Top UK engineers awarded The Princess Royal Silver Medal

3 mins read

Four of UK engineering innovators are to be presented with The Princess Royal Silver Medal, one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s most prestigious individual awards.

They will receive their awards at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Tuesday 9 July.

The recipients of The Princess Royal Silver Medals for 2024 are:

  • Dr Katerina Spranger, CEO and founder of Oxford Heartbeat Ltd
  • Dr Daniel Jamieson, CEO of Biorelate Ltd
  • Dr Orr Yarkoni, CEO of Colorfix
  • Professor Jason Hallett, Professor of Sustainable Chemical Technology at Imperial College London

The Princess Royal Silver Medal celebrates an outstanding personal contribution made to UK engineering by an early to mid-career engineer resulting in market exploitation. Two of this year’s winners are using AI - to improve brain surgery and drug discovery - and two are making manufacturing more sustainable, through biological textile dyeing and sustainable substitutes for fossil fuels. 

Luke Logan FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Awards Committee, said:

“The winners of The Princess Royal Silver Medal for 2024 have each pioneered groundbreaking innovations, which they have commercialised into hugely successful businesses. They have made extensive contributions to engineering in the UK through the development of innovative technologies that address environmental and societal challenges. They have also supported economic growth by promoting technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration."

AI innovators:

Dr Katerina Spranger, CEO and founder of Oxford Heartbeat:

Katerina founded Oxford Heartbeat, an award-winning startup that increases the safety and accuracy of brain implant surgeries to treat cardiovascular disease and prevent strokes through AI software.

During brain implant planning, surgeons face a critical decision: selecting the right implant from hundreds of options. A millimetre’s difference in device size can cause devastating complications, additional surgeries, and wasted devices. Traditional surgical planning and implant selection methods are semi-manual and imprecise, often falling short of the accuracy required for optimal patient outcomes. 

Oxford Heartbeat developed PreSize Neurovascular, an AI-powered medical software suite for real-time planning of brain implant surgeries. PreSize shows surgeons with 95% accuracy how a particular implant fits in a patient’s anatomy, enabling them to select the best one for each patient and significantly improving patient outcomes.

Katerina has won multiple awards for her work and raised over £5 million in government funding to develop PreSize, including from Innovate UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). In 2020, Oxford Heartbeat won a prestigious ‘AI in Health and Care Award’ from the UK Government, which funded a landmark clinical trial measuring the impact of PreSize Neurovascular on clinical practice.

The company has commercial engagements with major international industry players, and as of 2024, PreSize is deployed across 12 countries worldwide. 

Dr Daniel Jamieson, CEO of Biorelate:

Dr. Daniel Jamieson is the Founder and CEO of Biorelate, a cutting-edge tech-bio startup at the forefront of using data science to revolutionise pharmaceutical research. Under his leadership, Biorelate has leveraged advanced data science methods to extract critical knowledge from vast amounts of pharmaceutical data and literature, significantly enhancing the discovery of novel biopharmaceuticals.

Biorelate offers multiple product lines powered by its proprietary platform, Galactic AI, which Daniel first conceptualised during his PhD. Galactic AI employs sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover hidden cause-and-effect relationships across 40 million published biomedical sources. This innovative platform provides unprecedented insights into disease pathways, enabling more precise and effective drug discovery.

Daniel’s pioneering work has been instrumental in developing key focus areas within the biopharmaceutical industry. His commitment to advancing the field has led Biorelate to integrate generative AI, further enhancing the volume and quality of data analysis and improving customer experience.

The company has successfully secured over $11 million in venture capital and angel funding. Daniel has also forged strategic partnerships with major biopharma companies, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and many others, solidifying Biorelate’s position as a crucial player in the industry.

Innovators making manufacturing more sustainable:

Dr Orr Yarkoni, CEO of Colorfix:

Orr was a major contributor to the development of biological textile dyeing as a replacement for toxic and wasteful chemical processes. He co-founded the biotech company Colorifix seven years ago to scale up sustainable textile dyeing.

Colorifix has patented a method for biological dyeing that involves engineering microbes, such as bacteria to enable them to produce different pigments. The resulting engineered microorganism can then produce the pigment just as it is produced in nature, and it can be used in conventional dyeing machinery.

Under Orr’s leadership, Colorifix has grown from a small start-up into an ever-accelerating SME working at the interface of engineering, biology, fashion and design. The company has attracted £25M in funding, including from its lead investor the high-street brand H&M. It has also had several high-profile partnerships, including with Stella McCartney which led to a display at the V&A and Colorifix winning the prestigious Andam Fashion Award. Colorifix has developed an anti-viral/anti-microbial treatment for PPE showing further application areas for their technology. 

Professor Jason Hallet, Professor of Sustainable Chemical Technology, Imperial College London:

Jason has developed environmentally-friendly and economical solvent-based chemical processes designed for large-scale industries including renewable chemicals, textiles and cosmetics. 

Seven UK-based technology companies have been spun-out of Professor Hallett’s research, most notable of which is Lixea LTD, a circular bioeconomy company which uses low-cost ionic liquids to process toxic wood waste. Traditional methods rely on preservatives that include heavy metals, and burning this waste wood leads to environmental contamination, meaning that over 2 million tonnes per year of wood waste is sent to landfill every year in the UK alone. Lixea’s patented biomass fractionation process uses liquid salts or ionic liquids as low-cost, environmentally friendly solvents to break the wood down safely and separate its components, enabling this expensive waste material to be converted into a valuable bioenergy resource. 

Jason’s businesses have attracted more than £15 million in private and public funding. The technologies from these businesses currently operate between pilot to commercial scale with established savings in chemical usage, waste and carbon emissions.