An engineer who builds the world’s fastest and lightest racing wheelchairs, which could help the UK’s London 2012 Paralympians to medal success, is to receive one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s highest accolades, the Sir Frank Whittle Medal, on 6 September.

Dan Chambers, Co-founder and Director of Draft Wheelchairs Ltd, which makes bespoke sports equipment for elite athletes in disability sport, will be honoured for his outstanding and sustained achievement, which has contributed to the well-being of the nation.

With 15 years’ experience of product design, innovation and manufacture of specialised sports equipment such as racing wheelchairs and hand-cycles built to suit each elite athlete’s unique physical needs; Dan has played a significant role in the development of technology which helps them fulfil their sporting potential. He designs each chair to win races in the fasted possible times. Many of the world’s best athletes use Dan’s products and 50% of his wheelchairs are exported.

Dan’s bespoke equipment has helped athletes break records and UK Paralympians win medals in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson won four gold medals at the Sydney Paralympics in a Draft Wheelchair, while David Weir won the 2011 London Marathon in a chair specially built for him by Dan. Through collaboration with UK Sport and BAE Systems he has played a pivotal role in building Team GB’s chairs for London 2012.

London 2012 Paralympian David Weir MBE, who supported Dan Chambers' nomination for the Whittle Medal, said: “Dan has built my racing wheelchairs since 1998. In that time I have achieved six Paralympic medals, won many marathons, World and European Championships and set several world records. I don’t think I would have been able to compete at this high level without the support of Dan, Draft and their racing chairs.”

“Draft has been consistently ahead of other manufacturers in terms of the design and technology built into its chairs. Dan has always worked directly with athletes to address their wishes.”

Alison Macpherson, Research and Innovation Coordinator, UK Sport, said: “Over the two most significant years of the London Olympiad, Dan has worked with UK Sport to manufacture adaptive rowing seats and deliver customised hand-cycles and racing chairs to GB and other leading international athletes. The precision by which the specifications are derived and equipment produced is exceptional.”

Dan Chambers will receive his medal at the Academy in London on 6 September at Dr Amit Goffer’s public lecture Powered exoskeletons: overcoming vertical mobility impairments, as part of the Academy’s Side by Side: innovation in disability sport series of events.

Notes for editors

  1. For more information about the Side by Side: innovation in disability sport events, please visit:
    Innovative engineering in disability sports
  2. Named after the UK’s jet engine genius, the Sir Frank Whittle Medal is awarded to an engineer, normally resident in the UK, for outstanding and sustained achievement which has contributed to the well-being of the nation. The field of activity changes annually and the 2012 medal was awarded for Engineering Innovations in Sports Performance Engineering focusing on specialist equipment manufacture and instrumentation, and performance analysis.
  3. Professor Tim Berners-Lee OBE FREng FRS was the first recipient of the medal in 2001 for creating the World Wide Web, while Professor Sir Richard Feachem KBE FREng is the most recent recipient for his engineering-based approach to managing aid and controlling some of the most virulent diseases.
  4. Dan Chambers is the Co-founder and Director of Draft Wheelchairs Ltd, since 1997. He has 15 years’ experience of product design, innovation and manufacture and specialises in titanium, aluminium, magnesium and steel tubular fabrication and welding, 3D parametric computer aided design and 3D lightweight structural engineering. He previously worked as an Archaeological Consultant, mechanic and Custom Frame Builder.
  5. 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

Sarah Griffiths at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0655