Cutting-edge technologies with the potential to change the world are just as likely to stem from UK-based SMEs as from the engineering giants, according to leading technology innovators.
The comments were made last night by the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel, which includes some of the UK’s most experienced engineers, at an event to open entries for the 2017 award.
Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng, Chair of Judges for the MacRobert Award and one of the UK’s foremost engineers, said, “The innovation landscape is changing dramatically. While the UK has long been famed for its engineering heavyweights, there are now just as many opportunities for small businesses to develop and exploit game-changing technologies capable of having global impact.
“We’ve seen this evolution over the last few years of judging the MacRobert Award, which has the most comprehensive selection process of any award in the technology sector. In the last 10 years the Award has been won by SMEs five times. It’s great to see the spirit of innovation embodied in thriving engineering businesses of all sizes, and for small organisations to be gaining in confidence.”
The trend could be set to continue, according to the findings of a new study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which suggests that the contribution of SMEs to the UK economy will grow by 11 per cent by 2020.
The MacRobert Award recognises outstanding engineering innovation combined with proven commercial success and tangible social benefit. Winners receive a £50,000 cash prize, gold medal and national acclaim. The judging panel includes some of the most renowned names in UK innovation, and is this year joined by Professor Ric Parker CBE FREng, previously Director of Research & Technology at Rolls-Royce. He was responsible for the technological direction of
Professor Parker commented: “The MacRobert Award is the most prestigious award for UK engineering innovation and it is an honour to serve as a judge. I am always inspired by the excellence and diversity of those nominated.
“Even the UK’s largest engineering firms rely on the agility and innovation of SMEs throughout their supply chains. To see this talent recognised is extremely important, and I hope to see applications for the 2017 MacRobert Award coming from innovators of all sizes and across all sectors of engineering.
Entries are now open for the 2017 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award and will close on 31 January 2017.
Previous MacRobert Award-winning innovations have come from areas as diverse as medical technology, smart transport, energy and consumer software. The award has successfully predicted ‘the next big thing’ in engineering for the last four decades, from the catalytic convertor to the CT scanner, whose inventor Sir Godfrey Hounsfield received the MacRobert Award seven years before receiving the Nobel Prize in 1979. More recently, SME Artemis Intelligent Power - the 2015 winner - won for its Digital Displacement® power system, which is transforming the viability of offshore wind power through novel hydraulics.
The 2016 winner, Blatchford, was recognised for developing its Linx prosthetic leg, the world’s most intelligent prosthetic limb, which judges hailed as the first of a new generation of prosthetics.
Professor Saeed Zahedi OBE FREng, Technical Director at Blatchford, said: “Our company was also shortlisted for the MacRobert Award in 2010 for Echelon, the first commercial biomimetic hydraulic ankle. This expertise is a key part of the development of the fully integrated Linx lower limb prosthetic for which we won the award this year. Competing against very talented engineering giants such as Siemens and Jaguar-Land Rover is an acknowledgement of our team’s capability, and has given us the courage to take even greater steps with our innovations.”