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Two Southampton spin-outs vie for top national honour

Published: 
19 May 2005

The teams behind two of the University of Southampton's most successful spin-out companies are among the finalists for the UK's most prestigious engineering prize.

Photonics specialist SPI and oil and gas exploration company OHM plc join two other technology specialists in contention for the 2005 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced at a dinner on Thursday 2 June and the team will receive their cheque and gold medal from the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace on Monday 6 June.

SPI is nominated for its highly-efficient ultrabright fibre lasers which are rapidly replacing traditional lasers in many manufacturing processes as they have superior performance, are cheaper to run and use far less power. Applications range from the manufacture of medical devices, printing, semiconductor processing and laser machining of small features in many arenas. SPI was formed in 2000 to supply components into the telecoms market. In recent years the team has transformed the company into a world leader in this exciting new technology.

David Parker, SPI's President and Chief Executive, commented: "Being nominated for this award is a great honour. It reflects the hard work and achievement of the whole team and the real significance of the contribution our technology is already making to product development and manufacturing here in the UK and globally."

Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping (OHM) plc is nominated for controlled source electromagnetic sounding (CSEMI), which is already saving oil companies millions of dollars in the hunt for increasingly scarce oil and gas reserves. Exploration is being forced into more hostile environments such as deep water, where an exploratory well can cost over $50 million.

Electromagnetic sounding, developed originally by academics to study thermal and volcanic behaviour on the seabed, bridges the gap between traditional seismic surveys and drilling. OHM plc was formed in 2002 at the University of Southampton to commercialise developments on this technique specifically for the oil industry.

Dave Pratt, Chief Executive of OHM plc, commented: "OHM has made enormous progress over the last three years and I believe our nomination for this most prestigious of awards reflects our success in developing and commercialising our leading edge technology. Looking ahead, our major challenge is to further develop the quality and scope of our CSEMI technique whilst accelerating industry's adoption of our offering."

President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Lord Broers , who gave this year's BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures The Triumph of Technology said: "For the last 35 years, the MacRobert Award has been a barometer of engineering achievement in this country.

"I am delighted to see such creative teams shortlisted this year for products that really are changing our lives for the better. All four teams are great examples of how successful innovators break down the barriers that stand in the way of practical application."

The other two finalists are Agilent Technologies in Scotland for a new mobile phone tracking programme and CSR plc of Cambridge for the silicon chip that enables most Bluetooth(tm) wireless technologies.

Notes for editors

  1. SPI: Team members are President/CEO Dr David Parker, Vice President IP Dr Malcolm Varnham, Chief Scientist Professor Mikhail Zervas and Vice President Engineering Dr Stephen Norman at SPI in Southampton and Professor David Payne CBE FRS, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton.
  2. OHM: Team members are CEO David Pratt and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Lucy MacGregor at OHM plc in Aberdeen and OHM Consultant Martin Sinha, Professor of Geophysics at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
  3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5,000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.
  4. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Its fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for its activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, it provides independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and a voice for Britain's engineering community.

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