AIRTO recognises excellence in innovation

AIRTO Annual Dinner & Special Recognition Awards 2019

Dr Mike Short CBE, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for International Trade addressed guests from industry, academia and government at AIRTO’s annual black tie dinner on 27 June 2019 at Stationers’ Hall, London.

Dr Mike Short CBE

Mike reflected on the importance of the UK’s contribution to innovations which are now an integral part of everyday life around the globe, including antibiotics, the jet engine, the internet and many more! Continuing to promote the UK’s research and innovation capabilities overseas and encouraging inward investment are pivotal to our success in remaining competitive with the rest of the world.

The evening was hosted by AIRTO’s President, Professor Richard Brook OBE FREng, and AIRTO’s Chair, Dr Paul Howarth FREng. Paul Howarth welcomed Mike Short’s comments and his continued support for the UK’s Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector. He highlighted the recent increase in activity of AIRTO with government, including the role of the IRT sector in working with government and industry to help achieve the goal of 2.4% of GDP for investment in R&D by 2027.

Highlighting the vital role that our members play in working behind the scenes to make AIRTO successful, a number of Special Recognition Awards were presented to recognise outstanding people from AIRTO’s membership who have made an exceptional contribution to the UK’s IRT sector.

Chris Bellamy, Richard Brook OBE FREng, Paul Howarth FREng, Perdi Williams, David Millar, Mike Short CBE, Tim Bestwick, Jane Gate, Michael Grant

Best Practice in Innovation
With a significant number of very high-quality nominations this year, a runner’s up award was presented to the AMRC and ‘Boeing Sheffield’ for their partnership programme.

The young team behind ‘Boeing Sheffield’ in partnership with the AMRC, in just six months since becoming established have been developing new technologies to transform aerospace manufacturing, and will be making more than 100 different high-tech actuation system components for 737 and 767 jet to extend and retract wing flaps from raw materials sourced in the U.K –  components which were previously being supplied by the ‘low cost’ supply chain in Mexico! Chris Bellamy accepted the award on behalf of the project team.

But the overall winner of this year’s Best Practice in Innovation Award was the Scotland-based Oil & Gas Technology Centre for ‘Tech X’, their technology accelerator programme forging elite entrepreneurs for the energy sector by partnering with BP to benefit 100 start-up companies with “game-changing funding”, of up to £100,000 to develop new technology ideas. David Millar accepted the award on behalf of the project team.

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
This award recognises the advancement of equality, diversity and inclusion in the IRT sector, and this year went to NPL’s Andy Morris for his outstanding work to support living with dementia, mental health issues and cancer.

Andy has established a dementia group at NPL to reduce the stigma, raise awareness and increase support for staff caring for someone with dementia, and also runs wellbeing and mental health initiatives, including acting as a mental health first aider and leading the NPL North of England running club which completed a ‘Couch to 5k’ programme in Huddersfield. To promote inclusion and raise awareness, Andy created a blog to share his experiences of caring for a family member with dementia, dealing with mental health and bereavement and coping with cancer. Andy is also an ambassador for ‘5k Your Way’ a movement supporting people living with cancer.

The award was accepted on behalf of Andy Morris by NPL’s Perdi Williams, who has recently been selected as one of the UK’s Top 50 Women in Engineering by the Women’s Engineering Society, for the impact she has created in her work on helping to redefine the kilogram.

Andy Morris

Unsung Hero
This award recognises dedicated commitment in working behind the scenes, to further AIRTO’s mission to foster collaboration between members, and this year the awards went to BRE’s Michael Grant to acknowledge all the work put in over the past few years to form and lead our Cybersecurity Interest Group. Mike established the group from scratch, having identified the need to share best practice in this area, and has gone on to engage the National Cybersecurity Centre in to bring expertise to the group.

Innovation Sector Champion
This award recognises exceptional commitment and long-service to our community in helping to promote dialogue on innovation policy. We want to show our appreciation to UKAEA’s Tim Bestwick for the all his work in leading Chairing the Eureka, an intergovernmental organisation for innovation funding and coordination, spanning 41 countries which has provided €38.4Bn in funding. In a climate of EU exit, Tim has successfully led the programme for the first time from the UK since 1996, brokering high-level ministerial engagement in Westminster and Brussels as well as coordination between all of the countries in the network, influencing policy makers, industry and innovators.

Read Paul Howarth’s AIRTO Dinner Speech



Notes for editors



AIRTO is the Association of Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations. Its membership comprises approximately sixty of the principal organisations operating in the UK’s Innovation, Research and Technology (IRT) sector. The IRT sector has a combined turnover of £6.9Bn, employing over 57,000 scientific and technical staff (equivalent to the academic staffing of the Russell Group of universities) and, for comparison, it is significantly larger than the network of Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany both in size and its scope of activities. The sector contributes £34Bn to UK GDP. AIRTO’s members work at the interface between academia and industry, for both private and public sector clients.

Members include independent Research and Technology Organisations, Catapult Centres, Public Sector Research Establishments, National Laboratories, some university Technology Transfer Offices and some privately held innovation companies.


For further information, please contact:

Dr. Jane Gate, Executive Director, AIRTO Ltd