Engineers who designed Covid-19 technologies receive awards

Engineers who have designed Covid-19 applicable technologies including a high-performance ventilator, a personal respirator for healthcare workers and an environmentally friendly face shield have received awards from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The Academy recently launched a special set of awards for those who have created inventions designed to help with the pandemic.

19 individuals and teams of engineers received the awards, including those based at universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, London, Plymouth, Southampton and Leeds.

Winners included Dr Tashiv Ramsander from the University of Cambridge, who developed a high-performance ventilator for manufacture in low and middle-income countries that became the first intensive-care-quality ventilator to be manufactured in Africa.

Dr Antony Robotham at the University of Plymouth received a prize for designing an environmentally friendly face shield, manufactured from recycled materials that are compostable or recyclable at the end of life.

Manufacturer Tharsus was commended for Bump, a social-distancing system that provides real-time alerts when wearers get too close. Led by CEO Brian Palmer and CTO Dave Swan, the technology’s smart data insights inform rapid decision making, allowing employers to maximise workplace capacity and providing data on team contact in the event of an outbreak.

Professor Harris Makatsoris from King’s College London developed a ‘factory-in-a-box’ that allows the rapid manufacture of synthetic RNA vaccines against the virus and minimises the space required for high-volume vaccine production.

Academy President Sir Jim McDonald said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest public health crisis of our time and has presented society with multiple challenges. Engineering expertise and innovation has been central to the global fight to save lives and protect livelihoods.

“I am also incredibly proud of engineers everywhere who have worked round the clock to maintain essential services, critical supply chains and infrastructure in unprecedented circumstances, using their training and skills to find innovative solutions to a host of problems and to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on our daily lives.”

Professor Raffaella Ocone OBE FREng FRSE, Chair of the Academy’s Awards Committee, said: “Engineering skills – including innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration – have proved to be of vital importance during the current pandemic. We were delighted that the breadth of nominations for these awards reflected so much of the extraordinary work engineers have been doing.

“While I am delighted that we are able to recognise some of these outstanding achievements with these awards I am mindful that the important work of the vast majority of engineers will remain largely outside the public’s consciousness. They are all deserving of our thanks and admiration for their continuing positive contribution to society.”

Last year, the Belfast team behind the development of an innovative resin wing which minimises the environmental impact of commercial jets was awarded the RAEng MacRobert Award.