CSIRO US and State of Victoria Team Up to Help Jet Propulsion Lab Find an Australian Manufacturer to Build Ventilators

July 21st, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the life of every person on the planet. No one foresaw the unprecedented need for ventilators and PPE that has strained to the breaking point long established supply chains.

In the dark of crisis, human determination and amazing innovation rises. Companies and governments are building new innovation ecosystems and sources of supply to address global need. One example is how Jet Propulsion Laboratory (“JPL”) designed and created a COVID-19 ventilator in 37 days.

A team of 50 JPL scientists, who typically spend their days creating new technologies for space, turned their attention and incredible skills to how they could help address the global pandemic challenge.

Working from home with a few members in labs, the team developed the VITAL ventilator, a FDA qualifiable ventilating device to meet the demands of COVID-19 patients requiring aggressive ventilatory support in a variety of clinical states, which may include low compliance, high resistance, hypoxia and hypercapnia.

The VITAL ventilator was designed with fewer parts and to be quickly manufactured for use in a variety of field settings.

The VITAL ventilator. Image: NASA

The VITAL ventilator. Image: NASA

JPL decided to offer a free license of the VITAL intellectual property to qualified manufacturers around the world to quickly get the ventilators into the hands of medical teams. Thanks to the close relationship with JPL senior leadership, CSIRO US  helped to reach out to the Australian manufacturing community.

“CSIRO US has been instrumental to our initiatives over the recent years to build a series of partnerships with research organizations in Australia,” shared Dr. Leon Alkalai, Engineering Fellow in the Office of Strategic Integration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. In order to reach out to various organizations in Australia that may be interested in licensing the NASA ventilator technology, Dr. Alkalai reached out to Susan Lucas-Conwell from the CSIRO US team for help.”

CSIRO US reached out to its network and the Commissioner to the Americas for the State of Victoria. The result was an introduction to the winning Australian candidate, Planet Innovation, a healthtech innovation and commercialization company. They are the only Australian company selected, one of 13 international licensees of 331 submissions from around the world.

PI has a global reputation for being able to rapidly scale the manufacturing of regulated devices and complex instruments, and when the opportunity to partner with NASA’s JPL came to us via the CSIRO and the Victorian Government, we jumped at it. PI is all about taking great tech and building products and businesses that have a positive impact on the world. Nothing could be more aligned to our values than working with Caltech and the team at JPL in manufacturing these devices,” said Stuart Elliott, Co-CEO, Plant Group

In addition to being awarded the only free license in Australia for the ventilator design, JPL has offered to introduce Planet Innovation to USAID and the UN Technology bank.

“Our charter is to connect US agencies and Fortune 500 organizations with CSIRO scientists and Australian companies to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology,” shared Lucas-Conwell. “This opportunity is a great example of how global collaboration is creating manufacturing jobs in Australia.”


CSIRO US facilitates relationships with North American companies, government agencies, and academic institutions to connect Australian researchers with USA projects to expedite mutually beneficial opportunities for scientific advancements in food agriculture, space, water conservation, wildfire, and smart cities. Partnering in open innovation brings not only deep scientific research competencies to the table but also deep experience with a wide range of real-world problems.