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Three engineering pioneers in running for MacRobert Award

20 May 2015

Three UK companies have been revealed as this year’s finalists for the most prestigious UK engineering innovation award.

Artemis Intelligent Power has been selected for its technology to unlock the power potential of wind turbines; Endomag has been chosen for a system that is improving the diagnosis of metastasis in breast cancer patients; and Victrex for its creation of new materials to bring modern technology advances to a huge variety of applications.

Synonymous with spotting the ‘next big thing’ in the technology sector, the MacRobert Award is the UK’s longest running national prize for engineering innovation. Since 1969, the Award has identified world-changing innovations with tangible societal benefit and proven commercial success.

Many previous winning technologies are now ubiquitous in modern medicine, transport and technology. The very first award in 1969 went to the Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine, which powered the VTOL Harrier jet, 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.

Artemis Intelligent Power

Last year’s winner, SME Cobalt Light Systems, won for the innovation behind an airport security liquid scanner that can now be found in over 65 airports throughout Europe. The same technology is also being used to detect counterfeit goods and in food analysis.

This year’s three MacRobert Award finalists, who have each shown remarkable promise in their respective domains, are all competing for a gold medal and a £50,000 cash prize. The winner will be announced on 16 July 2015 at the Academy's annual awards dinner in London.

Edinburgh-based Artemis Intelligent Power has developed a digital hydraulic power system that unlocks the ability to generate much greater levels of power from offshore wind turbines. As well as dramatically improving power capacity, the smart, modular system has been designed to overcome the significant reliability issues associated with existing turbines. Artemis is already developing world-leading systems, dramatically improving turbine efficiency and with it, the prospects for future exploitation of wind power.

Endomag Sentimag and Sienna+

Endomag is based in Cambridge and has pioneered a new breast cancer diagnostic tool that avoids the use of radioactive tracers in determining the spread of cancer through the lymphatic system. The cost and logistical challenges of relying on radioactive material have meant that sentinel lymph node biopsy – currently the best method of breast cancer staging – is  only available to one in six patients globally, creating a ‘postcode lottery’ for effective diagnosis. The SentiMag probe developed by Endomag identifies sentinel lymph nodes for removal by detecting a magnetic, rather than radioactive, tracer signal.

Blackpool-based Victrex has created the highest performing ultra-thin polymers (plastics) in the world. Initially enabling smartphone speakers and earbuds to produce high-quality sound without risk of failure, they could now be a key material for enabling the flexible electronics revolution. In forms up to 20 times thinner than a human hair, the PEEK polymer is already found in over a billion consumer electronic devices and is also used as a lightweight replacement for metal in aircraft, cars and medical implants.

The MacRobert Award is determined by a panel of ten judges representing a broad spectrum of engineering expertise and each a leader in their field.

Black ear-buds from Victrex

“Each of this year’s finalists has demonstrated remarkable drive and determination to achieve technical advances that can make a considerable difference to many aspects of our lives," says Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel. "The variety and standard of engineering skills behind each innovation is testament to the UK’s strength in the sector.

“Innovative engineering is the key to our future growth in the UK and we will have to make increasing use of our knowledge and creative talent if we are to take advantage of this opportunity. These three companies are great examples of engineering for growth in action.”

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