Queen’s honour for West Sussex man who helped to build life-saving equipment during pandemic
A man who helped to build thousands of life-saving ventillators has been named on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Mark Mathieson, 51, said he was shocked after finding out he would become a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), for his services to the Ventilator Challenge.
Mark, from Rogate in West Sussex, said: “It’s humbling, really. I didn’t expect it. It came out the blue.
“My grandfather Robert was awarded an MBE for his services to British Industy so it’s quite nice to get the same thing.”
Mark is the lead partner for technical Services at McLaren Racing.
He co-ordinated multiple elements of the Penlon ventilator product using the expertise, speed and precision that McLaren’s skills could deliver.
“In the early stages [of the pandemic], the clinical understanding was that treatment would be via ventialltors,” Mark said.
“We didn’t have enough in the UK as everyone in the world wanted the same equipment.
“The Prime Minister announced a call to arms for the UK industry.
“We had to see how we could make them. Most of us had never seen one before.”
Mark also led ‘the vital aspect’ of component sourcing as well as how and where the ventilators would be built.
He identified that parts of old ventilators could be reused which ensured regulatory approval, but given the volumes required, meant that many of the parts were not readily available on the world market.
One chipset in particular was out of production, threatening to derail the project.
Within 24 hours, Mark, with his team, had persuaded a US manufacturer to restart their line such that an assembler in Israel to build the otherwise obsolete parts from scratch, in a much higher volume than ever before.
McLaren was a key part of the Penlon consortium that manufactured 11,700 devices for the NHS, they achieved 23 years worth of production in just 12 weeks.
McLaren put their F1 pedigree to impressive use and managed to ensure that over 12 million parts were identified, sourced and put in the right place.
A Government spokesperson said the scale of this achievement ‘cannot be underestimated’ in the context of a new product and a new consortium of companies with ‘no established ways of working together’, as well as a public health crisis and nationwide lockdown.
Mark said: “It’s pretty rare for Formula One teams to work together.
“It was quite awe-inspiring to show what can be done when the industry turns all the taps on.
“We never met these people and probably never will but we built some really strong relationshops in that virtual environment.
“It’s a really good demonstration of what can be done when you put your mind to it.
“It reinforced to the UK Government that they really do have a capable manufacturing industry. It’s put the industry back on the map.”
Facing an ‘unknown future’, Mark said his faith in the human nature was restored as they ‘fantastically, came together with a shared goal’.
He added: “When there were thousands of people every day dying, everyone was very worried.
“Lots of people and organisations offered help.
“We applied our knowledge and capability across many sectors. We’re getting on top of it and we should be very proud of ourselves to respond in that way.
“Hopefully, there’s a real legacy there for the future. It will happen again but hopefully we will be better prepared next time.”