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E&T Innovation Awards

Awards that don’t lose their shine

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With only a few days left to enter the 2020 E&T Innovation Awards, we pause to reflect on the inspiration provided by previous winners and why these Awards are so relevant today.

Here at the (virtual) E&T office, we are starting to look at the entries coming in for this year’s E&T Innovation Awards. They are good - excellent in many cases - and, at time of writing, there are still a few more days to go before the deadline (13 July 2020), so more interesting entries are arriving all the time.

If you are interested in taking part in the Awards, there is still time – it’s a great way for you and your teams to get recognition for exceptional work. Take last year’s overall winner as an example. The collaboration between Herriot-Watt University and SP Energy Networks used AI to spot gaps in the electricity distribution infrastructure and has potential in overall management of the supply.

With the potential for so much renewable energy coming into the grid, this really is a project for our times – both innovative and instantly useful. “We were delighted to have our efforts recognised externally as it makes it clear our focus is shared across the industry and acknowledges the work of our team to get us to this point,” says Fiona Fulton, smart systems manager, SP Energy Networks.

Having an overall winner - as the 'E&T Innovation of the Year' - was actually a stage in the evolution of this year's awards. They had been the IET Innovation Awards up until last year, but will be the E&T Innovation Awards from this year onwards.

Before 2019, there was no overall winner, with each category winner taking equal billing. While this makes it harder to pick out the highlights, one company we recently looked at more closely was Navtech Radar. This company won an award for its 'ClearWay Automatic Incident Detection System', enabling technology for smart motorways.

In the days before Covid-19, you may remember that smart motorways were fairly big news. Reports that these motorways were neither smart nor safe were based partly on the fact that the technology that would make them smart, such as Navtech Radar’s Clearway, had only been implemented on two stretches of smart motorway throughout all of England. It makes it all the more galling knowing that such technology (award-winning technology, no less) already exists that could allow a smart road network to fulfil its potential. It’s a subject E&T looked into for our recent feature, ‘Smart motorways: what are they good for?’.

In the same awards year as Navtech Radar's success (2017), the National University of Singapore won the sustainability category for its composite membranes for air dehumidification to improve building energy efficiency. It is a foil-like membrane which sieves out water molecules at very high flux without needing heat regeneration. Clever stuff that resonates today when trying to establish workplaces with clean and healthy air. Even if it does not have direct capabilities for filtering out Covid-19, there is much talk about rebuilding the future in much lower carbon, environmentally friendly ways. This system relieves the moisture condensation part of chillers to realise energy saving of 35 per cent or more. It could very well be the sort of technology that plays a key role as we emerge from the pandemic.

There was a feeling, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, that if we had to take a positive from the global horror around us, it was that the human spirit was a wonderful thing, people starting to appreciate their fellow human beings more so than before. However, there were also the scumbags who took people’s isolation and reliance on technology as an opportunity to bring their cyber-criminal skills to the fore. Fortunately, companies such as Glasswall, winners of the cyber-security category in 2016, are there to protect us. They seem to have eyes in the future to ensure the bad guys are not always one step ahead of the game. Glasswall’s technology eliminates zero-day document-based malware attacks whilst preserving document integrity. This sounds simple enough, but it is essential in the current working environment.

These are just a few examples of previous award winners, demonstrating the value that the engineering community brings to society. Winning an E&T Innovation Award can add the external recognition - and internal appreciation - that such great projects deserve. It's not too late to enter for the 2020 Awards, so get working on your entry today.

E&T Innovation Awards 2020

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