The University of York has won Outstanding Engineering Research Team of the Year in the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards 2011. Winners were announced at a gala dinner on 24 November at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
The awards, now in their seventh year, represent a high profile opportunity to celebrate the excellence and achievements of UK higher education institutions. York was named University of the Year in last year’s THE awards ceremony.
York’s Advanced Computer Architectures (ACA) group, part of the University’s Department of Computer Science, was one of six shortlisted research teams in this category.
The award is designed to recognise a team whose innovative research has made or has the potential to make, a far-reaching impact on its field and to catch the public’s imagination.
The group is led by Professor Jim Austin. He said: “We are absolutely delighted by the award; it recognises the years of hard work of the team and its collaborators. I am sure that the main factors in winning have been our commitment to solving real problems, in real applications, with an understanding of the commercial constraints.
“We have benefitted from a consistent and talented team over the last 10 years, supported through Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Technology Strategy Board (TSB) grants. This has allowed us to build the deep expertise needed to solve the hard problems industry faces. Being in a successful, supportive Department and University has made all the difference. We are looking forward to a rosy future despite these hard times.”
The Advanced Computer Architectures group’s work is based on ideas of how the brain works. The team has successfully developed a breakthrough technology – AURA – which mimics the brain’s ability to make sense of massive amounts of data.
We are absolutely delighted by the award; it recognises the years of hard work of the team and its collaborators
Professor Jim Austin
Professor Austin said: “In basic terms, AURA allows large, complex and unstructured data to be stored and searched. Uniquely it allows textual, image and signal information to be analysed quickly, despite the inherent problems in ‘real’ data – that they are incomplete, badly described and large in quantity.
“The main use has been to facilitate ‘find one like it’ searching which looks for patterns in past data similar to those found in current data to spot current and likely future events that have happened before.”
The team has worked with Rolls-Royce on Aero Engines, where AURA was used to analyse patterns of unusual activities in engines, while teams using AURA in the Department for Transport have improved management of the road system.
Its methods have proved so successful that the team has set up a spin-off company, Cybula Ltd, to further develop the application of these ideas in areas including power generation, wind energy systems and medicine.
York is a partner in Realising Opportunities, an unprecedented collaboration of 12 leading universities, which was named Widening Participation Initiative of the Year. York was also nominated in the Outstanding Support for Students and Entrepreneurial University of the Year categories.
This is the fourth year that York has been recognised by the Times Higher Education Awards: in addition to being named University of the Year in 2010, York was also awarded Outstanding Contribution to Leadership Development in 2009 and Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiative in 2008.