet inserts. If an area is excessively stressed during an accident, the film will irreversibly change colour.

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(2)  Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. Loughborough is ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities and has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In 2015 the University will open an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University in London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will offer postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.


Judy Wing
Senior Public Relations Officer
Marketing and Communications
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697

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