The Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, which will celebrate its 50thanniversary next year, is open for entries, seeking the best of UK engineering innovation for 2019.
The MacRobert Award recognises outstanding engineering innovations developed in the UK that can demonstrate commercial success and a tangible benefit to society. The team behind the winning innovation receives a £50,000 cash prize, a gold medal and national acclaim.
Over the past five decades the MacRobert Award has been remarkably accurate in predicting the key innovations that would shape the world we live in. The inaugural winners in 1969 were Rolls-Royce for Pegasus – the world’s first short takeoff and vertical landing engine, used in the iconic Harrier aircraft – and Freeman, Fox and Partners for the Severn Bridge, which heralded a new era of bridge building and was Grade I listed in 1999.
The MacRobert Award has celebrated a string of engineering firsts developed in the UK that have impacted on many sectors, including medicine, transport, manufacturing and technology. In 1972 it recognised the life-saving potential of the CT scanner, with Sir Godfrey Hounsfield and his team at EMI winning the MacRobert Award seven years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize. CT scanners are now found in almost every hospital in the world.
Cambridge-based Owlstone Medical won the 2018 award for the ReCIVA Breath Sampler, the world’s first ’breath biopsy’ system. The system can identify chemical biomarkers in human breath for a variety of serious diseases, including cancer, and the company aims to save 100,000 lives by enabling earlier diagnosis.
However, the other two finalists were both Oxfordshire-based. Oxford Space Systems was a finalist for developing a new generation of origami-inspired, innovative and cost-competitive satellite antennas and structures, that will enable satellite missions and services ranging from telecommunications to environmental monitoring.
Williams Advanced Engineering and Aerofoil Energy for its aerodynamic shelf-edge technology, Aerofoil, which significantly reduces energy consumption in supermarket and convenience store fridges. The device is inspired by state-of-the-art Formula 1 engineering and offers significant potential energy savings. Sainsbury’s is rolling out the technology in all 1,400 of its stores.
Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “The UK has a rich heritage of engineering innovation and has been the driving force behind many technological developments that we now take for granted. A quick look through the MacRobert Award’s 50-year history, from Johnson Matthey for the catalytic converter in 1980, to Buro Happold in 1999 for the Millennium Dome’s roof structure, and to the Raspberry Pi in 2017, highlights why the UK is famed for its engineering prowess.
“Engineering innovation is not just part of the UK’s legacy, it’s also key to our future success, as government has recognised through its industrial strategy. It’s vital that we recognise and celebrate the innovations that have a demonstrable benefit to our lives. Each year I am delighted by the excellent engineering advances that are submitted and I look forward to seeing the entries for this special anniversary year.”
In celebration of five decades of the UK’s finest engineering innovations, the Academy will be running a programme of special events and activities throughout the anniversary year. Finalists will be announced in June and the 50thMacRobert Award will be presented at the Academy Awards Dinner at Banqueting House in London on 11 July.