The Royal Academy of Engineering celebrates the strength and diversity of UK engineering with the presentation of its coveted Silver Medal to four outstanding British engineers working in the fields of data, construction, telecommunications and electronics. They have achieved significant commercial success in their fields and are recognised for advancing the cause of engineering in this country.
Suranga Chandratillake, Christopher Hendy, Robert Salter, and Professor Florin Udrea’s unique stories are detailed below. All four will receive their medals at the Academy's annual awards dinner at London’s Royal Opera House on 26 June.
Suranga Chandratillake – Cambridge/San Francisco
A pioneer in content analysis, Suranga Chandratillake graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Computer Science. In 2001 he joined Autonomy Plc, which specialises in data mining software that clients use to derive meaning and value from raw information. In his first role as lead R&D engineer, he developed a computing network that allowed data to be processed across multiple servers, dramatically increasing the volume that could be evaluated each second.
Suranga led the development of blinkx Plc, an innovative system that data mines the hundreds of thousands of hours of video and audio files uploaded to the internet. Key words, phrases and faces can be recognised, allowing viewers to browse by content, not just by ‘tags’. Advertisers can target viewers with specific ads tied to key words. Over 400 distinct brands use blinkx, serving targeted ads to an estimated monthly audience of 90 million unique users. In 2005, he persuaded the Autonomy board to turn blinkx into a separate business and it is now the world’s largest video search engine.
Christopher Hendy – Surrey
A bridge engineering specialist with unrivalled expertise in steel and concrete bridges, Chris Hendy earned an MA at Cambridge University before joining Atkins, the renowned engineering and design consultancy, in 1992. As a bridge expert his work has taken him around the globe fulfilling many roles from Project Director to Technical Manager. He has worked on some of the most complex and high profile projects including the design of the Dubai Metro viaducts, strengthening the Penang Bridge in Malaysia, replacing the bearings in the Forth Road Bridge and most recently as Technical Advisor on the Olympic Park Bridges.
An industry leader and author of three seminal books on bridge construction and design, Chris has played a pivotal role in aligning UK construction industry standards with those of the pan-European Structural Eurocodes, ensuring that UK construction businesses can compete for European contracts.
Robert Salter – Dorset
A telecommunications expert developing front-line communications equipment for the battlefield, Rob Salter, an engineering graduate from Bristol University joined BAE Systems, the defence company, in 2000 and led a team to develop FALCON, a high tech communication and information network for front line troops. Deployable on a pallet from a truck or helicopter to troops in conflict zones, this information network is effectively portable broadband that works via satellite, radio or other bearers. It allows front line troops to talk securely across the network and transfer data, maps and orders, be they in country or back in the UK. It is ruggedised, secure and protected from electronic warfare.
The system will be utilised by the Army and Royal Air Force. By combining all data, information and communication networks into one piece of equipment, Signallers will be able to respond faster to changing environments ensuring vital information reaches its destination.
Professor Florin Udrea - Cambridge
Both an academic and incredibly successful entrepreneur, Professor Florin Udrea leads the High Voltage Microelectronics group at Cambridge University whilst being the founder of two of the University’s most successful start-ups: Cambridge Semiconductor Ltd (Camsemi) and Cambridge CMOS Sensors Ltd (CMOSS). Camsemi is a pioneer in the world of semiconductors, developing and patenting more energy efficient chips. To date they are generating multi-million pound revenue and have 70 employees in offices in the UK, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the US.
Florin is also co-founder and CEO of CMOSS, a company developing revolutionary technology for environmental monitoring. Its miniature gas sensors for CO2 and methane detection are set to replace the expensive, bulky equipment the industry currently uses. At present the company has 15 world-wide customers and a potential growth forecast of £10 million a year.
Dervilla Mitchell FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Awards committee, says: “Our four Silver Medallists represent the very best of entrepreneurial British engineering right across the whole spectrum of engineering. From semiconductors, communications and the web, right through to bridges, engineering innovation is contributing more and more to our lives and our workplaces. Gifted engineers like our award winners are developing technological solutions and finding new business opportunities all the time.”
Notes for editors
The Academy's Silver Medals were instigated in 1995. They are awarded annually to engineers who have made outstanding contributions to British engineering but have been working as an engineer for no more than 22 years. Up to four medals may be awarded each year.
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.
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