A team from Atkins has been awarded this year’s Royal Academy of Engineering Major Project Award, given in recognition of a major engineering project with a substantial impact on society. Atkins has received the award for its part in the delivery of high speed broadband internet infrastructure to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, providing fast internet access to thousands of households and isolated communities.


The project leader, Neil Watt, and team members John Jennow, JD Olliero, and Chris Bond, will receive their award at the Academy’s Annual Awards ceremony on 16 July at the Landmark Hotel, London.


Increased connectivity and faster broadband are essential for personal communications, the business community, remote delivery of public services and to enable new forms of remote working, education and healthcare. Until very recently, many communities in the Highlands and Islands were not served by superfast fibre based broadband services, with some of the most remote not having access to an internet connection at all.


In 2011, Highlands and Islands Enterprise set the engineering challenge of enabling the delivery of next generation broadband to the majority of premises across this remote region of Scotland by 2016. However, the dramatic geography and dispersed population of the region presented significant technical and cost challenges.


Design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins responded by developing the business case and procurement strategy and by setting and evaluating the technical specification for the supply of superfast broadband to the region. Their work also included the technical modelling, mapping and cost analysis of the infrastructure required.


Atkins ensured that the project specification included the provision of 400km of new subsea fibre optic cables linking the Inner/Outer Hebrides and Orkney Islands, and over 800km of new fibre optic cable. In 2013, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, in conjunction with Atkins, identified BT as the delivery partner; BT began laying the cables in early 2014.


In the first year of the Highlands and Islands project, hundreds of kilometers of fibre have been laid to create a core network, including 20 subsea routes, representing the biggest ever telecoms subsea cable laying undertaken in the UK.


Celebrating the arrival of fibre broadband in Kinlochleven (image credit: Stuart Nimmo/Highlands and Islands Enterprise)
By the end of June 2015, around 80,000 premises could access services through the project. This includes more than 23,000 in Moray, 41,000 in Highland, 3,000 in each of Orkney and the Western Isles, around 4,000 for Shetland and Argyll and Bute.


Neil Watt, project director within Atkins’ Civil Government and Infrastructure business, said: “We are very proud of the recognition we have received for this project through this prestigious award. This award is equally for Highlands and Islands Enterprise whose team have provided the vision and drive and for BT who are delivering what has become the most challenging telecommunication engineering project ever undertaken in the UK.


“When it is completed, this highly complex project will enable a world-class, future-proofed infrastructure that will deliver superfast broadband to one of Europe’s most remote areas, helping to improve both the economy and quality of life for the remote communities of the Highlands and Islands.”


Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:

“Thanks to their systems approach to the venture, Atkins’ engineers ensured the successful roll-out of superfast broadband to the Highlands and Islands region even before a single metre of cable was laid.


“The team was meticulous in their planning of this project, delivering what is possibly one of the largest and most ambitious telecommunications programmes that Europe has seen in recent years. Thanks to Atkins’ work, tens of thousands of people can take advantage of the latest and fastest internet connectivity.”


Notes for Editors

Atkins (www.atkinsglobal.com) is one of the world's most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing some 18,000 people across the UK, North America, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Europe. We build long term trusted partnerships to create a world where lives are enriched through the implementation of our ideas. You can view Atkins’ recent projects on our website.


Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.


Highlands and Islands Enterprise (digital): Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.

HIE, as part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, is leading on one of the most complex fibre broadband deployment projects in the UK. We aim to deliver services to 84% of premises across the Highlands and Islands by 2016, and are working to find ways to reach the remaining 16%. As part of that we manage Community Broadband Scotland which works with communities across Scotland to help them find sustainable ways to get faster broadband. Equally important is our work to provide specialist online and face-to-face support for businesses and communities to help them maximise the benefits of digital connectivity.

Visit the HIE website at http://www.hie.co.uk follow @HIEScotland and @HIEdigital on Twitter or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/highlandsandislandsenterprise.



For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering

T: | 020 7766 0655 
E: |  Jane Sutton

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