A leading developer of clean energy technologies, enabling the world’s most progressive companies to decarbonize at scale and speed, AI-based risk management and forecasting tools that can save billions of pounds by preventing project delays and graphene sensors many times more sensitive than existing silicon technologies competing for has been named the UK’s leading engineering innovation.
These three outstanding innovations have been selected as finalists for the Royal Academy of Engineering 2023 MacRobert Award, the UK’s longest-running and most prestigious award of its kind which celebrates the engineering heroes behind world-changing technological innovations that demonstrate commercial success and tangible social benefit. The finalists were selected through a rigorous and highly competitive judging process, chaired by engineering pioneer Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS.
The three companies are competing for the gold medal and £50,000 prize pool, with this year’s winners to be announced at the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner in London on July 13 at The Londoner Hotel, Leicester Square. The awards dinner celebrated the UK’s unrivaled engineering heritage and the ongoing achievements of its world-class engineers.
This year’s finalists are:
Ceres Power – Clean Energy Technology Enabling the Future of Net Zero
Ceres was selected for pioneering clean energy technologies, including fuel cells for electricity generation and electrolyzers for green hydrogen. Solid oxide cells are based on common, low-cost materials which, combined with innovative deposition techniques and very different stack technologies, provide the kind of performance improvements that will be critical if the world is to decarbonize at the scale and speed needed to tackle climate change.
Ceres has proprietary technology that is completely reversible. Running in one direction can use a lot of fuel to produce power very efficiently when and where it is needed. Run in reverse, it produces green hydrogen with high efficiency and low cost. An innovation hailed by the MacRobert Award judges as a major breakthrough in the clean energy revolution.
Fuel cells are not a new technology, but the array of exotic materials, high operating temperatures, or hydrogen fuel requirements have made them a go-to space mission survivor. Ceres has pioneered the use of commonly found ingredients; cheerful ceramic membrane doped with gadolinium as electrolyte printed on thin perforated ferritic steel sheets operating at temperatures between 500-600 C. These are the ‘Goldilocks’ temperatures for performance, fuel flexibility, cost and durability.
The result is Ceres’ patented cell technology, with one cell sufficient to light a room, while the 250 megawatt capacity that will enter service with partners in 2024 can power half a million homes. Its licensing model has seen Ceres forge partnerships with some of the world’s most progressive companies, such as Bosch, Doosan, Shell and Weichai, to deliver systems and products at the scale and speed needed to decarbonize power generation, transportation, industry and everyday life. . .
nPlan – AI Helps Save Billions Lost to Delays in Construction Projects
nPlan’s machine learning technology accurately estimates how long each element of a construction project will take and represents the most dramatic step forward in decades for estimating and mitigating the risks of large-scale construction and infrastructure projects.
Only one out of every seven construction projects is completed on time. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the average project delay was around 80 days and by the end of 2021 it had reached more than 214 days—an increase of 167%. When projects get delayed, costs balloon, undermining the business case for whatever is being built and putting contractors at risk of bankruptcy; side effects include protracted legal disputes, reduced project volume and lower economic growth. nPlan’s AI identifies hidden risks driving delays to help project owners and construction companies complete large projects on time and on budget.
The nPlan system absorbs a large number of previous project schedules – over 600,000 and counting – and uses an AI technique known as deep learning to analyze the data which is then used to generate individual time-based probability distributions for each component of a construction project; this distribution is also aggregated to estimate accurately the likelihood that any construction, engineering, energy, or infrastructure project will be completed within a given timeframe.
The individuals managing these projects can now make informed decisions from hundreds of thousands of previous programs. nPlan’s pioneering innovation has proven to save as much as 3% of project costs by providing an accurate and manageable risk assessment of delays to replace more traditional project forecasting methods which suffer from subjective bias and limited individual experience feeding into or narrowing down reference class data.
Paragraph – Bringing Commercial Scale Graphene Electronics to the World
In a major breakthrough that will no doubt have cross-cutting implications, Paragraph has resulted in the first commercial use of graphene as an electronics material, not as a structural additive in composites.
Graphene has long been heralded as the future of electronics since the award of the Nobel prize in 2010. However, it took years to develop materials and processes for practical use. Paragraph has made an enormous contribution to unlocking the material’s true potential by developing practical methods for growing single-layer graphene onto substrates useful for achieving semiconductor-level purity and defects.
This graphene already exists in a variety of vital applications through Paragraph graphene hall sensors, which are 30 times more sensitive and 1,000 times more energy efficient than existing silicon technology. This includes monitoring temperatures in high-speed aero engines, ultra-low-temperature cooling equipment in highly radioactive environments, and inside electric vehicles as part of a safety system that monitors battery performance to reduce the likelihood of critical faults.
That’s why innovation plays a key role in the drive towards net zero, with the world’s first pure graphene set to improve everything from industrial systems to the everyday technology we carry in our pockets, ensuring longer battery life and reducing footprint. our carbon.
The judges chose Paragraph as an example of a well-supported British endeavor to industrialize semiconductor devices. This is made possible by the deep integration of multi-disciplinary engineering, from cutting-edge materials science to electronics engineering, combined with a deep understanding of multiple semiconductor methods that have resulted in this truly transformative innovation. The sector is rapidly expanding globally and there is scope for rapid growth and related jobs in the UK and beyond.
Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award panel, said: “Engineering innovation is the driving force behind economic growth and a sustainable future and has a key role to play in combating the greatest challenges of our time. This is demonstrated by the breadth and depth of this year’s finalists, with three further innovations highlighting that today’s British engineering continues a proud tradition of world-leading innovation.
“This year AI has continued to advance, with the nPlan machine learning platform helping to reduce risk of some of the biggest construction and infrastructure projects around the world, all conceived and developed right here in the UK. Sustainability is also a clear theme, with Ceres’ game-changing fuel cells helping to decarbonize the world we live in and Paragraph’s pioneering use of graphene representing a significant breakthrough in electric vehicle safety.
“The global impact of this innovation on individual sectors and society at large reinforces British engineering’s leading role on the world stage. It shows how far reaching British engineering is now, something that will only continue given the world-beating talent lies right here in England.
Dr Caroline Hargrove CBE FREng, Chief Technology Officer at Ceres, comments: “We are very pleased to receive this recognition from the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is testament to the hard work and dedication of our team as evangelists for the power of engineering and science to change our world.
“As a licensing company, innovation happens everywhere on Ceres – it’s in our DNA from the way we do things to the technology we provide. Partners are counting on us to undertake deep technological innovation, to continuously improve the performance of our core cells, so that it becomes even more economical to use these clean technologies to decarbonize our energy systems and enable a net zero future.”
Dev Amratia, co-founder and CEO of nPlan, said: “It seems only yesterday that my co-founder Alan Mosca and I were told businesses would pay millions for technology like this, but it was impossible to build. Now we’re celebrating being selected for the MacRobert Award for engineering innovation—it’s been a hell of a ride!
“Our AI continues to learn from construction and infrastructure plans every day so the insights we can provide to project teams around the world are even more valuable. This is a very exciting time for business commercially, but it’s really the social value that we can create by solving this problem that gets us out of bed in the morning and drives us to continue to innovate.
Simon Thomas FREng, CEO of Paragraph, said: “Many have said that commercializing graphene for the electronics industry was an unreal dream, but after years of hard work and outstanding engineering achievements across the team, we are now seeing our Graphene Hall sensors used in a wide variety of applications, each with a unique function. which is very important to the industry and society as a whole.
“This acknowledgment shows why so many of the industry’s leading businesses are now coming to us with the electronics problems they face and asking how graphene can solve them, from leading battery manufacturers and auto giants, to quantum computing specialists. Ten years ago, that would have seemed impossible and it depended on the strength of the engineering skills here in Paragraph.
Previous MacRobert Award winners have changed the world we live in. The first honors in 1969 were jointly won by Rolls-Royce for the Pegasus engine used in the iconic Harrier jet, and Freeman, Fox and Partners for designing the Severn Bridge. Past winners are also responsible for transforming healthcare, while people on seven continents still rely on the innovation of winners like Jaguar Land Rover and Inmarsat.