Alumni & Supporters

News items

15,000 medical ventilators to be manufactured in Bristol to combat COVID-19

We hear from engineering alumnus David Orr about VentilatorChallengeUK:

VentilatorChallengeUK is a consortium of industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors. As the name suggests, these companies (led by High Value Manufacturing Catapult and including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Ford and Microsoft), have come together to serve the national need for medical ventilators, having received formal orders from the UK Government in excess of 15,000 units.

David Orr (pictured on the left), Senior Vice President and Director of Future Programmes & Technology at Rolls-Royce Nuclear, graduated from Newcastle University in 1985 with a BSc (Hons) in Engineering. He describes the role of Rolls-Royce in the consortium:

“We are heavily involved in producing ventilators for incubation, working with McLaren and other companies. In a short space of time, the Rolls-Royce aerospace facility in Bristol has been repurposed to enable Smiths, who own the ventilator design, to increase their output. This version is relatively complex, and there have been challenges to overcome in terms of securing an international supply chain at the current time.”

On his time at Newcastle University, David Said: “I give my regards to the institution which I am very proud to have as the foundation of my career.” David Orr has 40 years of experience in engineering, with 35 years at Rolls-Royce. “I have fond memories of living in the City and sharing a student flat on Claremont Road. My favourite times were spent in the Stage Door club.”

“The lecturers were engaging and there is no doubt that my degree became a strong background in not just the subject matter but also the thought method of working from first principles. This combined with my practical training to provide a sound basis for my career, along with postgraduate study at the Royal Naval College Greenwich and Harvard Business School. I have been fortunate to have had many challenging and rewarding programmes to work on with great teams, colleagues and now friends.”

Click here to find out more about VentilatorChallengeUK, or get in touch with your own alumni story at


David Orr (left) with Indian cricket test captain Virat Kohli.

published on: 29 May 2020