Archive for the ‘McRobert finalists’ Tag

2011 McRobert and other Royal Academy of Engineering Awards

I was delighted once again to have been invited to the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner. Last year I felt that, despite great successes, the engineering community was on the back foot, probably because of the BP crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and the general feeling that somehow engineers (and scientists) were the cause of “it all”. This year, I am pleased to report, confidence is returning and with the rhetoric led by Dr Vince Cable, the Business Secretary of State, the mood was very much that scientists and engineers need to get back from the city and into the high value adding “real” exports. (Better late than never, I guess, but I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far back; financial engineering does a good job for my Science Park and the NI economy!)

The four McRobert finalists exemplified the theme:

One team integrated from government lab and private sector had used their combined expertise to invent, develop, deploy in Afghanistan and begin to export new lightweight armour in less than two years.

Another had used advanced digital radio technology and design to deploy a new common platform for mobile smart phones so that the operators can keep pace with our unslakable thirst for surfing on the move and for working where-ever we happen to be, as I am now.

The third finalist was Jaguar for the lightweight chassis and market leading commercial success of the new XJ saloon. I had a special interest in this since, I learned it uses the explosive lifting bonnet we had helped research in Malvern some 15 years ago. I was also sitting next to a retired Director and special advisor to Tata, the new owner of the company. He was at pains to tell me and our neighbour on the other side, the President of Boeing UK and a customer of the company, of his pride in the successes of Jaguar-Land Rover. It was great to see, at first hand, the safe hands the companies are in but what an irony that sometimes we do not feel that same pride in our own engineers.

The forth team and overall winner was from Microsoft UK; they had developed and taken to world markets the Kinect technology that allows that company to offer free body movement interaction with computer programmes. Not only does this allow the games that cause so much merriment and embarrassment around homes like mine but it offers a serious purpose of surgery practice and other virtualisations. A worthy winner, though I was voting for Jaguar.

Other prizes and medals went to individuals for personal achievements but an important new addition was the recognition of the next generation with a special category for engineers in early careers and for some younger still for their essays envisaging their views of the 125 year future.

All were up-staged however by the winner of the President’s Medal. He was the polymath “Father of Composite Materials” and Vice Chancellor of Surrey University and founder of that university’s exemplar Science and Research Park, Prof Anthony Kelly CBE DL FREng FRS. Despite his years and his obvious frailty, in a strong and confident voice he exhorted all of us in the audience to “stop whingeing and get on making the country great again”.

What a good  motto for us all!