Five young engineers who have been outstandingly successful in their respective fields at an early stage of their careers have each won a prestigious award and a £3,000 prize from the Royal Academy of Engineering. All five are winners of the RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year competition, awarded by the Academy with support from the Worshipful Company of Engineers.
The overall winner, Extreme-E racing pioneer and social mobility advocate a UK based Nigerian, George Imafidon, received the Sir George Macfarlane Medal. Named after wartime radar pioneer Sir George Macfarlane, the award recognises the potential of engineers working in the UK who have demonstrated excellence in the early stage of their career (less than ten years since graduation from their first degree in engineering or equivalent qualification).
George Imafidon is a Performance Engineer working with Sir Lewis Hamilton HonFREng’s Team X44 electric racing team to design and run an Extreme-E race car. The motorsport team, founded in September 2020, aims to draw attention to environmental issues by racing in the world’s most remote locations affected by the climate crisis.
George’s fascination with how things work stems from his formative years spent fixing bikes for his friends in Peckham, South East London, a pastime that would eventually lead him to graduate from University College London with a First Class Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
In addition to his purpose-driven racing career, George is also CEO and co-founder of Motivez, a platform and community that has directly supported over 8,000 young people aged 14 – 25 from underrepresented backgrounds to access personalised opportunities, particularly within science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Motivez delivers a plethora of award-winning grassroots, employability and advocacy programmes to drive systemic change in the STEM sector and develop changemakers who tackle the world’s biggest problems on a local level.
George’s commitment to giving a platform to underrepresented voices was further evidenced by his appointment in September 2020 to the Board of Commissioners for Sir Lewis Hamilton’s Commission set up jointly with the Royal Academy of Engineering to address the underrepresentation of Black people in UK motorsport. As a young Black engineer, George was able to advise and guide the Commission’s work, introduce the research team to key stakeholders and young engineers for interviews and shape the final report, which attracted high public and political attention. George also took a gap year during his university studies to fundraise for the #AB1Million campaign, raising £1 million for the Amos Bursary to ensure talented young people of African and Caribbean descent have the opportunity to excel in education and beyond.
The four other RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineers of the Year are:
Dr Robert Hammond, Lecturer in Infection and Global Health at the University of St Andrews, whose research and translational activities have led to the development of a tool that quickly enables antibiotic resistance and antibiotic susceptibility to be determined, and the spin out of a company employing 25+ workers and valued at approximately $35 million USD.
His work is highly innovative and is focused on early diagnosis of bacterial and fungal infections in humans and animals. A device that he conceived, developed and engineered during his PhD can identify which antibiotics are effective against a particular infection. This is a gamechanger for the industry – at present the standard techniques take between 12 and 48 hours but Robert’s new technique can produce a result in as little as 37 seconds. The commercial test is in development and will, if successful, revolutionise an important area of clinical diagnosis. It could transform care and potentially change the course of the antimicrobial resistance pandemic by reducing the use of inappropriate antibiotics.
Dr Hammond won a Discovery Award from the Longitude Prize and was shortlisted as one of their 20 “groups to watch” in 2016, winning the Scottish Innovation of the Year award in 2018.
Dr Fragkoulis Kanavaris, Arup’s leading concrete materials specialist with a background in structural engineering, who is the current materials lead on the High Speed 2 rail project. He is a world-renowned authority on concrete decarbonisation, durability, cracking and technology. Concrete’s unique properties make it vital to many engineering endeavours but the material is not known for its green credentials. Fragkoulis is changing this. His deep technical knowledge delivers huge carbon savings for clients and he is driving industry-wide innovation through shaping technical standards in the UK and internationally.
He is also passionate about identifying innovative methods to reduce waste. He developed a method for converting London Clay spoil excavated in HS2’s tunnelling works into a supplementary cementitious material and promoted the design of the first on-site production facility to do this. Re-using the excavated material will reduce the volume sent to landfill by about 30% and cut the proportion of Portland cement, the primary source of carbon dioxide emissions from concrete, by up to 70%.
As an active member of Engineers Without Borders for two years he also promotes engineering careers to secondary school students and assists civil structural design in underdeveloped countries.
Dr Matthew Marson, Global Market Sector Director at Arcadis, who has spearheaded international advancement of smart buildings and cities, working at the intersection of engineering, technology and sustainability. Matthew’s creative and innovative portfolio includes iconic projects such as NEOM’s Industrial City, 22 Bishopsgate, The Dock in Dublin, Paddington Square and San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower.
Dr Marson has exhibited outstanding productivity and creativity, pioneering new techniques particularly with Intelligent Buildings technology and linking this to helping the industry address sustainability and make progress towards net zero carbon. At a bluechip technology company’s campus in Bangalore, he led a team to extract the data from several building management systems across a 3 million square foot campus. He created an analytics application that analysed around 50,000 data points per minute to help optimise energy conservation measures, making a significant contribution to their net zero carbon target.
He has also worked to engage the wider engineering community, creating a series of 30 podcasts featuring world leading construction and technology experts discussing issues associated with smart buildings/cities and how to resolve them.
Dr Beatriz Mingo, a Materials Engineer and Presidential Fellow at the University of Manchester, whose research focuses on environmentally friendly surface treatments for lightweight components used in transport. Her work has been recognised internationally by the European Federation of Corrosion, the International Society of Electrochemistry and by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, amongst others. In 2016, she was awarded a Young Scientist Grant by the European Federation of Corrosion, whose objective is to promote knowledge exchange within the international corrosion community.
Dr Mingo is currently a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow and as part of her current project, Next generation of ceramic coatings for active protection of light alloys, she is developing high-performance smart materials that can release corrosion inhibitors in response to the change in pH that accompanies the start of the corrosion process. Her research could extend the lifetime of lightweight components used in transport, which will help to create energy-efficient vehicles and support sustainable consumption of resources.
Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Committee, says: “Our Young Engineers of the Year are pushing the boundaries of modern engineering and creating genuinely new economic opportunities, benefitting society and the environment in the process. They are also fantastic role models for any young person considering joining the engineering profession. I congratulate them all.”
Sir George Macfarlane Medal, which is named after Sir George Macfarlane, a Founder Fellow of the Fellowship of Engineering, later the Royal Academy of Engineering. His groundbreaking work during the Second World War enabled the introduction of radar for guiding bombers and spotting U-boats. After the war he was instrumental in guiding government research and overseeing the introduction of optical fibre and digital technology into telecommunications. His work with the Academy focused on engineering education and links between universities and industry. for more information on Royal Academy of Engineering, visit: email: www.raeng.org.uk