© LuckyStep / stock adobe

Give a Breath – Challenge

an initiative by Munich Re and Fraunhofer

Munich Re | Fraunhofer

In the face of the corona pandemic, Munich Re and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have launched a challenge with the aim of pooling the most capable minds with a brief to alleviate the consequences for those severely affected all around the world.

The Challenge set out to identify the best designs and blueprints to enable the immediate and decentralised production of emergency ventilation equipment. The Challenge was divided into three sub-challenges: 1. for non-invasive ventilators and O2 concentrator devices, 2. for respiratory masks for non-invasive ventilation and 3. for education or training for additional workers drafted in to help.

On 20 April,  the submission phase of the Challenge ended. We received many excellent ideas and solutions and we would like to thank every team that participated. 

The panoply of ideas shows how creative people with expertise, power and hands-on mentality can come up with designs that may help save lives
Martin Sondenheimer,
Head of New Business Incubation of MunichRe
The excellent submissions are proof of the successful start of the #GiveaBreathChallenge. It is one of the building blocks with which the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and its partners are supporting industry and society in coping with the direct effects and long-term consequences of the corona pandemic
Thomas Doppelberger,
Head of Fraunhofer Venture

From Blueprint to ready-to-use-solution

On 24 April,  the jury selected the most promising solutions for the phase III “PoC and Validation”. Seven teams made it onto the shortlist, three of them focusing on the ventilator, three on the masks and one on the training part. All teams are now refining and finalising their designs. Until July, they will work on testable prototypes, which will be validated on suitable test benches. After successful tests, the winners of the challenges will be determined. The winning teams will be awarded individual prize purses totalling up to €400,000. The initiators will also provide a realisation fund of €600,000 and additional in-kind contributions to permit PoC validation of prototypes. Approved digital blueprints of the ventilators and masks, including information on their manufacture, assembly and use, will be provided to governments around the world to enable them to start local production and use. 

Learn more about the nominees of the shortlist:

The target vision for non-invasive ventilators contained an O2 concentrator unit for producing O2, a positive pressure unit, and has connectors for an oronasal mask (Challenge II). Besides these specifications, further technical and design requirements were defined to develop a comprehensive and scalable design

1.) Nominated are three Jacobs Scholars of University of California San Diego UCSD. The team designed an emergency ventilator unit and has already built a prototype. Their modular unit can be rapidly produced within 72 hours, as it is constructed from off-the-shelf and 3D-printed parts.
The focus of their initial design is patient safety and comfort. To protect the patient from contaminants, air is passed through a medical-grade HEPA filter upon inhalation. Furthermore, the expiratory line passes through a second HEPA filter, as well as a custom UV-C sterilisation unit to prevent the virus from spreading.

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2.) A second team qualified with an idea for a non-invasive ventilator focusing on 3D-printable parts permitting agile production all over the world. In cooperation with AC Aircontrols GmbH Fraunhofer ITEM and IAPT developed an approach that largely follows the recommendations of the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine. Since it cannot be assumed that oxygen is always available via pressurised cylinders or tanks, the proposed device allows the connection of widely used and available off-the-shelf oxygen concentrators as the gas input source. The ventilator itself requires only a minimum set of simple pressure sensors, a turbine blower and a mechanical valve. All other mechanical parts can be manufactured cost-effectively by means of additive manufacturing.
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3.) A third team constructed a compact ventilator with a 3D-printable turbine. With the help of their partner institute, All India Institute Of Medical Science, they developed a ventilation solution that combines state-of-the-art software and sensor-controlled mechanical ventilation for acute respiratory distress syndrome and independent oxygen supply based on pressure swing adsorption.
The team focuses on a confirmed fast-track approval, helping to achieve a quick start for pop-up manufacturing and a short ramp-up time of less than a week.
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The target vision for respiratory masks involves an oronasal mask (covering mouth and nose) or any other solutions covering mouth and nose. The device had to be capable of transferring pressure and should be able to connect to a ventilation device from Challenge I. Furthermore it must provide suitable filters to protect patients as well as healthcare workers. The designs should be adjustable to at least three different sizes to adapt to different patients. The following teams designed respiratory masks for non-invasive ventilation.

1.) A passionate team of interdisciplinary master students from TUM and Universität Göttingen designed a modular 100% 3D-printable respiratory mask with two types of material, based on DIN EN ISO standards. It has a comfortable, flexible, modular design that can be adjusted to healthcare professionals’ needs. Furthermore, the mask protects healthcare professionals by filtering the air exhaled by infected patients. It is not only optimised to utilise the strengths of 3D printing, but can also be connected to a variety of non-invasive ventilators.

CAD drawing Ventilator Mask
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2.) A second team designed a mask for different cases of use, for example as a respiratory mask or as a mask for care workers. The special feature is a flexible and adaptable mask system. To permit multi-use through sterilization, the team chose a highly temperature-tolerant material. Their goal is to provide a solution for the supply of PPE (respiratory protection) that is largely independent of the market. The mask system allows flexible procurement of certified filters, decentralised production of mask components and, overall, the ability to respond immediately to most market situations.
Ventilator Mask CAD
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3.) The Italian Team, Isinnova, was inspired by scuba masks. The adapted full-face respiratory mask with valves and air flow piping is scalable in production. Not only can the device be brought into service quickly and easily, it can also draw on enormous capillary distribution capacities all over the world and has the advantage of relying on Open Source. The next stage will address the ability to mass-produce the core mask. 
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A ventilator management and knowledge platform will be developed by a team of Fraunhofer IPA project group for automation in medicine and biotechnology (PAMB) cooperating with Festo and medical professionals from several clinics.

While the existing Smartenance platform by Festo, which was created to maintain and service industrial machines and components, could perfectly well be used to maintain medical ventilators and other devices, the Fraunhofer IPA project group provides high-quality and didactically prepared medical knowledge on this platform. The team aims to make these new medical inventions accessible and easy to use for everyone by providing high-quality and medically approved learning content, which can be produced with Fraunhofer IPA’s network of specialists.

How is it used?
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Timeline next steps:


Jury: Announcement of Nominees for Phase III

May until the end of June

Further elaboration and optimisation of the solutions nominated to technical and medical requirements. Production of testable prototypes and validation on suitable test benches. Build up network of realisation partners.


Announcement of the winners. Planning of pilot projects with global network partners.


First deployment in coordination with interested governments possible

What the Give a Breath-Challenge was looking for

Munich Re and Fraunhofer were looking for feasible and digitally distributable construction drawings and blueprints for emergency ventilation equipment. This emergency equipment is to be used for the treatment of "non-intensive-care COVID-19 patients" in the event of a disaster. By disaster we mean the "worst case scenario", where the capacity of the local health systems is no longer sufficient and patients therefore face immediate danger to life and limb. This equipment is meant for emergency local treatment of “non-intensive-care COVID-19-patients” to reduce demand for hospitalisation.
The selected designs (and IP) will be distributed globally to governments in need and produced locally.

Judging Committee:

  • Munich Re Board Members: Dr. Torsten Jeworrek, Dr. Thomas Blunck 
  • Fraunhofer Board Members: Prof. Ralf B. Wehrspohn, Prof. Alexander Kurz
  • Sartorius Stedim Biotech GmbH: Prof. Oscar-W. Reif, Chief Technology Officer Corporate Research
  • Siemens Healthineers: Peter Schardt, Chief Technology Officer
  • Chairman of the DIN advisory boards NARK and NAMed: Prof. Johann Weidringer
  • Drägerwerk AG & Co. KGaA: Dr. Dr. Karsten Hiltawsky, Head of Technology and IP
  • BMW Group: Dirk Hilgenberg, Senior Vice President Production Systems
  • EOS GmbH: Dr. Marco Nock, Director Innovation Management

Thomas Doppelberger
Head of Fraunhofer Venture
Martin Sondenheimer
Head of New Business Incubation