West Midlands Academic Health Science Network and West Midlands Combined Authority work to help support PPE supply across the region


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In Summary

General | 11th June 2020
West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have joined forces to help support the region’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

In Detail

After issuing a call to arms to businesses for help to supply or manufacture PPE, West Midlands Combined Authority has teamed up with Medilink WM, the region’s industry association for the life sciences and medical technology sectors and the WMAHSN’s link to the wider industry, who have been supporting the recruitment of suitable businesses.

Two businesses out of the many that came forward, were Coventry-based, Autins Group PLC, who are specialists in providing materials and products for acoustic and thermal management solutions, and Contechs Holdings Ltd, a T1 automotive design, development & trimming consultancy. Both companies were exploring how manufacturing capabilities, facilities and skills could be used to address the issue of supplying PPE products but thanks to the WMAHSN, industrial gateway team they are now working collaboratively.

Initially, Autins was manufacturing face masks utilising its skills and knowledge of specialist acoustic and insulation materials and Contechs was supporting specialist workwear companies with preparing material to produce scrubs, using its large cutting platform.

Both companies faced furloughing the majority of its staff during the coronavirus outbreak, so the diversification of the manufacturing technology due to the temporary shutdown of the automotive sector has stopped that from happening.

Chris Dyke, Connectivity Manager at Medilink WM, the WMAHSN industry gateway organisation, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that a lot of organisations have had to explore new ways of working and that WMAHSN had to call upon the region’s businesses to help keep our healthcare workforce safe. Not only have we been successful in finding organisations via the WMCA Challenge that can help with this, but we have also managed to link two businesses together that will benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise long-term.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “It is great to see two local companies with no prior experience of PPE manufacturing coming together to help support the West Midlands during this difficult time.

“I know these are just two of many businesses across the region who answered our call to arms, and the response from organisations looking to help has been brilliant to see.”

Since the collaboration, the two organisations are working together to manufacture face masks. Autins is continuing to work on the production, whilst Contechs has been subcontracted, and is using sewing and trimming expertise to finalise and attach the ear loops to the masks. The two businesses are located just 20 miles apart, and are discussing ideas to combine their industry knowledge, skills and expertise in the automotive industry in the future.

For further information on WMAHSN, visit: https://www.wmahsn.org/