An advanced prosthetic leg which adapts to the wearer’s environment and a super fuel-efficient engine from Jaguar have been nominated as finalists for the 2016 MacRobert Award.
The award was first presented in 1969 and celebrates innovation in engineering.
In addition to Blatchford and Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens has also been nominated for its role in creating an advanced magnetic technology that signals a step-change in MRI technology.
Blatchford boast that their new prosthesis is the most advanced on the market – the invention is the first ever with integrated robotic control of the knee and foot using a new technology known as the Linx Limb system.
The system allows the parts to ‘talk’ to each other so the limb can adapt automatically to different conditions.
Lower leg prosthetic wearers often plan their days meticulously according to limitations of terrain they can tackle, but Blatchford's technology could change this, as Linx constantly monitors and adapts to the wearer's movements and the environment.
Linx uses a network of sensors across both the knee and foot, which act like human nerves, continuously collecting data on the user, activity, environment and terrain.
The central computer then acts like the brain, using this data to adapt the limb’s response using software called Motion integrated intelligence.
It allows the wearer to walk confidently, knowing that the limb will be at the right speed and support level at all times.
Even simply standing still can be a challenge for lower limb prosthetic wearers, who use a lot of energy and concentration to hold the leg steady, which means that severe back pain is common.
The Linx senses when the wearer comes to a standstill and automatically locks so that the wearer can relax, and when they want to move again the sensors immediately leap into action and unlock seamlessly.
In England alone, there are currently around 45,000 people who rely on lower limb prostheses, with around 4,000 lower limb amputations carried out each year.
Jaguar Land Rover’s nomination stems from its new engines which lower fuel consumption and running costs without compromising performance and driver experience.
Despite adding features and increasing power output, Ingenium engines weigh up to 80kg less than equivalent engines.
With the four cylinder engine installed, the Jaguar XE is claimed to be ‘the first ever sub-100g/km CO2 2.0L diesel premium saloon car’.
Siemens has also been nominated for the MacRobert Award after developing a Seven Tesla (7T) magnet, called the Magnetom Terra, which the company believes will enable more people worldwide to access high resolution MRI scanning.
The technology has the potential to provide earlier diagnoses for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.
The Magnetom Terra could also assist in drug development and could be used to help advance treatments for early stage diseases and enable monitoring of the efficacy of existing treatments.
The system is less than half the weight of incumbent technologies and is pre-assembled and cooled at the factory ready for air freighting, unlike conventional ultra-high field MRI scanners, which have to be shipped in parts and assembled and cooled in-situ. This saves several weeks and cuts the helium requirement.
Dame Sue Ion, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “It’s often said that Britain doesn’t make anything anymore, but these three companies are proof that the opposite is true, and testament to the world-leading engineering innovation that happens here in the UK.
“Each of this year’s finalists has taken a different approach to innovation – from sustained incremental improvements to starting from scratch – each resulting in technologies that will have a positive impact on millions of people and bolster the UK economy.
“There is currently a big demand for all aspects of engineering talent, but the pipeline of young people pursuing engineering careers continues to fall short.
“To meet demand it is vital that we encourage more young people to pursue engineering as a career. Role models and high-profile prizes such as the MacRobert Award are hugely important in showing the opportunities the sector offers.”
The three finalists are competing for a gold medal and a £50,000 cash prize. The 2016 winner will be revealed at the Academy Awards Dinner at the Tower of London on 23 June, in front of an audience of top engineers and business leaders from some of the UK’s cutting-edge engineering companies.