View all news

The Brunel factor: finding the Brunels of the future

Press release issued: 14 March 2006

2006 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineering genius, technical innovator and one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution.

2006 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineering genius, technical innovator and one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution.

In this one-off programme for ITV West, produced in partnership with the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA), we not only celebrate one of the foremost engineers of the 19th century but, more importantly, encourage and reveal the Brunels of the future.  The programme is scheduled for transmission on Thursday April 20.

Students from the University of Bath, the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England will go head-to-head in a unique competition to create daring and innovative engineering designs.

These will be judged by Andrew Kelly, Director of Brunel 200, Gordon Masterton, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and West-based engineer and inventor James Dyson, in order to crown the ‘new Brunel’ of the 21st century - the individual or team that best reflects the diversity of Brunel’s astounding talent.

Judging for the award, to be titled the ‘ITV/RDA Brunel Award’, will take place on March 12 at the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.

The winning team, or individual, will receive a cash prize of £5,000 to be presented by South West RDA Chairman Juliet Williams.

Juliet Williams said:  “Brunel proved that innovation is the key to economic progress.  Nothing has changed.

“A critical role of the South West RDA is to help transform innovative thinking into commercial success and to encourage and champion the Brunels of today and tomorrow.  I am delighted that we are associated with this exciting award, and I wish all the contestants the very best of luck for the competition.”

What dreams and ambitions do they have? What characteristics do they share with Brunel? How were they inspired by him? The programme will focus on the contestants as they formulate their ideas and prepare their project for judging.

Throughout the programme we will also hear from their academic tutors about their strengths, and witness the ups-and-downs leading to the judging day.

The teams are:

  • University of Bath: Represented by one student who is working on an adjustable, supportive, portable mattress to allow women to lie on their front during pregnancy in order to reduce back pain. It is also hoped the mattress will provide other holistic benefits. Supervised by Professor Tony Miles and Dr Elies Dekoninck, (Department of Mechanical Engineering) in collaboration with local entrepreneur Adrienne Percival".
  • University of Bristol: Represented by a team devising and implementing a system to protect a model building from earthquake damage, supervised by Professor Colin Taylor and Dr Adam Crewe (Department of Civil Engineering).
  • The University of West of England: Represented by a team working on a project involving new brains for new robots.  This includes an approach to control a learning robot that learns when to feed itself electricity. The project also explores the possibilities for using the same approach to program a chemical computer (a 'wet brain'), artificial intelligence for the future.  Supervised by Professor Larry Bull and Dr. Ben de Lacy Costello (Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and the Faculty of Applied Sciences), part of a wider project involving Professor Andrew Adamatzky.


“This is a great project. We have always seen Brunel 200 as both about a man and the past and the future and one of our aims is to create new Brunels -- creative individuals and teams dedicated to solving the problems and meeting the opportunities of our time.” said Andrew Kelly .

The programme has received full support from Brunel 200 team, the South West Regional Development Agency and the main Brunel sites in Bristol (ss Great Britain, the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum and Clifton Suspension Bridge).

The Brunel Factor: Finding the Brunel of the Future is a 123 Media production for ITV West. The producer and director are Stuart Napier and Cristina Galimberti, and the executive producer is James Garrett.


Edit this page