Article - Issue 56, September 2013

Four engineers: four silver medals

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The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Silver Medals were presented to the winners at the Academy’s awards evening in July 2013. Since 1995, the medals have been awarded annually to engineers who have been working as an engineer for no more than 22 years and have made outstanding contributions to UK engineering. This year’s four winners have achieved significant commercial success in their fields and are recognised for advancing the cause of engineering.

‘Elspeth Finch

Elspeth Finch

ELSPETH FINCH

Entrepreneur Elspeth Finch has demonstrated business and technical leadership in over 100 transport planning projects in the UK and internationally.

On graduation as a chemist, Elespeth Finch turned her attention to transport and planning, completing a Masters at the University of Newcastle. Following an early career as a researcher and lecturer at UCL, she co-founded the Intelligent Space Partnership, a transport consultancy focused on incorporating the needs of cyclists and pedestrians into city design and planning. She worked on successful projects including the Boston Downtown Crossing and Regent Street Strategy in London as well as 10 hospital developments and projects for the Home Office, Transport for London and the Department for Transport.

Atkins acquired the practice in 2007 and Elspeth Finch led its integration into its transport planning business. She is now the Futures Director in Atkins’ water and environment business. In this role, she helps develop ideas that generate new revenue and create new markets for services. Finch is now working on a series of reports into aspects of infrastructure resilience, the first of which looks at the challenges for water in the UK to 2050.

She recently led a report on Future Proofing Cities in partnership with the Department of International Development and UCL, which addresses the risks to 129 cities from climate change, resource limitations and ecosystem damage. Published in November 2012, the report’s findings have attracted considerable interest as it assesses cities’ risk profile from climate hazards, resource scarcities and damage to ecosystems and urges action now to future proof against these risks.

‘Dr Andrew Fitzgibbon

Dr Andrew Fitzgibbon

DR ANDREW FITZGIBBON

Andrew Fitzgibbon is a researcher who has been published widely in the field of computer vision and put his research into practice to bring about disruptive changes in the creative industries.

On graduation, he pursued doctoral studies at the University of Edinburgh. In 1996, he commenced his research career as a research assistant at Oxford University. His research combined mathematical insight and practical engineering, leading to papers on computer vision, machine learning, computer graphics and neuroscience, as well as commercial products that have made a real impact on the film and video games industries.

Andrew Fitzgibbon was the primary engineering influence in converting academic research at Oxford to a commercial product that became the Boujou system, released in 2000. Boujou automatically computes 3D camera motion from image sequences without the need for external references such as GPS or pre-positioned markers and has transformed film post production, winning a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award. It is one of the leading products in its field and is now used on almost every major film with special effects.

Having joined Microsoft Research in 2005, Fitzgibbon contributed his expertise to the development of machine learning for human motion capture, a core technology driving Kinect for Xbox. He was instigator of the pipeline for generating data for the machine learning algorithm on a scale not seen before, which contributed to the team winning the Academy’s MacRobert Award in 2011. Now Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, he has delivered technology to two products that have been commercially successful and made disruptive changes in the creative industries.

‘Tim Morgan

Tim Morgan

TIM MORGAN

Entrepreneur Tim Morgan’s patented systems for an all-terrain wheelchair enable wheelchair users to enjoy the countryside independently.

For the final project of his Masters in Innovation and Engineering Design from the University of Bath, completed in 2007, he identified the need for an all-terrain wheelchair that would allow users to reach previously inaccessible places and to negotiate difficult terrain ranging from cobbled streets to sandy beaches and muddy forests. Much of this robustness is down to the three independent shock absorbers, one for each of the drive wheels and one on the small wheel at the back.

Tim Morgan secured financial backing and developed the project in his spare time while working as a design engineer at Bentley Motors; he founded Mountain Trike Co in 2008.

Morgan led the design, engineering and product development, manufacturing and commercialisation of the Mountain Trike All-Terrain Manual Wheelchair, which is built in Nantwich, Cheshire.

It has a patented innovative lever drive as well as inventive steering, braking and chassis systems and has won a number of accolades, including ‘best new product’ awards at mobility shows. Selling directly to customers, the wheelchair quickly attracted a following with the first deliveries despatched in August 2011. The company is making a profit on a monthly basis, with international sales accounting for nearly 50% of its overall turnover.

‘Dr Eben Upton

Dr Eben Upton

DR EBEN UPTON

With a distinguished career in industry and academia,
Dr Eben Upton conceived and co-designed the low-cost, credit card-sized computer, Raspberry Pi (see Innovation watch, Ingenia 51), to engage more children with computer science.

Upton has worked as a software engineer at IBM and a visiting researcher at Intel as well as founding two companies, Ideaworks3D and Podfun. He held the post of Director of Studies in Computer Science at St John’s College, Cambridge, for three years from 2004. He currently works as a system-on-chip architect at Broadcom, a large semiconductor company where he has led the development of next-generation high-end chips.

However, it is his work in establishing the Raspberry Pi Foundation for which he is primarily awarded a Silver Medal. Concerned by a dearth of upcoming computer scientists and inspired by Acorn’s 1981 BBC Micro, Eben co-founded the Raspberry Pi Foundation to stimulate the teaching of basic computer science in schools. Having created a prototype using a Broadcom chip, he went on to co-design and develop the open architecture, low-cost single board computer, which runs the Linux operating system.

The Raspberry Pi launched in February 2012 with an accessible retail price of approximately £28. Both online stores selling the Raspberry Pi sold out within a few minutes of launch, together taking over 100,000 pre-orders on day one. Raspberry Pi has enjoyed immediate commercial success, selling 1.5 million units to date and seeing widespread use in education, hobbyist and developing world markets. It has won numerous awards and accolades, including T3 magazine’s Innovation of the Year award.

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