It’s not every day that Microsoft buys your latest invention, but that’s what happened to Dr Adrian Travis, a Cambridge academic. His idea for thin, wedge-shaped light guides has been snapped up by the computer industry colossus to drive a whole new way of interfacing with computers. The new light-guides can project and image light at the same time, enabling a host of products to improve the human-computer interface.

Dr Travis, now a Senior Scientist at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, USA, has won a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal for his outstanding personal contribution with a commercial benefit to British engineering – Academy President Lord Browne of Madingley will present him with the medal at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Monday 9 June.

Adrian, aged 45, invented a new class of light-guide that works as a flat lens and essentially eliminates the distance a projector needs to be placed from its screen. This opens the way to flat projection and imaging devices.

Cambridge FPD Ltd was set up in 1999 to commercialise Adrian’s ideas. It developed and licensed its optical technology for a new, portable X-ray security scanner that is so thin it can even be slid down behind bags left beside walls.

“Adrian is a great innovator,” says his PhD supervisor Professor John Carroll FREng. “At university he invented toy bricks that could be stacked up into simple electrical circuits to teach children about electricity. He has an excellent record of patenting and commercialising his inventions and his ultra-thin light-guides are revolutionary.”

Dr Travis comments “I am delighted to receive this award, which I hope will be seen to acknowledge work by a remarkable group of forward thinking people on some ideas I had.”

Notes for editors

  1. The Academy's Silver Medals were instigated in 1995. They are awarded annually to engineers who have made outstanding contributions offering a commercial benefit to British engineering but have been working as an engineer for no more than 30 years. Up to four medals may be awarded each year.

    This year’s other Silver Medals go to Paul Westbury of Buro Happold, Dr Barbara Lane of Arup and Kenneth Innes of Shell Exploration and Production.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0636