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Three game-changing technologies recognised by top innovation prize

18 May 2016

The Royal Academy of Engineering revealed the finalists for the 2016 MacRobert Award, renowned for spotting the ‘next big thing’ in technology.

The three finalists are competing for a gold medal and a £50,000 cash prize. (Credit: Royal Academy of Engineering)

Every year, the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award is presented to the engineers behind the UK’s most exciting engineering innovation. This year’s finalists are: Blatchford for the development of the world’s most intelligent prosthetic limb; Jaguar Land Rover for the world-class innovation behind the company’s decision to design and manufacture its own engines for the first time; and Siemens Magnet Technology for making a step-change in MRI technology that could enable earlier diagnosis of a range of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and improve drug development. 

The three finalists are competing for a gold medal and a £50,000 cash prize. The 2016 winner will be revealed at the Academy Awards Dinner at the Tower of London on 23 June, in front of an audience of top engineers and business leaders from some of the UK’s cutting-edge engineering companies.

Many previous MacRobert Award-winning technologies are now ubiquitous in modern technology, transport and healthcare. The very first award went to the Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine, used in the iconic Harrier jets, and in 1972 the judges recognised the extraordinary potential of the first CT scanner – seven years before its inventor Sir Godfrey Hounsfield received the Nobel Prize.

MacRobert Award winners are chosen by a panel of Fellows of the Academy, who deploy the most comprehensive award selection process in the UK engineering sector.

Global leader in prosthetics Blatchford has developed the first ever prosthetic limb with integrated robotic control of the knee and foot; a system in which the parts ‘talk’ to each other so that the limb can adapt automatically to different conditions. Where previously lower leg prosthetics wearers have had to plan their days meticulously according to the limitations of terrain they can tackle, the smart robotics in the Linx Limb system constantly monitor and adapt to the wearer's movements and the environment, giving users much greater confidence and freedom.

Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest automotive manufacturer, has been nominated in recognition of the innovation behind the company’s decision to design and manufacture its own engines for the first time. Starting with little more than a blank sheet of paper and an empty field, the Jaguar Land Rover team has developed an entire suite of engines, designed and manufactured in Britain, that combine almost 200 innovative ideas. These engines meet the growing demand for lower fuel consumption and running cost without comprising performance and the driver experience, as well as delivering commercial robustness for the company now and into the future.

Siemens Magnet Technology (SMT) has developed a 7 Tesla (7T) magnet that will enable many more people worldwide to access high resolution MRI scanning. Such high quality scanning has the potential to provide earlier diagnoses for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. The Magnetom Terra could also assist in drug development, and could be used to help develop treatments for early stage diseases and enable monitoring of the efficacy of existing treatments.

Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “It’s often said that Britain doesn’t make anything anymore, but these three companies are proof that the opposite is true, and testament to the engineering innovation that happens here in the UK. Each of this year’s finalists has taken a different approach to innovation – from sustained incremental improvements to starting from scratch – each resulting in technologies that will have a positive impact on millions of people and bolster the UK economy.

“There is currently a big demand for all aspects of engineering talent, but the pipeline of young people pursuing engineering careers continues to fall short. To meet demand it is vital that we encourage more young people to pursue engineering as a career. Role models and high-profile prizes such as the MacRobert Award are hugely important in showing the opportunities the sector offers.”

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