Physics-based businesses receive IOP Business Innovation Awards at event in Westminster

19 October 2017

The companies receiving the IOP’s 2017 Business Innovation Awards are part of “the backbone of British industry”, government minister Alok Sharma said at a ceremony in parliament yesterday to present the awards to this year’s winners.

Business Innovation Awards


The awards, now in their sixth year, are made to companies in the UK and Ireland that have built success on the innovative application of physics, by generating profit, securing jobs and improving efficiency.

Congratulating the winners, Sharma said that the UK’s science sector and physics-based businesses were held in high esteem in other parts of the world and it was a myth that UK scientists were great at inventing things but failed to commercialise their research. “You are examples of what happens when you commercialise,” he said.

Five winners of Innovation Awards and four of Commended Innovation were chosen by a judging panel and presented with their awards by the IOP’s president, Professor Dame Julia Higgins, at the event in Westminster, which was attended by MPs, peers, policymakers, business leaders and physicists. They will also be presented with the awards at the Institute’s Awards Dinner in London on 7 November.

Professor Higgins said the public were probably astounded by prominent scientific discoveries such as gravitational waves or the Higgs boson, but less aware that a large part of our economy depended on innovations moving out of laboratories and being commercialised by small physics-based companies.

Emphasising the need for more physicists, she voiced concerns about how Brexit would affect recruitment of scientists from overseas and said it was sad that more young people, and especially girls, could not be persuaded to take up physics, despite the best efforts of schools and of the Institute. This would be a focus of her presidency, and she hoped that the message would spread that physics offered a career in which you could be “paid a salary for doing the thing you love”, she said.

Dr James McKenzie, the IOP’s vice-president for business, said half of the Institute’s members were in physics-based businesses and announced that it had just set up the Business Innovation and Growth Group as part of its support for them. He highlighted some of the findings in the IOP’s new report on the contribution of physics to the UK economy, also launched yesterday, such as that more than two million people are employed in physics-based businesses in the UK.

The award winners and their achievements were introduced by the IOP’s chief executive, Professor Paul Hardaker, as they stepped up to receive their awards.

Business Innovation Awards

The winners of the Innovation Awards were ICEoxford, for the development of the Kelvin High Cooling Power Cryogenic System, which will enable research in photonic quantum computing; M Squared, for the development of the Aurora microscope, enabling 3D imaging of live cells; MR Solutions, for the development of the first commercially available preclinical, helium-free high-field MRI imaging systems; Ossila, for the development of a solar-cell prototyping platform; and Thornton Tomasetti Defence, for the development of seismic airgun arrays that have revolutionised the shock testing of warships.

The winners of Commended Innovation were Active Needle Technology, for the development of high-visibility needles that improve image-guided medical procedures; Oxford Space Systems, for the development of the AstroTube Space Boom; pureLiFi for the development of LiFi-X, providing wireless internet using the visible-light spectrum; and Rolls-Royce, for the development of the Embedded Electrical Starter Generator.

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