Four of the country’s finest engineering teams are on the shortlist for Britain’s biggest engineering innovation prize – the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award. The finalists for the £50,000 prize for 2011 are:

  • Microsoft Research for the machine learning capability of the Kinect human motion capture system, used with Xbox 360, the Microsoft games console
  • Radio Design Ltd for the radio frequency filter that allows telephone companies like Orange and T-mobile to share their networks
  • Jaguar for the new lightweight aluminium XJ body, the first production car to be made using aerospace cold joining technology
  • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory for a new modular ceramic armour system for armoured personnel carriers.

The judging panel of eminent engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs will now deliberate to decide which of these finalists are to be the UK’s 2011 exemplar of outstanding innovation that has proven commercial success and a clear benefit to society. The £50,000 prize and the MacRobert Award gold medal will be presented to the winner at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Monday 6 June.

John Robinson FREng, Chairman of the judging panel, says:

“In the Academy’s 35th anniversary year, we are delighted to see engineering projects developed in the UK having such a global impact, from connecting people more efficiently and protecting our troops, to making lighter, greener cars and leading the games industry. British engineering is alive and well - enriching society, making a profit and helping to rebuild the economy.”

Shortlisted for the 2011 award are:

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and NP Aerospace for Segmented Ceramic Armour

This is a ceramic protection system, developed and patented by Dstl and exploited by NP Aerospace as CAMAC® EFP. The armour system is being used to protect troops in a range of military vehicles from the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as machine gun fire.

Unlike conventional ceramic tiles, the new system consists of thimble-sized hexagonalsegments held together by a moulding resin, then packaged in a polymer composite with high ballistic performance. Like a ceramic chain mail, the armour performs better than a single ceramic tile, a critical component of CAMAC® EFP.

The CAMAC® EFP armour is lightweight and modular, reducing the logistic burden of shipping entire armour kits to remote patrol bases for repair. It is in use in Afghanistan and has already saved the lives of UK troops and local people. The segmented technology is being further developed for related projects, such as the recently procured Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV).

Team members: Principal Scientists Tom Stuart, Dr Andrew Baxter, Ross Jones and Dr Mike Dalzell all based at DSTL Porton Down in Wiltshire, and Roger Medwell, Chairman of NP Aerospace

Media contact: Christopher Panks, Press Officer, tel 01980 658088
Email: Christopher Panks
www.dstl.gov.uk

Jaguar for the XJ Light Weight Vehicle concept

Jaguar’s unique lightweight aluminium body for the new XJ series is 200 kg lighter than a comparable steel-bodied model, and gives the XJ a more environmentally friendly production process than any other car in the world.

The original XJ was the last car designed by Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons and the new model is just as innovative and beautiful as its famous predecessor. Twelve years in development, the new ‘Body in White’ is the first production car body to be built using aerospace cold joining techniques for the whole assembly, eliminating fusion welding from the body shop. This reduces electricity consumption by up to 90 per cent and avoids using extra water to cool the weld guns. Up to half the aluminium used to make the body is also recycled.

Jaguar’s engineers used computer aided engineering to optimise the design before building any prototypes and their aim on future projects is to get to zero prototypes. Over half a million analysis runs were done on the XJ Light Weight Vehicle, which equates to saving 27,000 real car tests.

The XJ is also amongst the world's safest cars, the body being a lightweight strong platform for passive and active safety systems, designed to meet all legal and consumer safety tests around the world with a single body derivative. Lighter weight assists both steering and braking and helps to reduce the impact of any collision. Jaguar is the first vehicle manufacturer to offer a deployable bonnet across the whole vehicle range, this reduces head and upper body injuries to a pedestrian in the event of an accident.

Team members: Chief Technical Specialist - Body Engineering Mark White, Principal Engineer - Body Structures Steve Gowland, Principal Engineer – Closures Trevor Laight, Senior Engineer - Materials Engineering Robert Crow and Resident Engineer – Novelis Alan Carr, all based at Jaguar Land Rover Cars in Gaydon, Warwickshire

Media contact: Nicky Rzeznik, tel 01926 648063
Email: Nicky Rzeznik

www.jaguar.com/gl/en/#/experience/jaguar_magazine/xj_special_edition/innov_imag_intellligence

Microsoft Research for the Human motion-capture system for Xbox Kinect

Microsoft’s Kinect represents a significant advance in technology for “Natural User Interface” between man and machine. It was launched in November 2010 as “Kinect for Xbox 360”, enabling controller-free games and entertainment in a new way. Movies and music can be controlled with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice. Effectively, the user’s body is the controller. A major breakthrough in Kinect is the use of machine learning to classify parts of the body.

The Kinect sensor provides a stream of 3D “depth images”. This is analysed by software to give a moving interpretation of the human skeleton, at 30 frames per second. Before Kinect, equipment for motion-capture was already available commercially but required instrumentation of the moving human subject, in the form of retro-reflective markers, placed on all body joints. For user interfaces, however, it is imperative that motion capture be markerless. The Microsoft Research Cambridge laboratory applied machine learning techniques to build a capability to analyse depth images independently, classifying pixels in each depth image as belonging to one of 31 body parts. The classifier is trained and tested using a very large database of pre-classified images, covering varied poses and body types. It is engineered so efficiently that it uses only a fraction of the total available computing capacity – essential to the practical success of Kinect.

Kinect for Xbox 360 has secured a position in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest selling consumer electronics device, with 8 million sold in the first two months after launch.

Team members: Research Scientist Dr Jamie Shotton, Principal Research Scientist Dr Andrew Fitzgibbon, Software Development Engineer Mat Cook, Senior Research Software Development Engineer Toby Sharp and Team Leader Professor Andrew Blake FREng FRS, all based at Microsoft Research in Cambridge

Media contact: Rachel Howard, Head of Communications, tel 01223 479700
Email: Rachel Howard
www.research.microsoft.com/en-us/labs/Cambridge

Radio Design Ltd for the Universal Combiner for Cellular Network Sharing

The Universal Combiner Unit is a radio frequency filter system that allows up to three mobile phone operators to combine the outputs of one 2G and two 3G base stations onto a single antenna system. The combiner has extremely low signal loss but still provides sufficient isolation between the base stations connected to it to stop them interfering with each other. Although there are significantly fewer cell sites in the shared network it actually has better coverage and significantly higher data capacity than the original independent networks.

Introducing the universal combiner has no measurable effect on the way the networks perform and no additional antenna infrastructure is required – the universal combiner is installed at ground level, eliminating the need for any mast climbing. Existing mast and antenna systems can be used to support multiple base stations from more than one operator at minimal cost. It has been estimated that phone companies can save up to £100 million a year by sharing their networks. This means they can continue to support the ever growing demand for “smart phone” data services at a competitive price for consumers.

Over the last two years, Radio Design’s technology has been deployed in the UK in over 10,000 cell sites (using over 30,000 combiners). It was adopted as the standard product for MBNL Ltd (the 50/50 joint venture between T-Mobile and Three) to enable their UK network share. Everything Everywhere (the new joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange) will continue to use the system.

Team members: Managing Director Eric Hawthorn, Systems Expert Martin Gostling, Filter Expert Liz Phillips and Programmes Director Paul Trigg, all based at Radio Design Ltd in Shipley, West Yorkshire

Media contact: Eric Hawthorn, Managing Director, tel 07785 737277
Email: Eric Hawthorn
www.radiodesign.eu

Notes for editors

  1. First presented in 1969, the MacRobert Award honours the winning company with a gold medal and up to five team members with a tax-free prize of £50,000 between them. Founded by the MacRobert Trusts, the Award is now presented by the Academy after a prize fund was established with donations from the MacRobert Trusts, the Academy and British industry  The MacRobert Award
  2. The judging panel for the MacRobert Award 2011 is as follows:

    John Robinson FREng (Chair)
    Previously Chairman and Chief Executive of Smith and Nephew plc, Chairman of George Wimpey plc, Railtrack plc, Low and Bonar plc, UK Coal plc and Consort Medical plc. Operating Partner, Duke Street Capital

    Keith Davis (Trustee, The MacRobert Trust)
    Formerly Director, Strategy and Planning, The Royal Academy of Engineering

    Professor Nicholas Cumpsty FREng
    Emeritus Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London

    Professor Richard Darton FREng
    Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford

    Professor Ian Liddell CBE FREng
    Consultant, W I Liddell Engineering Ltd

    Professor Adrian Long OBE FREng 
    Formerly Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen's University Belfast

    Professor Richard Parry-Jones CBE FREng
    Formerly Group Vice President, Product Development, for the Ford Motor Group

    Professor Peter Selway FREng
    Formerly Director of Operations for Nortel, Research Fellow, Imperial College London

    Ian Shott CBE FREng
    Director, Shott Consulting Ltd

    Dr Martyn Thomas CBE FREng
    Director, Martyn Thomas Associates Ltd
  3. 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. +44 (0)20 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton