The Royal Academy of Engineering has announced JCB’s electric digger (19C-1E) as the winner of the 2020 MacRobert Award, the most prestigious prize for UK engineering innovation. The winning team receive a £50,000 prize and a gold medal.

The JCB 19C-1E digger, developed by Staffordshire-based JCB, produces no exhaust emissions and is much quieter than existing construction machines. As the only volume-manufactured battery-powered machine of its kind on the market, the hundreds of models sold around the world so far are already responsible for saving the equivalent of 15,100kg in CO2 emissions across 5,616 hours of work.

The MacRobert Award judges were impressed with the way JCB brought a range of engineering disciplines together in developing the machine. They also identified the optimised battery life and ability to operate indoors as important innovations.

The judges felt that in developing the 19C-1E, JCB has demonstrated the utility of electric machines in a construction setting and the potential for future sustainable innovation in the sector.


JCB Chairman Lord Bamford said:

“To win one of the world’s most respected engineering prizes is an outstanding endorsement for JCB’s electrification team, who have achieved so much in applying a science which was new to our business. JCB’s electric mini excavator will contribute to a zero carbon future and help make the world more sustainable. It’s a huge honour for our contribution to be recognised in this way.”


The team

MacRobert Award winners are chosen by an expert panel of Royal Academy Fellows, who have vast experience across engineering industry and academia. The JCB finalist team includes:

  • Tim Burnhope, Chief Innovation Officer
  • Bob Womersley, Director of Advanced Engineering
  • Lee Harper, Chief Engineer – Electrified Machines
  • Lee Milward, Design Manager
  • Corey Smith, Test and Development Manager


MacRobert Award judge Naomi Climer CBE FREng, said:

'The team at JCB has put sustainable engineering on the construction map with the 19C-1E. Their electric digger is hugely impressive and it’s an extremely important engineering innovation. JCB has demonstrated to the construction sector that it is possible to develop powerful machinery that is also emission free at the point of use. We expect their example will spur further innovation in the industry.'


Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel, said:

“JCB’s electric digger is a huge engineering achievement. The team has developed all parts of the electric propulsion system to deliver system performance that matches real customer requirements. This is a huge achievement in itself, but the additional benefits of zero exhaust emissions and much lower noise has lifted the 19C-1E excavator to a new level. The digger is more than a great bit of engineering, however. It has the power to be the catalyst for change in an industry that is responsible for around 10% of all of the UK’s carbon emissions.”