Awards for innovation across the UK

8 July 2013

Ultrafast lasers developed for biological imaging by a team in Glasgow and industry-leading computer modelling techniques from a company in Exeter are two of the five transformative physics-based products receiving an Institute of Physics (IOP) Innovation Award today, Monday 8 July.

Innovation awards 2013

From north to south of the UK, Coherent Scotland Ltd in Glasgow receive an Innovation Award for the development of a laser system that is transforming doctors’ and biologists’ ability to take quick and accurate medical images.

The Chameleon laser, a one-box fully automated tuneable ultrafast laser system, is being used, among many other applications, to make new discoveries via in-vivo brain imaging of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

The product has created 100 jobs for the company since it was introduced to the market ten years ago.

Tracerco Ltd based in Billingham in the north east of England receive their Innovation Award for the development of a leading gamma-radiation based tool for pipe measurement in the oil and gas industry.

The new measuring system, novel due to its ability to account for the build-up of residue in pipes, has led to considerable efficiency savings for the companies using the product. Tracerco Ltd has earned itself a global reputation for successful innovation in the process.

Zephir Ltd based in Ledbury, Herefordshire, recognised the need to measure the suitability of sites for wind farms without cumbersome meteorological towers and designed a portable ‘lidar’ device to measure 100 metre high winds remotely from the ground.

Working with researchers and renewable energy companies, Zephir Ltd has generated millions in profit since the device was introduced seven years ago.

A team from Elekta Ltd, based in Crawley in West Sussex, introduced ‘Agility’ – a beam shaping device employed in radiotherapy – to provide hospitals with a device for efficient, reliable and safe radiotherapy treatment.

First introduced to hospitals one year ago, the device has given clinicians the ability to target tumours more accurately with moulded beams of radiation and thereby save patients from unwanted doses.

The innovation has earned the company in excess of £20m while also helping save many lives.

Stemming from research undertaken via an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council fellowship, Simpleware Ltd from Exeter has developed a software solution that converts 3D images into high-quality computer models.

The software, which is being used to enable better design of everything from contact lenses and bike helmets to car parts and rocket engines, heralds a significant advance in computer-aided engineering (CAE) and is being used by blue chip companies and numerous research institutes, including NASA.  

Professor Sir Peter Knight, President of the Institute of Physics, said, “Many congratulations to all of these companies for successfully applying physics to meet some of the biggest challenges of our age and generating significant wealth for themselves, their employees and the regions they work in.

“It’s very pleasing to see these innovations coming from companies from many parts of the UK, generating wealth in parts of the country that have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. Physics really does transform lives.”

The IOP Innovation Awards are a unique celebration of commercial success built on physics.

All five winning companies will be showcasing their achievements on 6 November in the Houses of Parliament.

To find out more about how physics is driving economic growth across the UK, including a regional breakdown, see the Importance of Physics to Economic Growth -

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