What do the following have in common? An assistance system for disabled racing drivers, a high-tech microscope, technology to solve complex engineering problems using advanced mathematics and a method of growing carbon nanotubes.
The answer is all of them were winners of an Engineer Technology & Innovation Award.
They were among the first winners of an awards programme that set out to highlight and recognise the world-class results of the links between the UK's universities and its most innovative technology-led companies.
We are happy to say that after their successful debut last year The Engineer Technology & Innovation Awards are back and we are now inviting entries for the 2008 programme.
The heartening thing about last year's inaugural awards for anyone who cares about the state of technical innovation in the UK — and that should be all of us — was the sheer quality of the projects that were entered, and the ability and enthusiasm of the people working on them.
Collaboration is a much abused word. Purveyors of business jargon sometimes use it to mean no more than two colleagues chatting to each other over a videolink.
In its truest sense, however, collaboration is the catalyst for world-changing innovation, as has been proved many times throughout history. (CERN, the giant research facility that is the subject ofthis feature
, is an example of collaboration on a truly epic scale.)
And of all the many species of collaborative activity, that between universities and their industrial partners is among the most valuable.
Universities can frequently provide untapped resources of technical expertise, leading-edge research and innovative thinking that are simply not available to many companies.
Working with a university can provide the missing link in a chain of innovation that makes the difference between a product reaching the market and not.
For example, one of 2007's winners, KableFree Systems, used radio communications expertise at Northumbria University to help develop the wireless emergency lighting system that secured it the Technology & Innovation Award.
On the flip side, the collaboration equation is massively beneficial to universities. When they work with industrial partners, academic departments suddenly find that the research they are doing is focused on a real-world outcome. Academic staff and their students gain commercial experience, and the universities themselves can gain valuable new revenue.
So the hunt is on for the 2008 crop of innovative collaborations. For this year's awards there are categories for collaborations in key sectors of engineering and technology, and awards for the best examples of ongoing relationships between universities and industry.
We will be delighted to welcome the entrants short-listed for the finals to our Awards Ceremony at the Royal Society in London in October.
Could you be among them? Visitwww.theengineerawards.co.uk
for full details and entry forms, and good luck.
Andrew Lee, editor