Govt nod to oxygen concentrators from IIT-Kanpur startup

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), with the backing of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), has sanctioned the production of oxygen concentrators from one of its science incubators at IIT-Kanpur. The startup Indeema Fibres Pvt Ltd in Kanpur, along with its sister concern ChemDist Membrane Systems Pvt Ltd based out of Pune, will roll out its first batch of 5,500 oxygen concentrators by May 25.

Over the past year, the startup has been working on light-weight oxygen concentrators for Indian Army soldiers posted at high altitudes. “While we have been working on these concentrators for a year now, it really received momentum with escalating tensions with China. But when the oxygen shortage started escalating across the country, we decided to divert attention to making concentrators for Covid which requires 90 percent concentration – we had the technology and know-how, so we managed to do this in ten days,” Dr Sunil Dhole, one of the founders of the startup, said.

The company has been credited with making international standard N-95 masks last year, when the pandemic began. Partner Sandip Patil’s personal struggle triggered the change towards oxygen concentrators — his mother was hospitalised with Covid-19 in March and spent weeks in the ICU at a hospital in Maharashtra’s Dhule district.

“This was at a time when the rush of Covid patients from the (second wave) had not yet begun, and the oxygen shortage hadn’t hit. Even then we knew, from my experience with my mother, that this will be an issue,” said Patil.

On May 4, the start up received a go ahead from the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to begin production. On the directions of the PMO, they received their first order of 4,500 oxygen concentrators from ONGC’s CSR fund.

“But we will be sending out 5,500 concentrators in all since we have received some direct orders as well – 500 from the Telangana government, from Madhya Pradesh government, and several hospitals and corporates have also been in touch with us,” said Dhole.

Dhole and Patil said their concentrators are meant for Covid-19 patients whose oxygen saturation levels have dipped to between 80 and 90 per cent.

The 5 LPM concentrators have been priced at Rs 55,000 while the 10 LPM ones at Rs 65,000.

Currently the startup is importing several parts – for instance the oxygen molecular sieve from Germany and the pneumatic walls from the US. But both Dhole and Patil say that they can soon start making these in India as well.

“Once we can start manufacturing the raw materials in the country itself, the price will also become more affordable. The need of the hour is to evolve the technology indigenously and take care of people at home. Presently, 90 per cent of the concentrators are imported – and this poses a problem,” said DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma, who helped expedite the project.

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