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International Development Research @ Cambridge


Please do not hesitate to get in touch ( if we can facilitate your contribution to these projects and if you would like to see your project updated or included on this page.


If we think this is a big issue in the U.S. and Europe, we haven’t seen anything yet (...). People can’t even wash their kids, let alone wash their hands.” 
Dr Adam Coutts, Department of Sociology, "Unprepared for the Worst: World’s Most Vulnerable Brace for Virus"


Open Ventilator System Initiative (OVSI) – Open source ventilator to be built, assembled and deployed in resource-limited settings based on easily obtainable or manufacturable parts
Members of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, the Whittle Lab, the IfM and the Department of Physics and collaborators from Uganda, Nairobi, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the Centre for Global Equality and other UK Universities are jointly designing an open source robust and simple to use minimal viable pandemic ventilator which can stand alone for the whole intensive care unit (ICU) journey and that can be built quickly from in-country materials with moderate technical expertise. The primary aim is for this system to be open, readily accessible, affordable, easy to assemble and maintain and to be able to operate in conditions suitable for deployment in lower and middle income countries (LMIC). Further details can be found on the video that shares the project's latest updates and on the recent report covered by BBC Looks East. The working group welcomes the collaboration of PIs, postdocs, students and technical staff from the University as well as partners from Addenbrooke’s and the private sector – and particularly of a PosDoc with experience in mechanical engineering or similar who could help with the hardware of an oxygen concentrator prototype that will feed into the ventilator. 


Making safer emergency hospitals
In response to the pressures imposed by COVID-19 on hospital facilities globally, healthcare authorities are temporarily adapting  large open halls to increase bed space capacity for housing infected patients.
Professor Andrew Woods FRS (Cambridge’s BP Institute) and Professor Alan Short (Department of Architecture) have, in collaboration with Cambridge Infectious Diseases IRC, developed a series of simple, low-cost ventilation designs and configuration solutions to limit infection dispersal of COVID-19 in airborne particles and help to make rapid conversions/adaptations of buildings, safer for patients and healthcare staff.   
As the strategies are light on technology and energy use they can be adapted to work in many different climates and, indeed, the Cambridge team is working with Professor L.S. Shashidhara, Dean of Research at Ashoka University, and advisor to the Indian government and architect C.S. Raghuram, to create viable conversions of marriage halls and sheds as emergency COVID-19 hospitals in India.
Please contact the team for developing or exploring the use of these ideas for emergency hospitals. There are many sustainable options the researchers are open to discussing, and ongoing research will involve testing models in different building environments to provide more “bespoke guidance” for individual settings.  
  • A video summarizing this work is shared here and key publications can be found here and here. Contact point: Rachel Hoffmann (


HappyShield – Quick and easy way to mass-produce face shields for health workers in the poorest countries
As the pandemic spreads to poorest parts of the world, concerns are growing for healthcare workers in these areas, who are likely to face even shortfalls in the supply of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) even greater than those faced by the world's richest countries. Cambridge's Centre for Natural Material Innovation has, in collaboration with University of Queensland's Folded Structures Lab, developed an easy-to-make reusable face shield which folds from a single piece of plastic.   
The working group welcomes the collaboration of i) healthcare workers and organisations in ODA-target countries for obtaining relevant certification and permissions for Happy Shield for use as PPE, ii) manufacturers and workshops with equipment to produce the shield (Die and laser cutters) and iii) translators for the homepage our packaging label content (including instructions and warnings), instructions and video captions currently shared here


Post-COVID19 economic model to be adopted by the Galapagos
Dr Chris Sandbrook (Department of Geography) is working with the governing council of the Galapagos towards defining the economic model to pursue post-COVID-19. With a past economy model based on an unsustainably high level of tourism that was interrupted by the pandemic, the Galapagos are committed to analyzing future options and re-thinking policy as part of their commitment to achieving the SDGs.
The working group invites the collaboration of experts in economic modelling – ideally from a development economists.


OpenCovidPledge Initiative​ – Avoiding that Intellectual Property gets in the way of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic

" (...) we used the open license terms for some work we just opened to the public, in collaboration with a large academic community collaborating on testing. (...) Thanks so much for your work on this. Was easy and simple to use the language.” 
COVID-19 open source initiative that adopted an adjusted version of the OpenCovidPledge licensing framework 

Dr Frank Tietze (Institute for Manufacturing, Department of Engineering), Dr Jenny Molloy (Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology) and colleagues from Stanford, Berkeley, Utah and CreativeCommons have launched a pledge for the uncertainty of industrial relevant formal Intellectual Property (eg: patented technologies) in businesses working towards responding to COVID-19 to be reduced – which is particularly relevant for firms suddenly entering a business to scale up production of crisis-critical products. Following calls by governments of developing countries such as Costa Rica to the WHO and humanitarian organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières to take down IP barriers – and in alignment with the Wellcome Trust pledge for relevant datasets and academic publications to be freely released –  the OpenCovidPledge calls for the free sharing of COVID-19 relevant IP during the pandemic and provides a licensing framework for others to adopt and adapt. INTEL is among the first large tech companies to adopt our pledge and others are in the process of adopting it.


Drawing on years of interdisciplinary research and design led by Centre of Governance and Human Rights, Cambridge non-profit spinout Africa's Voices has gone live on radio reaching millions to analyze and respond to Kenyan and Somali citizens' questions and concerns. The findings and recommendations generated by the team from a rapid consultation with over 7,500 Somalis –  guided by co-founder Dr Sharath Srinivasan (POLIS) and Dr Luke Church (Computer Lab) – have been presented to 250+ colleagues in UN development agencies, NGOs donors and researchers focused on displacement-affected populations in the Horn and East Africa and on the specific context of Somalia. Sharath and Luke welcome your contribution to documenting learnings and increasing research capacity.
  • Further details about this project's findings can be found here and here and regular updates on this work are shared on AVF's webpageContact point, should you not be able to access the working group on Slack: Dr Sharath Srinivasan (


Supporting health officials to rapidly distinguish between potential cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases – based only on clinical and demographic data
Testing and contact tracing have been powerful in China and Europe – but fighting the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa requires new tools. In support of decisions to be made by health officials in resource-limited setting about the deployment of expensive laboratory testing, Dr Freya Jephcott and Emma Glennon (Department of Veterinary Medicine) initiated the development a platform to rapidly and confidently distinguish between potential outbreaks of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases based only on clinical and demographic data. Data on respiratory disease symptom prevalence is urgently required in order to build up the underlying database, train the models, and test tool’s performance on real outbreak data prior to embarking on field testing – the working group welcomes collaborations with any public health organisation, charity or research institute that might be able to assist with data acquisition or facilitate field testing. 


Assessing the effects of school closures in Ethiopia and Rwanda 
Professor Pauline Rose (REAL Centre, Faculty of Education) is collecting information on the effects of school closures in Ethiopia and Rwanda – where Pauline has collaborators for work beyond Education. In Rwanda, for example, phone surveys will be conducted.


​Clinical Trial Phase 2 of InnspiraMED ventilator in Colombia 
Professor Liliana Galindo (Department of Psychiatry) is working with a team from Universities, private sector and public sector institutions in Colombia towards the delivery of InnspiraMED – a ventilator created by Professor Mauricio Toro (Universidad de Antioquia) that, being low-cost and open-source, having the potential to be mass-produced and relying on mechanical ventilation, can be used for COVID-19 patients in remote areas of the country that have no access to ICU. Following on from ongoing trials of InnspiraMED in animals, the team will be conducting a clinical non-randomized phase 2 trial to test the InnspiraMED ventilator and developing a virtual training programme for health workers based in hospitals in remote areas without ICUs. This project is led by members of a large community of 9,000 doctors developing resources to respond to COVID-19 in urban and rural areas of Colombia; other projects delivered by this community include, for example, a video prepared in collaboration with hospitals and renowned Colombian artists to communicate the importance of self-isolation. Liliana's team calls for the collaboration of Cambridge colleagues with experience in clinical research to join the existing multidisplinary team (eg: Pneumologists and Anesthesiologists in Colombia) working on the ventilator's phase 2 clinical trial.


Translation of WHO recommendations into African languages and distribution of resulting materials
Dr Ebele Mogo is a researcher at the MRC Epidemiology Unit and the founder of the volunteer-run nonprofit Engange Africa Foundation, which uses people-centered and innovative approaches to engage communities especially young people in prevention. While Engange Africa Foundation’s focus has been on non-communicable diseases, the organization is drawing on what it has learnt so far to respond to COVID-19. As misinfomation is rife, the right information has not always provided the required behavior change, and the information is not always accessible, Ebele and Engange Africa Foundation are leading an effort to crowd-source translation and distribution of material related to COVID-19 based on WHO guidelines into as many African languages as possible.
Following on from a successful call made on w/c 23rd March 2020 to fellow African colleagues, translations into Pidgin, Hausa and Yoruba have been done and translations into Igbo, Kinyrwanda, Swahili, Xhosa, Fulani, and Oromo are underway. The distribution of these materials is also quickly progressing: African actors and influencers have shown their commitment to communicate information that can influence norms around hand washing and distancing through social media, WHO Africa has shown their interest to disseminate the materials through their community networks and grassroot organizations as Mentally Aware in Nigeria wish to incorporate these resources in the support provided to their communities.
In collaboration with Cambridge Global Challenges SRI and Language Sciences IRC, Ebele and Engange Africa Foundation welcome your contribution to both the translation into African languages and to the distribution of the translated materials.


Developing app for early diagnosis of COVID-19 based on voice, breathing and coughing recordings
Professor Cecilia Mascolo (Department of Computer Science and Technology) and Professor Pietro Cicuta (Department of Physics) have, together with Professor Andres Floto (Research Director of the Cambridge Centre for Lung Infection at Papworth Hospital) launched a web app for large-scale, crowdsourced data collection. The COVID-19 Sounds App collects voice, breathing and coughing recording data through phone microphones to inform the diagnosis of COVID-19 by developing machine learning algorithms. Please note that the app also collects basic demographics and medical history data, whether you have tested positive for the virus and one location sample – but that it only collects data when you actively interact with it and that the data it collects will be stored on University servers, used solely for research purposes and released for other researchers after initial analysis.  Cecilia and Pietro welcome your contribution to the dataset that is being collected through the COVID-19 Sounds App.


Capacity-building for local manufacture of diagnostic reagents in resource-limited settings
Professor Lisa Hall and Dr Jenny Molloy (Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology) are working with colleagues in Ghana, Cameroon, Chile and elsewhere towards future pandemic-preparedness through local manufacturing of diagnostic reagents. This working group welcomes the involvement of others in national testing strategies in LMICs to form a coalition that could raise awareness of the at international agencies, as well as industry expertise on biomanufacturing, diagnostic manufacturing and particularly standards/quality assurance procedures who might be interested in in resource-limited contexts. Thus far, the group has submitted a proposal to work on trials of point of care RT-LAMP assays in Ghana, received a grant from the Cambridge-Africa Alborada Fund to support automation of COVID testing and RT-LAMP assay development in Ethiopia and established the network. 


Artificial Intelligence Support For COVID-19 Diagnosis And Prognosis
COVID-19 diagnosis can be confirmed by laboratory test but the test has high false-negative rates and low sensitivity which leads to late diagnosis and treatment. Chest x-rays and CT scans provide valuable diagnostic and monitoring information and AI tools such as deep learning (DL) have the potential to allow automated image interpretation and integration with laboratory and clinical data for improved diagnosis and patient triage, better treatment response assessment and outcome prediction. Although recent publications highlight the potential of using AI for better diagnosis of COVID-19, the lack of standardization and harmonization of datasets, makes it challenging to reuse existing AI tools in a country that is different to the one that it has been trained for, as its predictions are inherently biased. A team of researchers from Cambridge Mathematical Imaging in Healthcare Centre (CMIH), Addenbrookes and Royal Papworth Hospital proposes to develop an open-source artificial intelligence tool that combines chest imaging data and clinical data to support the diagnosis and triaging for COVID-19 in the UK – which will be accompanied by a well-documented algorithmic strategy to allow implementation and tuning to other countries. The team is calling for your support in getting access to x-ray or CT data of individuals suspected and/or diagnosed with COVID-19, getting access to deep learning algorithms developed in China which can diagnose from x-ray or CT scans, high performance computing time, funding for data curation and transfer and funding for one or two Post-Docs.  

  • Find further details about the project and join the working group here. Contact point: Professor Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb (; Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge). The team also includes Professor Evis Sala (Department of Radiology, University of Cambridge), Dr Zhongzhao Teng (Department of Radiology, University of Cambridge), Dr Michael Roberts (Researcher in deep learning from CT scans) and Dr Thomas White (MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge), Dr Mishal Patel (Imaging and data analytics expert), Dr Muhunthan Thillai (Clinical lead for interstitial lung disease), Dr Alessandro Ruggiero (Royal Papworth Hospital, University of Cambridge), Dr Lorena Escudero (Department of Radiology, University of Cambridge), Dr Judith Babar (Thoracic Imaging Lead and Consultant Radiologist, Addenbrookes).


Other ongoing relevant Cambridge global challenges work

Projects funded by the Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA scheme can be found here and those supported by GCRF QR are listed here.

Cambridge Veterinary Medicine research team working towards vaccine against COVID-19
The race is on to find a vaccine against the new COVID-19 coronavirus. Professor Jonathan Heeney explains why a cautious approach is needed and how his team is using new technology developed for influenza and Ebola viruses to target the new infection here and here. Guardian has also covered Jonathan's work at "It’s a razor’s edge we’re walking': inside the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine".

Welcome to Cambridge Global Challenges

Cambridge Global Challenges is the Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, with a particular focus on the poorest half of the world’s population.


Contribute to Cambridge's response to COVID-19 in developing countries

Join working groups that invite your collaboration, create a new working group and learn about available funding opportunities here.


Join the Strategic Research Initiative

Register to Cambridge Global Challenges and to the SRI's mailing list here.


Learn about the support we provide 

Information on how Cambridge Global Challenges can support your research is shared here.


Contact us

Programme Manager (Dr Sara Serradas Duarte):​.