Millennium Product Award for University of Aberdeen invention

Millennium Product Award for University of Aberdeen invention

Prime Minister Tony Blair presents engineers with second prestigious award for GRANIT

Engineers at the University of Aberdeen today (Tuesday, December 14) picked up a highly prestigious award for the invention of the world’s first artificial intelligence system for testing ground anchors.

Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the news at the launch of the Design Council’s Millennium Products Initiative in London. This follows the Government’s challenge to industry in September 1997 to demonstrate that Britain is still the creative powerhouse of the world.

Professor Albert Rodger, who led the Aberdeen end of the research with Professor James Penman, was in London to pick up the award for GRANIT (Ground Anchorage Integrity Testing), which was invented by the Department of Engineering at the University of Aberdeen in conjunction with the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bradford.

GRANIT is a system that should revolutionise safety – and quality control – in applications where rock bolts or ground anchorages are used. Typically, these anchorages hold back excavations in a range of situations from retaining walls through to complex tunnelling and mining projects. The system will accurately monitor anchorage installations through a ‘neural network’, ensuring that failure can be identified far in advance.

It will also monitor the quality of anchorage installations and their loading capabilities, offering the potential widespread reductions in cost associated with over-design.

GRANIT is the culmination of more than 10 years research at Aberdeen University by a multi-disciplinary team comprising mechanical, civil and electrical engineers. The research team was: Professor Albert Rodger (civil engineering), Professor James Penman (electrical engineering), Dr Richard Neilson (mechanical engineering) and research staff Andrew Starkey, Ana Ivanovic and Grant Milne.

In 1996, the two universities signed a deal with AMEC Civil Engineering Ltd, one of Europe’s largest construction companies, to push the technology into the world market. AMEC now holds an exclusive licence for GRANIT and it has been patented world-wide by Aberdeen and Bradford universities.

Professor Rodger expressed his delight at the honour to the University in the selection of GRANIT as a Millennium Product.

He said: “GRANIT should provide a major contribution to the safety of structures, which are in use by millions of people every day. The market potential is world-wide and vast.”

Richard Wright, Director of AMEC Civil Engineering, said: “This is tremendous news for the GRANIT system. It offers enormous potential in areas where safety is a crucial consideration, such as mining and tunnelling. Tests so far have shown the system to be very accurate and fast in comparison to conventional methods of integrity testing. It is already attracting considerable international interest.”

Design Council Chief Executive Andrew Summers said: “I am delighted that GRANIT has been announced as a Millennium Product and is going to form part of our collection of the most innovative products and services created in Britain for the new millennium.”

The award is the second won by GRANIT in the past two years. The inventors of GRANIT were presented with the prestigious John Logie Baird Award for Innovation in 1997.

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