A small software company from Cambridge has won the UK’s longest running prize for engineering innovation.
HRH The Princess Royal presented RealVNC with the MacRobert Award gold medal and £50,000 cash prize from the Royal Academy of Engineering at a ceremony at Battersea Power Station last night in recognition of its innovation, commercial success and contribution to society.
The firm was set up by some of the inventors of remote computer access software and their technology gives computer, smartphone, and other device users the power to ‘take over’ another device remotely from anywhere in the world.
RealVNC has gone on to work with global technology giants such as Google, Apple, Intel, Sony and Jaguar Land Rover and its technology is now used on over a billion devices worldwide, and VNC protocols have even become an official part of the Internet.
John Robinson, chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “RealVNC was selected for the MacRobert award because of the engineering excellence and tenacious entrepreneurship required for them to have opened the door to countless new markets for new product and services.
“For a relatively small UK company with no external investors to have grown to work with the world’s biggest technology companies is truly inspiring.
“The MacRobert Award is designed to recognise thriving UK engineering companies in many different sectors, from ground-breaking start-ups to established world-leaders.
“We have an incredible research base that leads to successful pioneering companies and RealVNC is an excellent example of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The judges were impressed by the firm’s technology that, unlike competitors, uses clever algorithms to send data only about the parts of a screen that are changing, rather than all of it, which minimises the amount of data sent and ensures that sharp images are sent quickly.
This streamlined approach means the technology can be embedded in all kinds of third-party products and licensed out for new services. Its technical engineering is so advanced that it is suitable for any imaginable device with a screen – even those that haven’t yet been invented.
It is now being recognised as a way of harnessing the power of smartphones and computers in an array of other products, including TV set-top boxes and even household objects such as fans and lamps.
RealVNC is working with Google to provide remote access capabilities for its Chrome products, and a partnership with Jaguar Land Rover is also bringing all the benefits of our smartphones into car infotainment systems. This will be inside new Jaguars and Land Rovers rolling off the production line this year.
RealVNC is also being built directly into millions of Intel chips so laptop users don't even have to download the software, and computers can be controlled remotely even if they are faulty and unresponsive or hibernating. Most distributions of Linux contain VNC technology, while Apple incorporates the software in its Remote Desktop Tool.
Ian Shott, who is on the judging panel and also chairs the academy’s Enterprise Hub, said: “The sophistication of engineering behind RealVNC’s technology has given them a game-changing proposition.
“The company is now on the cusp of fully exploiting this, and I fully believe they could be a billion dollar business with the next five years. RealVNC is an asset to the UK’s exceptional crop of innovative businesses, and the company’s ability to take this innovation and compete on a global scale really sets it apart.”
RealVNC pipped Concrete Canvas and Oxford Instruments to the post, the other two finalists announced last month.