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EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure ES-2020-13/1478 – measures in Spain

SEAT: Temporary conversion to produce respirators

Reconversión temporal de SEAT para producir respiradores

Country Spain , applies locally

    • – ES511 Barcelona
Time period Temporary, 22 March 2020 – 10 April 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category Reorientation of business activities
– Change of production/Innovation
Author Alejandro Godino (UAB)
Measure added 26 November 2020 (updated 12 February 2021)

Background information

The health emergency situation and the lack of resources caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2020 led to the collaboration of Protofy (Barcelona's innovative engineering startup) and Seat (Spanish automobile manufacturer) to produce respirators in a context of shortage during the worst moments of the health emergency. Others firms also collaborated in this initiative: Allianz (insurance company) financing Protofy activity and Dago (windshield wiper manufacturer) supplying engines for the respirators.

Content of measure

Engineers of Protofy started to design prototypes of low-cost respirators before its scarcity due the sudden impact of the pandemic in March. These prototypes had the initial advice of doctors from the Clínic and Germans Trias i Pujol hospitals in Barcelona to facilitate improvements and develop the clinical trial necessary for its approval. Once tested on the first patient, the company Doga supplied engines for Seat to develop series production of respirators in its main factory (Martorell). While the factory workforce was confined, about 150 employees from different areas of the plant voluntarily changed their tasks to work on the production of the final model of these respirators after testing 13 different prototypes.

Use of measure

About 600 units were manufactured and distributed to hospitals throughout Spain. As the idea was always to reach as many people as possible, all the models they made were posted on the internet from the beginning, which facilitated both the collaboration of many other people and companies interested in the initiative, as well as its international expansion. In this way, the initiative was able to help not only Spanish hospitals, but exporting the prototype to more than 60 countries around the world: India, Israel, South Africa, Switzerland, Nicaragua and the United States, among others.


  • Work organisation

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Sector specific set of companies
Companies providing essential services
Applies to all citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Trade unions
Company / Companies

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted No involvement
Form Direct consultation outside a formal body Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Only trade unions
  • Main level of involvement: Company level


The general secretary of UGT in Catalonia and the president of the SEAT works council spoke with the Minister of Health to facilitate the homologation of the prototypes days after the Ministry blocked their production due to the lack of certificates.

Views and reactions

CCOO and UGT unions valued this initiative very positively and even asked other industrial companies to similarly dedicate their technology, resources and workforces to combat the health emergency. UGT even dialogued with the Ministry of Health to facilitate its development. In any case, the CCOO and UGT unions denounced that the stoppage of respirators production and return of the workforce to normal production was unilaterally decided by SEAT.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      C - Manufacturing C29 Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers

This case is not occupation-specific.


  • 30 March 2020: Seat se vuelca en la fabricación de respiradores en su planta de Martorell (
  • 30 March 2020: Las y los trabajadores de SEAT en Martorell empiezan a fabricar respiradores en serie para la sanidad pública (
  • 02 April 2020: Seat reanuda la fabricación de respiradores al dar por hecha la validación de Sanidad (
  • 02 April 2020: Sanidad avala los respiradores de SEAT (
  • 11 April 2020: Seat detiene la producción de respiradores por la bajada de positivos por coronavirus (
  • 13 April 2020: UGT y CCOO denuncian a la dirección de Seat ante Inspecció de Treball (
  • 21 April 2020: El diseñador de los respiradores de Seat abre los planos y el software (
  • 23 November 2020: OxyGEN, un respiro de genialidad y talento (


Eurofound (2020), SEAT: Temporary conversion to produce respirators, measure ES-2020-13/1478 (measures in Spain), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.