10th Anniversary of the BEEAs: A decade of excellence – 2016

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:
The winners of the 2016 BEEAs

The British Engineering Excellence Awards were launched in 2009 to champion and celebrate design innovation and excellence. Since then, the BEEAs has grown – as has the number of companies entering to win the foremost engineering accolade for design.

The BEEAs has been highlighting the breadth and depth of the UK’s design engineering community and how it is competing on a global stage for the last 10 years. Winners of the Grand Prix, the best-of-the-best of each year, have ranged from individual engineers doing outstanding work both in their industries and communities, to small companies with staff numbers in the single-digits, to larger OEMs.

Each year, hundreds of entries are debated and analysed by a judging panel of industry experts, which includes the winners of the previous year’s Grand Prix and Design Engineer of the Year Awards.

RS Components has been a sponsor of the event since 2009. Mike Bray, VP of DesignSpark said: “Celebrating excellence in engineering is crucial in the quest to educate and inspire aspiring engineers. The BEEAs play an important part in this, and as passionate ambassadors for innovation and excellence in engineering, we are proud to be supporting the young design engineer category each year. The objective of the BEEAs is closely aligned with our own ethos to promote STEM uptake and champion innovation, and to secure the future of engineering in the UK.”

The eighth British Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony took place at a gala luncheon on 6 October 2016 at The Honourable Artillery Club, London.

Where are they now?

The way in which we interface with products has changed significantly, from pushbuttons and switches to touchscreen, and is progressing towards touchless.

And the winners were...

Grand prix

Sponsored by: Mark Allen Business
Winner: Lightpoint Medical

Consultancy of the year
Sponsored by: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Winner: Williams Advanced Engineering

Small company of the year
Sponsored by: Innovate UK
Winner: Forth Engineering

Start up of the year
Sponsored by: Cambridge Consultants
Winner: Ultrahaptics

Design team of the year
Sponsored by: Premier EDA Solutions
Winner: Bytesnap Design

Materials application of the year
Sponsored by: Engineering Materials
Winner: BAE Systems

Electronic product of the year
Sponsored by: New Electronics
Winner: Lightpoint Medical

Mechanical product of the year
Sponsored by: Eureka!
Winner: JCB

Young design engineer of the year
Sponsored by: RS Components
Winner: Christopher Bellamy, Jaguar Land Rover

Design engineer of the year
Sponsored by: Maxon Motor
Winner: Alexander McDiarmid, Parker Bestobell

Judges special award
Winner: MQA

One problem with touchless technology is the lack of feedback. Looking to solve this problem, Ultrahaptics, the winner of 2016’s Start Up of the Year, has developed technology that uses ultrasound to enable ‘feeling without touching’. Using a small array of ultrasound speakers, it creates the feeling of virtual objects, switches and dials which float in mid-air, or track the user’s fingertips to create a system that supports free space gesture recognition and control.

Development began in 2010, when CTO Tom Carter was an undergraduate at Bristol University. By 2013, the technology was spun-out from the university after attracting the attention of global companies.

Following the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2014, the company immediately received funding. Since then, Ultrahaptics has received £46.6m in funding and is currently engaged with blue-chip clients from markets including automotive, digital signage and location-based entertainment.

Rapid growth has seen the company grow from three employees to more than 100, supported by a former FTSE100 CEO as chairman.

Each year, the BEEAs Judges can make a Special Award to a person or a company that, in their opinion, deserves particular recognition. There is no guarantee that the award will be made but, in 2016, one company impressed the Judges by showing that British engineering excellence makes it possible to compete in the complex world of consumer electronics.


The MP3 format has not only changed the way in which we listen to music, but also where. Despite this, many people have significant reservations about the format.

According to start up MQA, since the MP3 format was adopted, sound quality has been sacrificed for convenience. Typically, it claims, 90% of the information is discarded during the MP3 compression process.

MQA founder and technology inventor Bob Stuart is passionate about preserving audio quality and has created an audio format that not only delivers rich sound quality, but does so using a convenient file size.

MQA uses a process called ‘Music Origami’ that makes large audio files manageable and compatible with any service or playback device. On an ordinary device, MQA formatted music will play back at better than CD quality. However, with an MQA decoder, full studio sound is delivered.

The first MQA enabled devices were launched in December 2015, since then the company has formed partnerships with 150+ companies including Sony, Pioneer LG, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Japan Audio Society (JAS) have approved MQA’s technology.

The company is now working on real-time delivery of live performances, from jazz clubs to Glastonbury, to fans that can’t be at the event. Most recently of all, and underlining the British company’s ‘exportability’, Alibaba’s Xiami Music has become the first streaming service in China to adopt MQA.

“We were very proud of being awarded the Judges Special Award, things like that and approval from the RIAA and JAS have added credibility and endorsement which makes people much more immediately accepting, they think ‘it must be good’,” Stuart says. “This is British technology that we’ve taken global and it’s making a dent. It’s good for the music business and it’s good for British prestige.”

We will be covering the 2017 Awards in the September issue. Entries for the ‘10th anniversary’ awards will open soon, so why not visit www.beeas.co.uk to pick up some top tips on entering your submissions.


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