The first government-backed innovation awards for science and technology were unveiled today at the Science Museum in London. The government claims that the awards will make the industry more exciting, and help it achieve the recognition it deserves.
Science and Innovation minister Lord Drayson said that the Iawards would recognise individuals or businesses at the "cutting edge" of science and technology, in the same way that the Baftas rate the best films.
"We aim to create a platform to champion those in science, technology and innovation," he said.
The awards will highlight achievements in context with government plans to tackle the nation's key challenges of creating new jobs, addressing the healthcare needs of an ageing society, encouraging green energy and fighting terrorism.
"New ideas and products will get us out of the downturn and provide the foundations on which we can build Britain's future," said Lord Drayson.
The minister suggested that most people are not aware of the levels of science and technology expertise in Britain, even though the nation has been home to some of the greatest minds in the world.
British entrepreneur and Dragon's Den panellist James Caan spoke at the same event. "In Britain we do not recognise science, technology and innovation enough, and students are not encouraged to join the sector. This means most students feel that financial services and law are the best areas to be in," he said.
Caan explained that, while names such as Google, Intel and Amazon spring to mind when discussing US technology and innovation, and India is renowned for its call centres and outsourcing, Britain does relatively little to market its inventors.
"Look at what America did with Silicon Valley and the economic strength it gave them. Why can't we do that in Britain?" he asked.
The awards are in 13 categories and are open to organisations of all types and sizes, but must specify the British involvement in any innovation.
"It is the quality of the idea that will win an award. This is not just for big companies that have huge research and development budgets. We're looking for breakthrough products and services," said Lord Drayson.
Winners will be provided with PR support for a month after they win, and will benefit from having the Iaward recognition logo to raise their profile.
Sponsors currently include Microsoft and Siemens, but the government is requesting more businesses to come forward to help fund the initiative.
Lord Drayson said he was keen to ensure that the awards take place regularly.
Applicants can apply on the Iawards web site. The winners will be announced on 16 November.
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