'Massive leap' wins engineering award

Motor testing Image copyright Artemis
Image caption Artemis is an Edinburgh-based company whose systems will help make new wind turbines much more efficient

An Edinburgh company has won the UK's top engineering prize for its digital hydraulic power system.

The MacRobert Award judges said Artemis Intelligent Power's "digital displacement" system was a "technical advance of global importance".

The technology could increase the power of offshore wind turbines and cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions in commuter trains and buses.

The award judges called it "a massive leap forward".

The £50,000 MacRobert Award has been presented by the Royal Academy of Engineering annually since 1969.

It is known for spotting the "next big thing" in the technology sector, previously recognising technologies such as the catalytic converter and the CT scanner.

The judging panel said the Artemis system had "done for hydraulic engines what James Watt did for steam engines".

It has developed a digital hydraulic power system that can replace the mechanical gearbox in conventional wind turbines.

The "Digital Displacement" system is set to power the next generation of offshore turbines, making them more efficient and reliable.

One system has already been installed in a 7MW turbine - double the current average turbine power of 3.5MW - off the Scottish coast.

Image copyright Artemis
Image caption Artemis's digital hydraulic system has been fitted in a turbine at a test site in Hunterston in Ayrshire, which is already feeding power to the grid

The same technology can also be used to reduce the fuel consumption of commuter trains and buses.

A regenerative braking energy storage system based on "Digital Displacement" can be retrofitted to existing diesel commuter trains, reducing fuel consumption by about 10%.

The system also generates less noise and cuts exhaust emissions within stations.

Artemis has been working with Lothian Buses and Alexander Dennis to develop hybrid buses which are cheaper and more fuel efficient.

Originally a spin-out from the University of Edinburgh, Artemis was acquired by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2010.

Chairwoman of the MacRobert judging panel, Dame Sue Ion, said: "The Artemis story is truly compelling. The company has achieved a technical advance of global importance, making significant power delivery from offshore wind considerably more credible and realisable, and facilitating the global goal of reducing CO2 emissions.

"This is not simply evolutionary improvement but a complete step change, and one that took years of commitment to achieve.

"The Artemis Digital Displacement system is both an incredible piece of invention, and a brilliant example of detailed engineering design. It represents excellence in multiple facets of engineering, from control system technology to software and elegant mechanical design.

"The multidisciplinary engineering team within Artemis has produced a unique, world-beating product and is realising significant commercial success as a result. As a UK SME, Artemis represents the very best of modern UK engineering with global significance, which the Academy continues to champion through its Engineering for Growth campaign."

Last year's MacRobert Award winner, SME Cobalt Light Systems, won for the innovation behind an airport security liquid scanner that can now be found in over 65 airports throughout Europe.

More on this story