Every year, the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award is presented to the engineers behind the UK’s most exciting engineering innovation. 2021's finalists were:
- Creo Medical for its healthcare innovation in developing advanced miniaturised surgical tools that uniquely integrate radio frequency and high frequency microwave energy for highly targeted, minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. The tools dramatically improve patient outcomes for cancer care, while minimising the need for traditional surgical interventions, moving treatment out of the operating room. The innovation promises to transform clinical outcomes for patients, reducing recovery times and avoiding the risks of open surgery. The new technology enables cost savings of up to £10,000 per procedure in NHS Hospitals, a 50% saving on traditional surgery.
- DnaNudge for its pioneering genetic testing technology that enables consumers to shop more healthily – nudged by their DNA plus lifestyle. Following a simple cheek swab, DnaNudge’s NudgeBox analyser maps the user’s genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. Customers can then use their wearable DnaBand and mobile app to scan products while they shop and be guided by their DNA towards healthier choices. The technology has been rapidly adapted into a gold-standard, 90-minute lab-free RT-PCR test for COVID-19 and is now in use in NHS hospitals and care homes. The rapid test has also supported the return of the arts sector following pandemic lockdowns. DnaNudge were announced as the winner of the 2021 MacRobert Award on 6 July 2021.
- PragmatIC Semiconductor for its electronic engineering innovation that takes the silicon out of silicon chips, resulting in ultra-low-cost thin and flexible integrated circuits. These can be inexpensively embedded in everyday objects from food and drink packaging to medical consumables. The inexpensive chips provide a crucial step in achieving the Internet of Things and addressing a range of application sectors including the circular economy and digital healthcare. The technology reduces manufacturing cycle time from months to less than a day, allowing agile “just in time” production of microchips, avoiding the risks and waste of global supply chains. In addition, traditional silicon chip fabrication methods have enormous carbon and water footprints, while the PragmatIC approach reduces this by more than 100-fold.
The Chepstow-based business designs and manufactures highly advanced miniaturised surgical tools that uniquely integrate radio frequency and high frequency microwave energy for highly targeted, minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. The tools dramatically improve patient outcomes for cancer care, while minimising the need for traditional surgical interventions, moving treatment out of the operating room.
The core of the technology is the creation of an advanced energy platform. The platform delivers power to a range of flexible devices that transform traditional diagnostic instruments such as endoscopes. It also powers technologies that physicians can use to not only navigate to tumours for diagnosis, but to then perform highly precise clinical treatment either non or minimally invasively.
There are around 367,000 new cancer cases in the UK, and almost half of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage in England. Creo Medical’s innovations promise significant medical and health benefits. It ensures that cancer patients can be treated earlier, with better outcomes due to the quality and precision of its engineering innovation. It also significantly lowers costs, reducing the cost of care by up to £10,000 per procedure in NHS Hospitals, a 50% saving on traditional surgery.
In 2020, the company successfully CE marked five new devices and its devices are now being used across Europe, UK, the United States and Asia.
The MacRobert Award judges were impressed with the quality of the precision engineering, medical instruments and integration with advanced energy solutions. They also identified the future applications of the product within the robotic surgery market and potential ability to operate on areas of the body that are currently hard to reach. These applications demonstrate the truly transformative potential of the innovation. Judge Professor Sir Saeed Zahedi OBE RDI FREng, said:
“The team at Creo Medical are a prime example of the UK’s ability to lead the MedTech industry. Their cutting edge technology is hugely impressive and an extremely important innovation that truly has the ability to revolutionise cancer treatment and patient experience across the world. Their work benefits the local community in terms of high tech sustainable design, development, manufacturing and assembly of precision engineering that will directly benefit the NHS for many generations to come. It will also help the UK export market, creating revenue and enabling future robotic surgery.”
The Creo Medical finalist team includes:
- Craig Gulliford, CEO
- Steve Morris, former COO
- Chris Hancock, CTO & Founder
- Dr Nuwan Dharmasiri, Principal RF and Microwave Engineer
- Sandra Swain, Principal Engineer.
The team has created the world’s first service to use consumers’ own DNA to nudge people towards healthier choices while shopping. The London start-up is based at the Imperial College London Translation and Innovation Hub in White City,
DnaNudge’s Lab-in-Cartridge innovation allows individuals to provide a simple cheek swab – in-store or posted from home. In just over an hour, DnaNudge’s NudgeBox portable analyser maps the user’s genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. This contrasts with a procedure that, in the past, would have taken days and required a laboratory and experts to analyse the results,
The results of the report can then be used to help people manage their lifestyles. Using the wrist-worn DnaBand or DnaNudge mobile app, users can scan food products in UK supermarkets to find out whether the nutritional contents are a good match for their biology. For example, if your DNA suggests a predisposition to conditions influenced by salt intake, the band will identify if the scanned item is high in salt. The mobile app will also suggest a range of alternative products better suited to your individual genetic profile.
The MacRobert Award judges were impressed by the simplicity and usability of the DnaNudge technology and its potential to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of the nation. Judge Naomi Climer CBE FREng said:
“Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes plus the current COVID-19 pandemic are three huge health issues affecting people in the United Kingdom right now, and DnaNudge can help us to combat them all. What makes this innovation stand out is that it has taken something extremely complex - using our biological make-up to help individuals support their own everyday health - and engineered a product to make it simple enough for anybody to do. Widespread uptake of this technology would give us all much greater power to make the right decisions about our health. And this is only the start. This technology has the potential to be applied to a huge range of other healthcare challenges.”
The DnaNudge winning team includes:
- Regius Professor Christofer Toumazou FREng FRS, CEO
- Dr Maria Karvela, CSO
- Dr Caroline Golden, Clinical Research Manager
- Josef Cicinski, UK Retail Store Manager
- David West, COO.
The Cambridge headquartered, County Durham based flexible microchip pioneer has been shortlisted for the development of flexible integrated circuits. Their world-leading innovation takes the silicon out of silicon chips, resulting in ultra-low-cost thin and flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs). These can be inexpensively embedded in everyday objects from food and drink packaging to medical consumables. The inexpensive chips provide a crucial step in achieving the Internet of Things and addressing a range of application sectors including the circular economy and digital healthcare.
Conventional silicon based microchips require enormous and hugely expensive fabrication plants to produce the miniature electronics that underpin our modern world. Consequently, manufacturing is heavily concentrated and, as has been seen recently, can lead to critical supply chain shortages and geopolitical tension. PragmatIC has developed a much less complex and costly process that allows microcircuits to be produced locally. The process has an extremely rapid cycle time and produces chips on a flexible film, allowing them to be easily embedded in everyday items. Initial use cases focus on item-level digital identification, including product authentication and provenance, improved operational efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, and traceability of healthcare tests and consumables.
The company’s first commercial manufacturing plant is based at Sedgefield, County Durham, now operating at a run rate of over 250 million devices per year. PragmatIC expects to be producing trillions of flexible microchips by the end of the decade. FlexICs can be produced at less than 1/10th the cost of traditional silicon chips, requiring 100 times less energy and with 1,000 times lower impact on the environment.
The MacRobert Award judges recognised the technology as a world-class example of applied engineering. The innovation addresses a pressing commercial and environmental issue and promises a step-change in the integration of low-cost electronics into everyday objects to allow the Internet of Things to flourish. Chair of the judging panel, Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS, said:
“This is a world-class innovation, promising stunning commercial and environmental gains for the UK and the North East of England. These new flexible microchips offer massive cost reductions in applications such as RFID tagging, and these cost reductions are reflected in a much lower carbon footprint, producing around 400 times less carbon dioxide than the alternatives. Scott and his team are worthy finalists for the UK’s most prestigious prize for engineering innovation, and we wish them luck in the final.”
The PragmatIC finalist team includes:
- Scott White, CEO
- Richard Price, CTO
- Ken Williamson, COO
- Catherine Ramsdale, SVP Technology
- Neil Davies, VP Process.