The Collaborate to Innovate Awards took place across the week of 1-5 February; showcasing the fifth annual search for the UK’s most inspiring examples of innovative engineering collaboration. As ever, the event attracted the best talent that the industry has to offer – despite the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic over the course of the preceding eleven months.
Delivered in association with Frazer-Nash, the awards are an annual reminder of the rich diversity and expertise of UK engineering excellence, which spans a multitude of sectors.
Given the ongoing restrictions in place in the UK, the entirety of the C2I2020 Awards took place online this year. Not to be deterred, however, many of the nominees utilised the time spent in lockdown to their advantage – designing new technological concepts with considered solutions for the latest difficulties faced by our health services – and proving that the appetite for innovation is very much alive and well.
Frazer-Nash’s Neil McDougall, who was a judge on the panel for the C2I Awards, commented:
“We are facing the consequences of a global pandemic, but collaboration is key to facing challenges – and how to respond to them. What I took away from the judging panel experience was a feeling of real optimism for the future. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has bought many sectors of the economy grinding to a halt, this year’s shortlist was arguably one of the strongest in the competition so far”.
Evidence of such innovation was recognised by judges of the Young Innovator award, which showcases some of the exciting achievements of the next generation of engineers. Taking the prize for his design for PPE Cooling Fans was Toby Weymouth, of Kings School, Worcester. Toby’s design incorporated a visor-mounted cooling fan to help make PPE more comfortable for frontline workers. He approached companies for help to develop a product that could be manufactured using a 3D printed enclosure, a small, simple fan, and a USB battery pack.
As headline sponsors, Frazer-Nash had the pleasure of introducing a further new category to the Collaborate to Innovate competition this year: The Future Thinking Award.
In interview with Jon Excell of the Engineer magazine, Neil explained:
“The idea for this category started off with some internal conversations at Frazer-Nash about us, looking at ourselves and what we’re doing professionally, the sort of projects we’re working on. We came up with the phrase ‘we want to work on things that matter’ and that’s enshrined in one of our core values as a company – that’s caused us as a business to look at things moving forwards. We were looking for global collaboration [with this award], and top-notch work being done.
“This year’s future thinking award goes to a shortlisted project that the judging panel felt perfectly illustrates the importance and value of international collaboration, when addressing global issues.”
Taking the prize for the Future Thinking award was Sunrise – a collaboration led by Swansea University in partnership with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Imperial College London, Brunel University London, and others – to address global energy poverty through advanced solar energy technologies. The project, which utilises low-cost solar technology to help deliver power to our planet’s poorest and most remote communities, currently has 15 academic partners from the UK and the global south. Through the formation of a trans-disciplinary collaboration, Sunrise has come a step closer to achieving its goal of affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all. You can read more about the winning project here.
Recognition of the influence that the pandemic has had on the C2I Awards was also demonstrated in the introduction of another new award this year, acknowledging the role that engineers have played in addressing some of the challenges presented by the pandemic: ‘Healthcare & Medical – COVID-19 Response’.
The important part that engineers play in society is reflected in UK manufacturing’s response to the crisis, and proved a compelling reminder of the agility of the industry, which has rapidly re-tooled to produce everything from PPE to ventilators. With this in mind, the judging panel felt it would be unfair to choose a single overall winner, and instead picked four joint winners, each with a slightly different approach to the UK government’s call for ventilators. These winners were:
- JFD with Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Angus 3D Solutions, MDU, Narayana Health, and Innovhealth, with The InVicto Ventilator
- Jenton International Limited – for their Emergency Ventilator
- Babcock et al’s Zephyr Plus Ventilator
- Oxvent Ltd with University of Oxford, King’s College London and Smith+Nephew with their OxVent