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Academy Awards celebrate engineering excellence

The Academy celebrated some of the UK’s most inspiring engineers last month at its first in-person event since the start of the pandemic. HRH The Princess Royal, Royal Fellow of the Academy, attended the event and met the winners at a special Awards Celebration on 13 July. Her Royal Highness presented the 2021 MacRobert Award, the most prestigious prize for excellence in UK engineering innovation, to London-based startup DnaNudge. Supported by the Worshipful Company of Engineers, the MacRobert Award carries a prize of £50,000 for the winning team.

The Awards Celebration took place at Prince Philip House, generously supported by bp. The event also recognised exceptional achievements by engineers at all stages of their careers through several other major awards.

MacRobert Award winner DnaNudge, based at the Imperial College London Translation and Innovation Hub in White City, has created the world’s first service to use consumers’ own DNA to nudge them towards healthier choices while shopping. Instead of a procedure that in the past would have taken days and required experts in a laboratory to analyse the results, DnaNudge’s lab-in-cartridge system allows individuals to provide a simple cheek swab in-store or posted from home. Last year the technology was also adapted to deliver a rapid, lab-free RT-PCR COVID-19 test that is being used in NHS hospitals and by leading arts and cultural organisations to support safe resumption of performances.

This year’s two MacRobert Award finalists were also present at the event: Chepstow-based Creo Medical, which designs and manufactures highly advanced miniaturised surgical tools that integrate radio frequency and high-frequency microwave energy for highly targeted, minimally invasive endoscopic surgery; and flexible microchip pioneer PragmatIC Semiconductor, which has developed flexible integrated circuits, taking the silicon out of silicon chips.

The celebration also saw the presentation of the Major Project Award to the MAST Upgrade Project, a pivotal step towards achieving commercially viable fusion power plants and a future source of clean, safe and plentiful energy. MAST Upgrade is a unique, compact spherical tokamak fusion experiment that began operations in October 2020. The UK is pioneering smaller, cheaper fusion devices and MAST-U is an essential preparatory experiment for the STEP programme, which aims to deliver the first fusion prototype powerplant. The leadership team nominated reflect the breadth of engineering capability needed to deliver this, from high-voltage power and complex and precise mechanical assembly, to control and instrumentation, underpinned by transformative, ambitious science. MAST Upgrade required precision engineering of over 130,000 new components, with 90% of contracts placed in the UK supply chain.

Dr Larissa Suzuki, Data and AI Practice Lead at Google Cloud, was awarded the Rooke Award for the public promotion of engineering. Dr Suzuki is a renowned technologist, entrepreneur and engineer who has received numerous awards for her contribution to industry and international science. She founded the UCL Society of Women Engineers and co-founded the London branch of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. She also developed education initiatives in Brazil, bringing the joy of computer programming and engineering to thousands of women, ethnic minorities and young people. Dr Suzuki is an active speaker on diversity, disability inclusion and her experience of autism, increasing awareness, empathy and inclusion of neurodiverse people in the engineering workforce.

Three Silver Medals were also presented at the event to engineering entrepreneurs who have made a big impact through commercialising their work.

Dr Tom Carter, CTO of Ultraleap, invented a technology that uses ultrasound to create virtual buttons and touch-free displays. Sound waves from a collection of small ultrasonic speakers are focused onto the user’s hands, causing the skin to vibrate and elicit the sensation of touch.

Dr Andrew Lynn, CEO of Fluidic Analytics, is a materials engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. Fluidic Analytics has launched two products commercially and one has made fundamental contributions to breakthroughs in the understanding of the mechanisms of action of drugs for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr Sithamparanathan Sabesan, CEO of PervasID Ltd, has been internationally recognised for his work in battery-free radio frequency identification (RFID) tag tracking, which has resulted in four patents and is backed by leading strategic investors such as Stanley Black & Decker, who use it to track complex sets of manufacturing tools.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “It is vital that we celebrate engineers who have achieved great things, both to acknowledge the excellence of their work and its positive impact on society and also to provide inspiration for those considering careers in our profession. Our gathering this year was much smaller than usual, owing to pandemic restrictions, but our engineering stars shone all the brighter and we congratulate them all.”

Notes for editors

  1. Full details of the Academy Awards Celebration are available at our Awards Celebration page.
  2. Further awards were presented by our Royal Fellow HRH The Princess Royal at earlier events:
    The Prince Philip Medal was presented virtually to Dr Gladys West and announced on 10 June
    Five winners of the RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineers of the Year were announced on 6 July during a special visit to the Thames Tideway Project, Dr Marzia Bolpagni also received the Sir George Macfarlane Medal for excellence in the early stage of her career.
  3. The Royal Academy of Engineering is harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone.

    In collaboration with our Fellows and partners, we’re growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, and influencing policy and engaging the public.

    Together we’re working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age.

For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering
T: +44 207 766 0636
E: [email protected]

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