10th Anniversary of the BEEAs: A decade of excellence – 2015

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

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.

National Instruments has been a sponsor of the event since 2009. Richard Roberts, senior customer marketing manager, National Instruments says: “The BEEAs always recognises a broad-range of innovative UK engineering firms, which align with the strong engineering and innovative heritage of the National Instruments brand. It also offers the opportunity to network with many eminent engineers and business leaders. National Instruments has sponsored the Young Design Engineer award to help celebrate British engineering accomplishments and support the industry’s most precious, valuable resource – the engineers of the future.”

In retrospect

This is the seventh in a series of features looking back at the past winners of these awards and seeing how winning has affected them and their business.

The seventh British Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony took place at a gala luncheon on 29 October 2015 at The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London.

And the winners were…

Grand Prix
Sponsored by: Findlay Media
Winner: Oxford Space Systems

Materials Innovation of the Year
Sponsored by: engineering materials
Winner: Nylacast

Consultancy of the Year
Sponsored by: National Instruments
Winner: Kinneir Dufort

Electronic Product of the Year
Sponsored by: Digi-Key
Winner: Argon Design Argon Streams

Small Company of the Year
Sponsored by: D Young & Co LLP
Winner: LG Motion
Highly Commended: GWR Fasteners

Mechanical Product of the Year
Sponsored by: Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Winner: Steeper

Start Up of the Year
Sponsored by: Cambridge Consultants
Winner: Oxford Space Systems
Young Design Engineer of the Year
Sponsored by: RS Components
Winner: Dan Stamp, Kliklok International
Highly Commended: Jenna Allen, A-One+
Design Team of the Year
Sponsored by: Premier EDA Solutions
Winner: Navtech Radar

Design Engineer of the Year
Sponsored by: Premier EDA Solutions
Winner: Richard Poulton, Navtech Radar

Where are they now?

Engineers are often unsung heroes; they design the products that bring success to an employer but may not always get the acclaim they deserve.

Occasionally, engineers can see the benefits of the hard work they have put in and Richard Poulton was in that fortunate position in 2015 when he was awarded the Design Engineer of the Year. He joined Navtech Radar (which also won Design Team of the Year) in 2008 as the company’s only hardware engineer and has played a central role in its success, helping to expand the hardware engineering team, providing induction and internal training, as well as making a significant contribution to their professional development. The company says his skills and experience are ‘pivotal’ to its success.

Poulton’s role in Navtech is described as ‘all encompassing’; handling product lifecycles from concept to product maintenance. He is also responsible for legacy designs and dealing with obsolescence issues, as well as consulting on non-standard repairs.

His project management and leadership skills were demonstrated during the development of the company’s ClearWay traffic management radar. During development, it became obvious it had to be much smaller than Navtech’s previous devices. As project manager, Richard ensured the complex project was finished ahead of schedule and with a bill of materials cost that made it commercially attractive.

Poulton has worked in collaboration with the Knowledge Transfer Partnership and the University of Bath, sponsoring and supervising two young engineers’ programmes, and took an active interest in furthering their skills and knowledge. He also takes a personal interest in encouraging young people into engineering and regularly attends events at local schools.

Oxford Space Systems won both Start Up of the Year and the Grand Prix at the 2015 ceremony for its lightweight, simple deployable structures for micro and nano satellites. At the heart of its technology is AstroTube, a rolled composite material that unfurls like a tape measure. Requiring a fraction of the volume needed by a conventional system.

Mike Lawton, founder and CEO of Oxford Space Systems, says: “At that point we had just secured our initial seed funding which basically gave us the ability to keep the lights on for about a year. To have those two prestigious awards was phenomenal collateral to put in front of potential investors and customers.

“Saying we’ve got a significant technology award really endorses a company they’ve never heard of and the technical proficiency of the team as well.”

Since winning the award OSS has doubled its revenue each year and its technology has been put into orbit. Now other companies and organisations are seeking to work with the team, which has grown from 10 in 2015 to 55-strong. These include NASA and the UK Ministry of Defence, the latter awarded OSS £1m – its largest ever first-time contract – to mature its technology as well as develop a ‘Wrapped-Rib’ antenna using Synthetic Aperture Radar for Earth observation. It is hoped this will be used in orbit in 2021.

Lawton says that any company thinking about applying should just do it: “The application process isn’t onerous, it’s actually a useful exercise for the business. It makes you think long and hard about why you’re doing what you’re doing and where the benefits are for the product.

“There’s no excuse not to apply, what’s the worst that could happen? You’ve gone through a great internal review exercise, and you could win, then you’ve got a fantastic bit of promotional material that hasn’t cost you anything.”

We will be covering the 2016 Awards in the August 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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