SBRI challenge: Safe and Ethical Disposal of Nitrous Oxide and Entonox Medical Gases

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and other Health Boards across Wales are looking for innovators to develop and demonstrate innovative solutions that for the safe disposal of nitrous oxide, in partially filled cylinders and/or post-consumption.

Opportunity Details


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Phase 1: Feasibility – up to 5 projects up to a value of £50,000 each (inclusive of VAT). Phase 2: Development – up to 3 successful Phase 1 projects up to a value of £150,000 each (inclusive of VAT). 


NHS Wales

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Challenge Background

Cardiff and Vale UHB, along with other Health Boards across Wales, have established a group to explore how nitrous oxide can be delivered via small portable cylinders and eliminate the use of the manifold system.

Portable E sized N2O cylinder with a regulator and Schrader valve connection was trialled with success. This change has been rolled out across the University Hospital Llandough and the nitrous oxide manifold was decommissioned in April.

The smaller cylinders have proven to be more efficient than the manifold and have an efficiency of 74%, compared to the piped supply from the manifold. This shows what huge gains there are to be made from moving over to a portable cylinder supply.

We are left with two problems:

  1. There are numerous partly filled, large, G-size cylinders on the manifold which we no longer need. If they are returned, the remaining nitrous oxide will be released to the atmosphere. Current legislation prevents reuse/recycling of this gas and we want to find a way to prevent this nitrous oxide going into the atmosphere; and
  2. We also consume large amounts of Entonox (50% oxygen, 50% nitrous oxide) which is predominantly used by women for pain relief in labour. When this gas is used, it is exhaled into the atmosphere. We would like to find an alternative solution which is suitable for widespread use in maternity units across Wales and the UK.

The Healthcare Without Harm Report showed that 5.6% of UK emissions are from healthcare. The Welsh Government have declared a climate emergency and published the NHS Wales Decarbonisation plan stating that the Welsh public sector will be carbon neutral by 2030.

This ambitious plan specifically targets anaesthetic gases and includes nitrous oxide which has a global warming potential approximately 298 times that of carbon dioxide.

Challenge Details

We are looking for sustainable and cost effective solutions for the safe disposal of nitrous oxide and Entonox medical gases, specifically around the following two Themes:

Theme 1:  Safe disposal of gas within partly filled nitrous oxide cylinders prior to return to the supplier

Theme 2: A solution to the problem of the high levels of Entonox being released into the atmosphere following consumption on our wards.

We are looking to identify, develop and demonstrate innovative solutions that could:

  • Reduce our emissions of nitrous oxide and Entonox;
  • Provide a competitively priced and affordable solution to ensure the safe disposal of nitrous oxide and Entonox medical gases in a sustainable way;
  • Reduce our purchasing of Entonox and nitrous oxide;
  • Reduce waste in our Entonox supply system; and
  • Improve air quality in the delivery rooms on labour wards.

Applicants may apply for one or both Themes.


A virtual Briefing Event was held on 30 November 2022 from 13:00-15:00. Click the link below to view the recording from this event:

The deadline for this competition has been extended to 6th January 2023.


Phase 1: Feasibility – We are looking to fund up to 5 projects up to a value of £50,000 each (inclusive of VAT) for Phase 1. Note: Only projects which have been successful at Phase 1 will be eligible to apply to subsequent phases. Additional phases will be dependent upon funding allocation.

Phase 2: Development – We expect to fund up to 3 of the most successful Phase 1 projects up to a value of £150,000 each (inclusive of VAT), to be completed by 29th March 2024.

Please note, any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possible competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution although we may choose to investigate and explore innovative procurement routes as part of this challenge.


Any organisation can submit an application, although it is expected that opportunities presented by SBRI will be particularly attractive for SMEs. SBRI is aimed at organisations working on the development of an innovative process, material, device, product or service. Successful applications will be those whose technology best addresses the specific needs identified, with the potential to make a measurable improvement to currently available products, processes materials, devices or services. All applicants must demonstrate a route to market.

If you would like help to find a collaboration partner, please contact Innovate UK KTN’s Health team.

For any enquiries about this competition please e-mail:


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