Alumnus wins RAE medal for outstanding contribution to UK engineering

Friday 5 July

Professor Paul Newman

Professor Paul Newman (Balliol 1991) is to be awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Silver Medal ’for an outstanding personal contribution to UK engineering … resulting in market exploitation’.

Professor Paul Newman FREng is the BP Professor of Information Engineering within Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Director of the Oxford Robotics Institute. He will be awarded the Silver Medal in recognition of his innovations in navigation and autonomous vehicles, having produced outstanding - and commercially successful – innovations early in his career.

During an EPSRC Leadership Fellowship, Professor Newman developed the ‘Robotcar’, which in 2013 became the first autonomous vehicle on UK roads, paving the way for future autonomous vehicle operation. His technical work underpins the government’s strategy on driverless cars, and he currently serves on the Department for Transport’s Science Advisory Council. He co-founded University of Oxford spinout Oxbotica, which has recently partnered with Addison Lee to bring autonomous taxis to London. Its technology enables robots to navigate without relying on GPS or any other external infrastructure. Instead it uses onboard sensors, cameras, lasers and radars to interpret and act in specific environments. Oxbotica’s Universal Autonomy software has been used commercially in a vast range of environments – from autonomous cars on public roads to mines, warehouses, forests, airports and ports, in any weather, at any time.  

Professor Newman said: ’I’m immensely honoured by this award. It means a great deal to me. It is a result of a fantastic journey with amazing people from around the world - Sydney, MIT, Oxford and of course Oxbotica, without all of them none of this would be possible. To be recognised for doing something I adore, and that I believe matters so much, makes this all the more precious. The way in which people and goods are moved is about to change beyond recognition. To be able to make a contribution to that global revolution here in the UK makes me proud, happy and thankful to all my colleagues, employers, funders and partners.’

Professor Phil Blythe, Chief Scientific Adviser, Office for Science, Department for Transport (DfT) said: ‘I cannot think of an engineer, who is also a world-leading academic, more deserving of this award. Paul has created an enduring legacy by putting UK academia at the forefront of the robotics and automation sector and has successfully translated this to industry through the company spun out from his research group, Oxbotica, and through other industrial partners who have benefited from this technology translation. Moreover, I value his advice as a member of my DfT Science Advisory Council and the support he has given to the Government’s Industrial Strategy.’

Professor Newman will receive the award at the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner on 11 July 2019. You can read a Balliol student’s interview with him in Floreat Domus 2017 here.