Highlighting the importance of innovation

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Several events this week are aiming to throw a spotlight on the importance of innovation, both for the economy and for improving people’s lives

The Institution of Engineering and Technology has been in touch to let us know they have kicked off their Innovation Awards programme.

Designed to uncover exciting engineering, science and technology innovations, the Awards are open to organisations or individuals whose breakthroughs have advanced their respective field.

All shortlisted and winning entries in the international competition will be promoted to the IET’s 160,000 members, thereby bringing them to a wider audience.

Previous winners have included an insertable cardiac monitor, a fridge that stays cold without power, and a landmine detection radar algorithm.

Entries are sought in the following categories: asset management, built environment, communications, emerging technology design, healthcare technologies, information technology, intelligent systems, manufacturing technology, measurement in action, model-based engineering, navigation and surveillance communications, power/energy, start-up, sustainability, transport.

Each category will be judged by a panel of experts in that field and the shortlist will be announced in late September. The deadline for entries is Friday 3 July 2015 and the winners will be revealed on Wednesday 18 November 2015 at a ceremony at the Brewery in London. To find out more about the Innovation Awards visit www.theiet.org/innovation.

In publicity material William Webb, IET President, said: “Innovation is essential for the growth of the global economy and raising the standard of living of all communities.”

These sentiments are echoed today by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), which today published Why champion Science and Engineering?’ a briefing shared with parliamentarians, peers and government that summarises the evidence for the value of public investment in science and engineering. According to CaSE, the evidence shows it supports a strong economy, creates high-value jobs, and helps us all live healthier and happier lives.

The two-page briefing – available at the bottom of this page – includes a number of stats, including the following: R&D has improved aircraft fuel efficiency by 30% since 1990, saving over 400 million tonnes of CO2 per year, and is expected to improve efficiency by a further 38% between 2010 and 2050.

In a convenient segue way – and shameless plug for the Student Engineer – three students from City University will be taking their aviation-related, energy saving idea to the final of Airbus’ Fly Your Ideas competition in Germany next week.

Organised in partnership with UNESCO, Fly Your Ideas attracted entries from 518 global teams, five now vying for the €30,000 first prize on May 27, 2015 in Hamburg.

Team Bolleboos, the all female team based at City University, are hoping to take the top prize with their idea to wirelessly power aircraft during taxiing. The Student Engineer will be telling their story – and voicing the thoughts of Prof. Ian Lane (FRAeS), senior expert structural analysis and Fly Your Ideas assessor, Airbusthis Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Still with competitions and news that NASA is looking for ideas that will lead to 3D printed dwellings being built on other planets.

NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute – America Makes – are holding the new $2.25m competition to design and build 3D printed habitat for deep space exploration.

Part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge has been set up to ‘advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond’.

As NASA state, shelter is essential but packing enough materials and equipment to build a habitat on another planet would take up cargo space, therefore the ability to manufacture a habitat using indigenous materials, combined with material that would otherwise be waste from the spacecraft, would be invaluable.

The first phase of the competition runs through Sept. 27. This design phase asks entrants to develop advanced architectural concepts that utilise 3D printing. The top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize of $50,000 will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

NASA add that the second phase of the competition is divided in two; the Structural Member Competition (Level 1) focuses on the fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. The On-Site Habitat Competition (Level 2) challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables. Both levels open for registration on September 26, and each carries a $1.1m prize.

One of the competition rules states: ‘no team member shall be a citizen of a country on the NASA Export Control Program list of designated countries’ and it looks like the UK is excluded from this list, so good luck to any Brits that enter.

For more information about the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, visit: http://AmericaMakes.us/Challenge

Finally, today marks the start of Export Week with events across the UK promoting exporting to businesses.

To coincide with UK Trade & Investment’s 6th Export Week, a quarterly report from the British Chambers of Commerce and DHL shows that British manufacturing firms increased export orders and sales in the first quarter of 2015.

Among the firms surveyed, 46% of manufacturers reported increase in export orders in Q1 2015, compared to 36% in Q4 2014.

In addition, 44% of manufacturers increased their workforce in the first three months of 2015, with 84% of new jobs being full-time positions, up from 61% in Q4.

This growth has been achieved despite over half (55%) of manufacturing firms saying that exchange rates had an impact on their ability to export, compared to 48% in the previous quarter and 35% in the same quarter last year.

Key findings from the report:

  • Almost half of manufacturing firms surveyed (46%) recorded increased export orders in Q1 2015, compared to 36% in Q4 2014
  • In addition, 43% of manufacturing firms reported an increase in export sales, up from 38% in Q4 2014
  • Meanwhile, the proportion of service firms that recorded increased export sales remained steady at 33%
  • 44% of manufacturing exporters added new staff to their labour force in Q1, and the majority of these new roles were full-time (84%)
  • More than a third of manufacturing firms (38%) said their cash flow had improved, up from 29% in Q4 2014
  • More than half of manufacturing firms surveyed reported that the exchange rate is having an impact on their ability to trade globally (55%, compared to 48% in Q4 2014 and 34% in Q1 2014)
  • Local Chambers of Commerce provide exporters with the documentation required to move their goods into international markets. The volume of trade documentation index issued by the Accredited Chamber Network increased to 121.43 in Q1, compared to 117.43 in Q4 2014
  • The highest increase in exporting activity was recorded in East Midlands, West Midlands and the South West