Lionel Tarassenko FREng, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Oxford, is to receive The Royal Academy of Engineering’s prestigious Silver Medal. The Medal recognises an outstanding personal contribution to British engineering that has led to market exploitation by an engineer who is under the age of fifty.

In the 1990s, already an expert in developing novel signal processing and pattern recognition techniques, Professor Tarassenko designed the Sharp LogiCook, a neural-network microwave oven – the first of its kind, and Sharp’s first microwave to be developed outside of Japan. It was also Sharp UK’s best selling model in its price range in the mid-1990s reaching six-figure sales figures in two consecutive years.

More recently, Professor Tarassenko’s research moved towards the detection of novelty in signals, which he applied to developing health monitoring technologies in both the aero-engine and healthcare sectors. He founded Oxford BioSignals in 2000 to commercialise technologies developed through this research. Products developed include: the BioSomnia monitor (a neural network system for the analysis of sleep disorders); BioSign (a critical care early warning system used in a number of US hospitals to support medical emergency teams) and BioQT (an automated analysis of heart monitoring electrocardiogram waveforms for new drug safety assessments).

Engine health monitoring was added to the company’s portfolio in October 2003 when Rolls-Royce made a major investment in the company. For the aero-engine market, Professor Tarassenko designed a real-time vibration analysis system (‘QUICK’) for monitoring jet engines based on the identification of subtle abnormalities in vibration signatures. The QUICK system revolutionized vibration analysis within Rolls-Royce, moving it from the test-bed to the engine in flight. The system won Professor Tarassenko the Rolls-Royce Chairman’s Team Award for Technical Innovation and is at the heart of Rolls-Royce’s engine health monitoring strategy, underpinning its after-care market offering for civil aero-engines. For example, QUICK is to be mounted on the Trent 900 engine (used to power the Airbus A380) and the new Trent 1000 engine (which will power the Boeing Dreamliner), with planned retro-fit to other engines.

These products are direct outputs of Professor Tarassenko’s research excellence and underpin Oxford BioSignals’ 7-figure turnover, which is expected to grow rapidly in the next two years.

2002 saw Professor Tarassenko found a second spinout company e-San, which develops mobile phone and web-based technologies to support people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma. He pioneered a new architecture for e-health which allows the transfer of self-monitoring data using Bluetooth and a GPRS mobile phone followed by immediate personalised feedback to patients on their phone. Again, significant deviation from expected behaviour is highlighted using novelty detection techniques. This new approach has been validated in a randomized controlled trial of patients with Type 1 diabetes, and a UK patent has been granted. Partnerships with Lloyds Pharmacy, Lifescan (part of Johnson and Johnson) and Vodafone have already been forged, delivering a variety of channels and routes to market.

“Professor Tarassenko was appointed Lecturer at Oxford in 1987 and by 1997 had been elected to a Chair at the age of forty,” says nominating Fellow, Professor Rodney Eatock Taylor FREng. “Since then, he has managed to generate an outstanding academic track record, with an active research group with a strong publication record and a number of awards. He has contributed to the administration of the Department as Deputy Head and has been appointed Academic Director of the new £25 million Institute of Biomedical Engineering scheduled to open next year. In addition he has founded and led the technical development of two thriving spinout companies. I hold up his research and commercialisation activities as an outstanding example of the Department’s achievements.”

Professor Tarassenko will receive his Silver Medal at The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Awards Dinner in London on 05 June 2006.

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: Professor Andrew Blake, Senior Research Scientist, Microsoft Research; Simon Gallimore, Chief of Turbine Thermofluids Systems Engineering, Rolls-Royce plc, and Ian McEwan, Technical Director of Brinker Technology 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

Amy Abbott, Manager, Events and Awards, The Royal Academy of Engineering