Billion dollar baby – RealVNC wins UK’s top engineering prize

Posted on 22 Jul 2013

A small software engineering company has won the MacRobert Award for British innovation, a company that judges believe "could be a billion dollar business within five years".

Battersea Power Station was a fitting venue for the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards on July 17, hosting its last public event before the landmark building is redeveloped.

The iconic building, which Chancellor George Osborne reminded dinner guests on the evening faced plenty of opposition before it was finally built in the 1930s, provided was a strong foil to the array of modern, innovative engineering being recognised.

A star studded line-up, including HRH The Princess Royal, RAEng president Sir John Parker and presented by BBC anchor Emily Maitlis, witnessed Cambridge University spin-out RealVNC claim the MacRobert Award, the UK’s longest running, senior national prize for engineering innovation.

RealVNC’s technology allows a computer screen to be remotely accessed and is now being used technology giants such as Google, Apple, Intel and Sony, who use the technology to improve consumer products and invent new gadgets.

Over a billion devices worldwide now use its technology and VNC protocols have even become an official part of the internet.

Rising Star winners Sean Gallagher and Paul Shears at the Engineering for Growth awards dinner at Battersea Power Station on July 17

Ian Shott CBE FREng, who is on the judging panel and also chairs the Academy’s Enterprise Hub, said: “The sophistication of engineering behind RealVNC’s technology has given them a game-changing proposition. The company is now on the cusp of fully exploiting this, and I fully believe they could be a billion dollar business within the next five years.”

The Cambridge firm was presented with the MacRobert Award gold medal and £50,000 cash prize from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Before the awards ceremony, guests were able to examine a scale model of the ITER nuclear fusion reactor, being constructed at Catarache in France. Representatives from lead engineering architect Atkins were on hand to answer questions about the build and the extraordinary Toromak vessel, which will reach 150 million degrees Celcius when the fusion process occurs.

The evening marked the start of the peak construction phase of ITER, which has awarded 46% of the total value of project contracts already, and the British portion is about 6%.

Among the winners of other awards at the Engineering for Growth event were:

Silver Medals for Outstanding contribution to UK engineering

Elspeth Finch, director at Atkins
Dr Andrew Fitzgibbon, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research, Cambridge
Tim Morgan, managing director, Mountain Trike Company
Dr Eben Upton, trustee and technical director, Raspberry Pi Foundation and technical director, Broadcom Corp Cambridge

President’s Medal for promoting excellence in engeering

Terry Hill CBE FREng, Chair Of Arup’s Board of Trustees

Sir Frank Whittle Medal for outstanding achievement in engineering innovations in manufacturing

Professor Lin Li, Head of Manufacturing Research Group and Director of the Laser Processing Research Group, University of Manchester

Rooke Medal for the public promotion of engineering

Professor Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society, University College London

ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award – for UK university researchers who demonstrate entrepreneurial promise

Joint winners: Dr Julien Reboud, SAW Dx – Sound Diagnostics Anywhere, University of Glasgow
Dr Reuben Wilcock and Robert Rudolph – research in multi-core current clamp for domestic energy measurement, University of Southampton

Rising Stars

  • Neil Cuthbert, structural engineer, Atkins
  • Eva Linnell, project engineer, QGC
  • Abha Batra, principal risk safety and environmental engineer, Petrofac
  • Kayvaan Kermani, graduate process engineer, Petrofac
  • Sean Gallagher, quality engineer, BAE Systems
  • Paul Shears, principal software engineer, BAE Systems
  • Tom Collins, development engineer for the Bosch Thermo-technology Research and Development team
  • Prasad Sampathkumar, senior applications engineer for Bosch Diesel Systems
  • Sabina Azizli, control engineer, BP
  • Christopher Cooper, assistant structural and coatings superintendent, BP
  • Dan Clifton, project engineer, Vehicle Integrity, Jaguar Land Rover
  • Rebecca Lees, body structures engineer, Jaguar Land Rover

The Manufacturer would like to thank Bosch UK for hosting @WRStirling at the Engineering for Growth Awards dinner.