Innovation Action

Innovation Action

Innovation Action helps to bring people together to innovate on global challenges. We provide a space for Open Source designs to be shared and collaborated on from people all over the world. 

This platform was launched by a consortium of partners brought together by innovation catalyst Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub and led by UCL Engineering. Initially, we are building a technology and innovation pipeline to support the #COVIDAction led by Frontier Tech Hub. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the website will be an innovation exchange addressing global challenges such as Assistive Technology – using the principles of open-source innovation to positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world who are living with disabilities. 

Building on its research-led expertise and UKAid’s Frontier Technologies Hub #COVIDaction response, GDI Hub has joined forces with the UCL Institute of Making, UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering and UKAid’s Frontier Technologies Hub to establish a dynamic, multidisciplinary team – bringing together unique skills across design, engineering, healthcare, product development, innovation and technology.

The online platform created by will support the COVID-19 response by providing access to proven, viable designs for medical devices and personal, protective equipment (PPE) that will aid health and social care professionals and patients around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The website will also support the next phase of UKAid’s Frontier Technologies Hub #COVIDaction programme – sourcing ‘indirect response’ technology innovations that will be critical to families and communities battling the pandemic in low and middle income countries (LMIC).

The website was launched in April 2020 with design specifications for several UCL-approved innovations, chosen with the support of multidisciplinary expertise across the university. They included a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) that supports patients who have breathing difficulties, and a DIY face shield that can be made using resources that might be found in a home or office, for use by those in immediate need who have no other alternative i.e. no approved PPE at their disposal.

As a next priority, the website will feature #COVIDaction designs for ‘indirect response’ technology innovations that are critical to low and middle income countries (LMIC) battling the pandemic. This will focus on the following thematic areas:

Data – data collection, mapping, modelling and reporting to inform response.
Local Solutions and Local Production – personal, protective equipment (PPE) and healthcare solutions for both clinical and personal care/prevention.
Resilient Health Services – training and care provision through digital channels/platforms.
Tech-enabled Distribution – digitising demand and supply e.g. cold chain.
Digital Financial Support – digitising financial support to support people/local economies.

Researcher Profile

Ben Oldfrey - Research Fellow

Ben Oldfrey is a Research Fellow working between the Global Disability Innovation Hub and the Institute of Making at UCL on the FCDO AT2030 programme. He completed his PhD at UCL, with a thesis exploring soft skin-like sensors and AI with application in smart prosthetic liners. He has strong interest in novel material use, digital fabrication and the circular economy, and his postdoctoral research has a major focus on the localised manufacture of assistive technology in low resource settings. He currently also leads the FCDO Covidaction Local Production Local Solutions Initiative which supports local producers in in 5 African countries and Nepal to make what is needed for their communities.