E&T Innovation Awards sign

Cutting-edge advances celebrated at 2021 E&T Innovation Awards

Image credit: Christian Trampenau

The IET has announced the winners of the 2021 E&T Innovation Awards, which celebrates ground-breaking innovations in engineering and technology.

Now in its seventeenth year, the E&T Innovation Awards give recognition to people, projects and organisations that are revolutionising our world through excellence in engineering and technology. This year’s awards, hosted by television presenter Fran Scott at the IET's Savoy Place building in London, included a range of new categories, such as ‘Future Mobility’ and ‘Trust and Truth’, to reflect the societal challenges that rely on engineers and technologists for their solution.

Dr Esther Ngumbi, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, won the top prize (E&T Difference Maker of the Year) for her inspiring work as a researcher, author, public servant, entrepreneur, and educator. Born in a rural farming community along the Kenyan Coast, Ngumbi studied hard at school with the drive to rescue her family and community from poverty and to be a role model for many young African girls.

In 2012, Ngumbi and her parents founded the Dr Ndumi Faulu Academy, a school for children in Kenya. And in 2014, she created Oyeska Greens, a start-up that teaches smallholder farmers in and around her community how to use updated technologies and methods in agriculture.

Dr Esther Ngumbi on screen to accept award for E&T Difference Maker of the Year

Despite the notion that education for girls was unimportant where she lived, Esther gained her doctorate degree in Entomology from Auburn University in Alabama – becoming the first woman in her community to obtain a PhD degree.

Image credit: Christian Trampenau

“I am extremely humbled and honoured to receive this award!” Ngumbi said. “First, winning this award made me realise that the world is watching. Second, it inspired me to keep going – to keep doing the work I so passionately love – paving the way for many more women and girls through education so that they can break the poverty barrier and other barriers and achieve every dream they have.”

“I am inspired to keep sharing agricultural knowledge with farmers in my community and many communities around the world. Indeed, winning this award has allowed me to reflect on how far we have come and recognise the journey that is still ahead of me. Until many more women and girls achieve greatness, I will keep on. I will never tire.”

Among the innovations that won prizes at this year’s awards includes the first functional dengue fever early warning system and a laser-based sensor that can help to diagnose heart and lung disease.

Other awards celebrated outstanding excellence in various fields of engineering, innovative start-ups, efforts supporting diversity and inclusion in engineering, and technology for good.

The winners of the 2021 E&T Innovation Awards are:

Difference Maker of the Year: Esther Ngumbi
Digital Health and Social Care: HR Wallingford for the D-MOSS Dengue Fever Early Warning System: Using Satellite Earth Observations & Machine Learning to Forecast Dengue Fever
Future Power and Energy: Tsinghua University for Large capacity DC breaking technology
Communications and IT: University of Aeronautics and Astronautics for AerialRadioOverseer: an AI-enabled unmanned aerial vehicle radio monitoring system
Manufacturing 4.0: Cambridge Precision Limited for Cobotic Hub
Sustainability and Climate Change: Innovyze and Fairfield Control Systems for Building a Sustainable Future – Glasgow’s Smart Canal
Protecting Society and Saving Lives: Stantec, Thames Water, the London Fire Brigade for the London Fire Flow, a system for water suppliers and fire services to calculate the firefighting capacity of a water supply system and buildings’ fire flow requirements
Cyber Security: Crypto Quantique for harnessing quantum tunnelling delivers ultimate security for IoT devices
R&D: Element Six Global Innovation Centre for DNV-B1, the world’s first widely available quantum diamond grade optimised for a wide range of quantum applications
Tech for Good: HR Wallingford for the D-MOSS Dengue Fever Early Warning System: Using Satellite Earth Observations & Machine Learning to Forecast Dengue Fever
Smarter World: Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics for AerialRadioOverseer – an AI-enabled unmanned aerial vehicle radio monitoring system
Future Mobility: Furrer+Frey GB Limited for rapid battery chargers to power-up a very light rail revolution & create sustainable transport option for smaller towns
Intelligent Systems: Roke for STARTLE for Maritime, designed to assist the Royal Navy in understanding the evolving Situational Awareness picture around a ship
Future Unicorn: Donisi Health for contact-free bio-sensing and diagnosis
Diversity, Equality & Inclusion: SpaceML for SpaceML Worldview Search: Distributed Open-source Research with Citizen Scientists for the Advancement of Space Technology for Nasa
Trust & Truth: Seldon for Seldon Albi – an open-source Python library designed to offer clear unbiased insights into the workings of machine learning models, ensuring decisions are accurate and ethical
Young Pioneer: Shafae Ali, Alfie Mcmeeking, Andy Ferdinand, Premal Gadhia and Judith Weill from Imperial College London for their project to make the footwear industry sustainable through AR digital skins and 3D-printed biodegradable self-healing technology

IET President, Sir Julian Young, said: “These annual awards celebrate the achievements of the most outstanding innovators across engineering and technology. Our finalists come from a diverse range of companies and academic institutions from across the world, with their innovations tackling major economic and societal challenges.”

“With the IET’s mission to inspire excellence in engineering and technology, we are so proud to demonstrate our support, putting ground-breaking innovations in the spotlight and helping to advance this essential work. On behalf of all our members, I send huge congratulations to all our winners.”

TV Presenter Fran Scott during E&T Innovation Awards

Fran Scott presenting during the awards ceremony on Friday 26 November 2021.

Image credit: Christian Trampenau

Chris Hayhurst, European consulting manager at MathWorks, the headline sponsor for E&T Innovation Awards, said: “The IET has a long history of encouraging and rewarding innovation. This year the Innovation Awards have evolved with new categories including Future Mobility and Trust and Truth to recognise the innovations that matter now.”

“We were excited to see strong shortlists for all the categories,” he added. “The inspiring award winners again illustrate how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can make a big impact on our lives and address some of society’s greatest challenges.”

The E&T Innovation Awards are sponsored by MathWorks, Arrow Electronics, Emerson, GCHQ, and National Grid.

You can find out more about the E&T Innovation Awards here.

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