Who will win the UK’s most prestigious engineering prize this year?

- the sea-floor mapping system that can confirm oil and gas deposits and save millions of dollars in exploratory drilling?
- the mobile phone tracking programme that can pinpoint emergency callers and map traffic jams?
- the silicon chip that enables most of the amazing Bluetooth™ wireless technologies?
- or the revolutionary fibre laser that is beating conventional lasers on performance and cost and enabling new applications in diverse markets?The four finalists for the 2005 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award represent the very best of

British innovation. Less than a month from now the judging panel must decide which is the best of the best as HRH the Duke of Edinburgh presents the £50,000 prize to the winner.

“For the last 35 years the MacRobert Award has been a barometer of engineering achievement in this country,” says Lord Broers FREng FRS, President of The Royal Academy of Engineering, who gave this year’s BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures The Triumph of Technology. “I am delighted to see such creative teams shortlisted this year for products that really are changing our lives for the better.”

Alec Broers, who is also Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, says “All four teams are great examples of how successful innovators break down the barriers that stand in the way of practical application.”

Shortlisted for this year’s Award are:

Agilent Technologies for acceSS7 Location, which enables mobile phone operators to locate individual mobile users to within a hundred metres. More efficient emergency response is the most important application – location data for wireless 911 calls is now a Federal requirement in the United States. But the system can track all active network users all the time so it can also be used to track congestion on roads and railways or to help phone operators improve their services by mapping areas with the most dropped calls. It could even provide location-specific marketing information, for which a $4billion market is projected by 2009. Unlike other location technologies, Agilent’s system is passive and non-intrusive, using data already available in the signalling network and needs no handset upgrades. It collects, correlates and filters data in real time from links between the radio transmitters and the base station in a network providing the information needed to locate all active handsets. With no additional signal loading it does not interfere in any way with the performance of the network. acceSS7 Location already covers 78 per cent of GSM subscribers in the US and it is now being used in Europe, particularly for traffic planning.

“The power of location-enriched data for many services such as emergency to fleet tracking is just beginning to be realized by mobile operators,” says Tom Walls, Vice President and General Manager of Telecom Systems Division at Agilent, “Our acceSS7 Location solution allows us to help them realize the potential of offering these services to enrich their customers mobile experience as well as potentially saving lives.”

Team members: Business Manager David Craig, Program Manager John Macartney, Product Manager Kenneth McGee, and Senior Solution Architects Mike Hurst and Craig Renfrew, all based at Agilent Technologies in South Queensferry, West Lothian.
Media contact: James Wood tel. 0131 335 7315

CSR plc for the single chip Bluecore™ family, which has brought wireless applications to a huge range of consumer products, from mobile phones and headsets to medical devices. From a standing start in 1999, CSR has established a leading position among the world’s largest semiconductor companies and floated on the London Stock Exchange in March 2004, joining the FTSE 250 four months later. The company is acknowledged as the global market leader in Bluetooth, the wireless personal area networking standard in which CSR made its name, introducing the world’s first single chip radio BlueCore™01. Since then CSR has designed over 30 types of BlueCore™ silicon chips, which are manufactured at its facility in Taiwan. Since 1999 over 75 million chips have been sold and used in over 60 per cent of all Bluetooth products. The latest addition to the family is BlueCore4-external, as yet the only solution currently available for enhanced data rate (EDR) Bluetooth, which enables faster data transfer with lower power consumption on multiple wireless applications.

“We are delighted to be considered for the MacRobert Award,” says CSR Commercial Director Dr Phil O’Donovan. “Getting to the shortlist is important to CSR as it demonstrates that UK engineering companies can continue to compete successfully on the world stage. It also provides a positive signal to young people considering entering engineering as a career that UK R&D thrives and that there are UK companies who can provide them with both demanding engineering challenges and the rewards that go with creating and selling successful products.”

Team members: CEO John Hodgson, Commercial Director and Co-founder Dr Phil O’Donovan, Technical Director and Co-founder James Collier, Marketing Director and Co-founder Glenn Collinson and VP of Operations Chris Ladas, all based at CSR plc in Cambridge.
PR contact: Alan Woolhouse tel. 01223 692689

Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping (OHM) plc for controlled source electromagnetic sounding, which is already saving oil companies millions of dollars in the hunt for increasingly scarce oil and gas reserves. Exploration is being forced into more hostile environments such as deep water, where an exploratory well can cost over $50 million. Electromagnetic sounding, developed originally by academics to study thermal and volcanic behaviour on the seabed, bridges the gap between traditional seismic surveys and drilling. A horizontal electric dipole source is towed 30 metres above the sea floor, transmitting a low frequency signal into the earth, which changes as it passes through different layers of rock. The way the signal is picked up by receivers on the sea floor indicates the electrical resistivity of the underlying layers. As higher resistivity shows the presence of oil and gas OHM can then map the exact location of the deposit. The technique is non-invasive and very cost-effective, so many more potential reserves can be assessed before progressing to the expensive exploratory drilling stage, saving time, money and environmental impact. OHM plc was formed in 2002 to commercialise developments on this technique specifically for the oil industry at the University of Southampton.

Dave Pratt, Chief Executive of OHM plc, commented: “OHM has made enormous progress over the last three years and I believe our nomination for this most prestigious of awards reflects our success in developing and commercialising our leading edge technology. Looking ahead, our major challenge is to further develop the quality and scope of our CSEMI technique whilst accelerating industry’s adoption of our offering.”

Team members: CEO David Pratt and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Lucy MacGregor at OHM plc in Aberdeen and OHM Consultant Martin Sinha, Professor of Geophysics at the Southampton Oceanography Centre.
PR contact: Peter Reilly/Patrick d’Ancona, Aquila Financial 020 7849 3319/3326

SPI for their highly efficient, ultrabright fibre lasers, which are rapidly replacing traditional lasers in many manufacturing processes as they have superior performance, are cheaper to run and use far less power. Applications range from the manufacture of medical devices, printing, semiconductor processing and laser machining of small features in many arenas. Another company spun out from the University of Southampton, SPI was formed in 2000 to supply components into the telecom market. In recent years the team has transformed the company into a world leader in this exciting new technology space. In contrast with bulky, complex traditional lasers, fibre lasers use a thin strand of doped glass to generate and guide the light. Kilowatts of optical power can be generated making the laser suitable for cutting, welding, micro-machining, materials processing, marking and printing. Extraordinarily intense, delivering all their optical output into a tiny spot less than 10 thousands of a millimetre in diameter, these lasers are finding many new applications. SPI has underpinned its fibre laser platform with GTWave® technology, which enables separate laser and pump-carrying glass fibres to be drawn in a single operation. This ensures reliable high-volume manufacture, unlike competing systems.

David Parker, the company’s President and Chief Executive, commented: “Being nominated for this award is a great honour. It reflects the hard work and achievement of the whole team and the real significance of the contribution our technology is already making to product development and manufacturing here in the UK and globally.”

Team members: President/CEO Dr David Parker, Vice President IP Dr Malcolm Varnham, Chief Scientist Professor Mikhail Zervas and Vice President Engineering Dr Stephen Norman at SPI in Southampton and Professor David Payne CBE FRS, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton.
PR contact: Christine Skellon Tel. 01489 779692

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. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Senior Fellow of the Academy, takes a close interest in the MacRobert Award and has presented it almost every year since it was created.
  2. 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.
  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

For more information please contact: Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering