The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) responded to a call from the Cabinet Office in spring 2020 for manufacturers to help build ventilators to increase the UK’s intensive care unit capacity as part of the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Part of the Technology Leaders Index, chief digital and information officer at BEIS Karl Hoods said at New Statesman Media Group‘s Virtual CIO Symposium in April 2020 that the Ventilator Request Form “was a way of corralling that interest”, organising it and making sure it could be triaged.
Hoods said that while it was not necessarily “the most complex project from a technology perspective in terms of its design or concept”, his digital team had only received the call for help on the morning of Monday 16 March, and by the evening had delivered the service with the required standards working with policy and commercial colleagues.
Organisations that responded to the call to help dial up the UK’s ICU capacity included Williams Advanced Engineering, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Ford and McLaren.
Even before the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hoods had been driving Future Workplace and Enterprise Collaboration programmes aimed at determining working environments and ways of working in the future, which he said put the organisation in a good position to move quickly to remote operation.
As part of the Future Workplace initiatives, the Whitehall department had been planning to roll out Microsoft Teams collaboration software over a number of months, accompanied by several weeks of training sessions to support the transition. Hoods and his team instead rolled out the programme over the course of 48 hours as BEIS staff, from the newest starters to the executive board, embraced remote working and collaboration practices.