Collaborate to Innovate Awards - top prize by ‘The Engineer’

The ORCHID project, a major research initiative involving the University of Oxford, took top prize in the data and connectivity category at the Collaborate to Innovate Awards last week.

Orchid Project TeamOrganised by The Engineer – the UK’s longest running engineering publication – the awards were aimed at identifying some of the UK’s most impressive and innovative examples of engineering collaboration.

The ORCHID project tackled one of the key challenges in modern science – how humans and intelligent software systems can function together in a seamless and effective manner.

The project spawned 30 follow-on projects worth £15 million. It also established a new multi-disciplinary research community and initiated a range of start-up companies. For example, the researchers developed machine learning algorithms that use crowdsourced interpretations of satellite imagery and tweets, together with less reliable but more scalable automated approaches, to generate disaster heatmaps which identified the critical regions that require aid after a disaster.  This technology was used in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake to save lives by identifying and mapping settlements across the affected areas helping to identify aid and search and rescue priorities.

ORCHID co-investigator Dr Steven Reece, from the Department of Engineering Science Machine Learning Research Group and who leads the disaster response work, said: “This award is a great recognition of how multi-disciplinary research, in collaboration with industry and end-users, can generate research impact.  ORCHID brought together researchers and practitioners from different disciplines to tackle really difficult challenges. I think the main reason this collaboration was so successful is because the partners fully integrated and exploited the opportunities that each organisation brought to the table."

Oxford project lead Professor Stephen Roberts added: “The ORCHID project enabled communities of experts from different domains to pool their talents and solve an array of important problems. The breadth of research achievement was staggering and highlights what can be done in interdisciplinary research areas.”

The ORCHID team will receive the award as part of The Engineer’s Collaborate to Innovate Conference, which will be held in Manchester this November.