Spotlight on sport and innovation

Editor
The Engineer

With the Olympic games almost upon us, Euro 2012 approaching its climax, and Wimbledon opening its gates today, there’s plenty for sports fans to get their teeth into this summer. 

And from the development of the Olympic park, to the perennial debate on goal-line technology, or the established use of vision systems and sensors in the world of top-flight tennis all three events provide a reminder of the often critical, and frequently controversial, relationship between sports and engineering.

This intriguing area is the subject of a fascinating sounding three day conference starting today at London’s Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

Materials for Sport: Performance, Infrastructure and Sustainability, will look at how the 2012 Olympics has driven innovation and enterprise on materials science – a refreshing claim considering many (The Engineer included) have questioned whether the claimed benefits to industry of hosting the games have actually been realised.

The congress will look at how materials technology is used to enhance sporting performance as well as its contribution to the numerous infrastructure projects at the heart of the Olympic park. Speakers include Scott Drawer, head of research and innovation at UK sport, prosthetics specialist Prof Saeed Zahedi, and Peter Bonfield, chief executive of the Building Research Establishment.

Engineering innovation will also be celebrated at Tuesday’s annual Royal Academy of Engineering Awards. Held at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the highlight of the event will be the presentation of the prestigious £50,000 MacRobert award.  Shortlisted entries are Andor Technology for its Vacuum Cooled Scientific sCMOS Camera, Jaguar Land Rover for the Range Rover Evoque and JBA Consulting for the JFlow flood risk modeling system.

On a somewhat more downbeat note the Royal Aeronautical Society will this week host a debate entitled “Is There a Future for the UK Military Aerospace Industry?”

Convened in the face of the government’s apparently contradictory stance on defence aerospace – it’s future is uncertain despite frequently held up as an exemplar of the kind of thing the UK excels at – the debate will explore the implications of the MoD’s recent White Paper for the sector, and hopefully outline some possible solutions and strategies for survival.



One area that does hold great promise for the defence aerospace sector is the growing UAV market, which will come under the microscope at this week’s unmanned aerial systems conference and exhibition. Held at Cranfield University’s Shrivenham campus and running from today until Wednesday the event aims to provide a single forum to discuss the many integration and deployment challenges facing the sector.