The Royal Academy of Engineering is encouraging applications to the coveted MacRobert Award from Northern Irish businesses, as it looks to find examples of great innovation throughout the UK.

The MacRobert Award, which was first presented in 1969, is the UK’s longest running and most prestigious prize for engineering innovation. It recognises outstanding engineering innovation combined with proven commercial success and tangible social benefit. Winners receive a £50,000 cash prize, gold medal and national acclaim.

Companies from Northern Ireland have previously been recognised by the Academy for their outstanding innovation, with Belfast-based Bombardier Aerospace reaching the final in 2001 for a new aircraft engine thrust reverser.

In 2003 Randox Laboratories won the award for the Evidence rapid analysis system, which could run over 4,500 blood tests per hour, a market-leading achievement at the time.

Many past MacRobert Award winners have transformed industries and had a positive impact on our everyday lives. These have included the engineers behind innovations such as the Pegasus jet engine used in the iconic Harrier jets, catalytic converters and the roof of the Millennium Dome. The 2017 Award went to the creators of Raspberry Pi, which is now the third best-selling computer of all time and has encouraged over 85,000 children to learn to code.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel, comments: “Northern Ireland is renowned for its innovation. While it is well known for its shipbuilding prowess, its innovators have transformed many different industries, from transport to healthcare to farming. We are confident that there are many examples of outstanding engineering innovation here and I would like to encourage companies to consider entering this year’s MacRobert Award.”

For centuries Northern Irish innovators have been transforming industry and our everyday lives; with the world’s first ever streetcar being designed by 22-year-old John Stephenson from Co. Armagh back in 1833, while Co. Down’s Harry Ferguson is credited with inventing the modern tractor, and cardiologist Frank Partridge invented the portable defibrillator. More recently, in 2012, Ballymena’s Wrightbus created the new London Routemaster.

Innovation is currently a major focus for the Northern Ireland Executive, with its strategy to ensure that by 2025 “Northern Ireland will be recognised as an innovation hub and will be one of the UK’s leading high-growth, knowledge-based regions which embraces creativity and innovation at all levels of society”. Invest NI is also championing a “booming” tech sector, particularly in the fields of cyber security, data analytics and fintech.

MacRobert Award judge and former Regius Professor of Electronics and Computer Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Sir John McCanny CBE FREng FRS comments: “We have a proud history of engineering in Northern Ireland, and over the past decade it has really begun to thrive. Just over 15 years ago the area around where the Titanic was built had become derelict with little business activity around it. Today it’s home to nearly 200 innovative companies pushing the boundaries of computing, electronics, cyber security and fintech – it has become our very own silicon roundabout. And countrywide we are innovating in a variety of sectors, from agritech to manufacturing and everything in between. There has never been a more exciting time in the Northern Irish engineering industry.

“I would encourage any companies considering applying for the Award to do so. It brings with it both national and international prestige, and will provide a platform to showcase your innovation or product.”

All MacRobert Award applications are judged by a panel of Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, which includes some of the most influential and well respected names in UK engineering, using a comprehensive selection process. Applicants are whittled down to three finalists, who will be announced in May 2018.

The 2018 winner will be revealed at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on 27 June 2018 in front of an audience of top engineers, business leaders, politicians and journalists.

Applications for the 2018 MacRobert Award are now open and close on 31 January 2018. For more information, visit