A ground breaking radio tagging system, which could save airlines and retailers millions of pounds, has won its creators a leading engineering entrepreneurship award.

Sithamparanathan Sabesan and Dr Michael Crisp, both from Cambridge University’s engineering department, scooped the Royal Academy of Engineering ERA Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for their research into a low-cost location sensing system, which could have major benefits for a wide range of businesses.

The Real Time Location System (RTLS) will allow businesses such as high street retailers and airlines which use tagging on high-end goods and passengers’ luggage, to cheaply and effectively monitor the location of these items to within one metre. Current systems only allow for around 60 per cent of tagged items to be detected and are also not able to locate tags accurately in real time, while the new system could be 100 per cent accurate.

It is estimated the RTLS could save airlines in excess of £400m. Retail groups have also been engaged in the project, not just for tagging items but also for the advancement of self-service checkouts.

The pair will now be invited to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s annual Academy Awards ceremony at London’s Guildhall on 6 June. There, they will collect a £10,000 personal prize, with a further £30,000 to invest in the development of the winning idea.

Sithamparanathan said: “Michael and I are absolutely thrilled to have been selected for this award by a panel of such respected judges and it is clearly a dream come true for us. We are incredibly proud and happy with the award. We now want to take this technology to the next level and I hope the award and the research prize will act as a springboard to its success.”

Professor Lynn Gladden FREng, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Pro Vice Chancellor at Cambridge University, who endorsed Sithamparanathan’s application, added: “In the course of his masters degree and doctoral research, Sithamparanathan has worked extremely successfully on his RTLS project and gained invaluable experience in this field of engineering.

“With the skills gained here at Cambridge, he and Michael are very well placed to take the project forward, both in its technical development and in the commercial field. Winning this award will be a huge step towards realising their dream.”

Sir Alan Rudge CBE FREng FRS, Chairman of the ERA Foundation, said: "I wish to congratulate Sithamparanathan and Michael on their selection for this prestigious prize based on the development of very exciting tracking technology.

“The ERA Foundation is very pleased to be associated with the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognising and rewarding talented young entrepreneurs.”

Notes for editors

Sithamparanathan Sabesan PhD, MPhil, BEng (Hons), MIET, SIEEE

Born in Sri Lanka, 26-year-old Sithamparanathan moved to the UK in 2004 to study electronic engineering at Sheffield University, where he was awarded the Sir William Siemens Medal for being in the country’s top 18 science and technology students. He was previously with the Cambridge University spin off company  ARM  as a student IP electronic engineer. He moved to Corpus Christi College in 2007 to study for his Masters degree before beginning his PhD in 2008. He has received a number of awards, has had his work published in various journals and currently has two patents pending for his work into RFID. He has just been elected to a junior research fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge.

Dr Michael Crisp PhD, MEng, MA, MIEEE

Michael received his PhD degree in engineering in 2009 for research on radio over fibre systems and distributed antenna systems from Downing College, Cambridge, having previously completed an MEng in 2005He is currently a postdoctoral research associate, working on RFID distributed antenna systems and radio over fiber systems.

The Royal Academy of Engineering ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award

The Royal Academy of Engineering ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award is the latest award in the Academy's awards portfolio. Made possible with the generous support of the ERA Foundation, the annual Award is open to both individuals and small teams. It seeks to identify and reward engineering researchers who exhibit a combination of business awareness, entrepreneurial potential and complimentary personal qualities in the field of electro-technology (which includes electrical and electronic engineering, aspects of biomedical engineering, electro-mechanical engineering, optics and optical engineering, instrumentation IT, software and hardware and materials related to these areas).
ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award

The Royal Academy of Engineering

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.

ERA Foundation

The ERA Foundation supports activities that help bridge the gap between research and exploitation in the broad field of electrotechnology. Activities include support of projects at the early stages of commercialisation, investment in start-up and young technology companies, raising the profile of engineering to young people and promoting the importance of high quality research and development to government, industry and academia.

For more information please contact

Ed Holmes at The Royal Academy of Engineering
020 7766 0655