Essential Tech Centre


an essential incubator for newborns

“Babies are like little bundles of hope, like the future in a basket.” – Lish McBride

Every year, 2.6 million newborns (children aged 1-28 days) die in the world, with Sub-Sahara African countries accounting for 42% of these deaths. 60-80% of newborns in this region suffer from hypothermia, which largely contributes to increased mortality in addition to infection and asphyxia.

The challenge

On top of these stark statistics about infant mortality due to

hypothermia comes another: 70% of medical equipment donated to low- and middle-income countries is never put into commission. This is because they are not adapted to the climate and socio-economic context of low- and middle-income countries. Reasons include:

  • High cost of ownership
  • Unstable electricity
  • The harsher environment (humidity, high temperature and dust)
  • Lack of resources, staff and training
  • Lack of logistics and parts for maintenance
discarded incubators.png
Discarded incubators and other medical equipment we photographed in a low-income setting.

Our adapted solution

We’ve designed an innovative, patented neonatal incubator adapted to the context and intend to bring it to market through a social business start-up. It is:

  • Low-cost
  • High-quality with thermal regulation, maintaining the zone of thermo-neutrality of the newborn
  • Efficient for superior heat retention
  • Equipped with a thermal battery (EPFL patent) that can operate up to 4 hours without electricity
  • Resists humidity of 98% and temperatures up to 50°C with adapted electronics and a robust casing
  • User-friendly to operate and easy to maintain
  • Mobile for infant transport
Thermal battery
Working prototype
Product concept model co-designed with ECAL/Fabien Roy

Project status

The project is in the final stages of development and feasibility study, prior to implementation. Please contact us regarding potential philanthropic and investment opportunities.

Project manager

Dr. Michel Rochat


This project is a collaboration between EssentialTech and numerous partners who bring key interdisciplinary skills as well as various perspectives including those of the local environment and end users.

EssentialTech Centre

essentialtech [at]
+41 21 693 60 68
Mailing address:
Station 10
1015 Lausanne (Switzerland)
Physical address:
EPFL Lausanne Campus
CM 2-303
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