Nigel Schofield, pioneer of new vacuum systems for the semiconductor industry, is to receive The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Silver Medal for his outstanding contribution to British engineering and commercial development. He has helped to make his company, BOC Edwards, the leading supplier of vacuum systems for semiconductor preparation, with export revenue approaching $1 billion.

Mr Schofield will receive his Silver Medal, which is only awarded to engineers aged under 50, at the Academy’s Awards Dinner in London on Thursday 2 June 2005.

“Nigel is an outstandingly creative and innovative engineer,” says Dr Raj Rajagopal FREng, Chief Executive of BOC Edwards. “He has conceived the ideas for the majority of our new vacuum pumping mechanisms over the last five years. Most of these involved groundbreaking steps and have been patented. Nigel’s work has underpinned the growth of new and highly significant export opportunities. He’s also a great role model within the company and makes a point of encouraging younger engineers and scientists.”

As Technical Manager – Core Technology at BOC Edwards in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, Mr Schofield is an expert in designing vacuum pumps. He developed computer simulations of his pumps and was the first person in the company to use these to model vacuum pump performance. His regenerative machine, developed from his first prototype, is now a world-leading product as the first tool-mounted, load-lock pump for the semiconductor industry. It won the company a Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2002.

Mr Schofield sowed the seeds of his innovative approach to product design during a sandwich course in mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence. He spent summer vacations working on military projects, testing helicopter night vision systems and tank track slippage.

An assistant Scout leader in his spare time, Mr Schofield is also a keen hill walker and last year completed a charity hike to the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. “I am very pleased to accept this prestigious award,” he says. “I hope to use this recognition to further inspire young engineers to pursue the challenges of engineering and innovation.”

Notes for editors

  1. The Academy’s Silver Medals, instigated in 1995, are awarded annually to engineers aged 50 or under who have made outstanding contributions to British engineering. Only four awards may be made each year.
  2. This year’s other Silver Medals go to: Simon Brueckheimer – Consultant Architect at Nortel Networks, Barry Trimmer - Research Technology and Engineering Director of Thales UK’s aerospace business, and Peter Price – Director of Engineering and Technology for the Civil Aerospace sector of Rolls-Royce.
  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