Shooting for the moon with Audi
After the closing date for the WIRED Audi Innovation Awards 2016 ‘Moonshot of the Year’ category, we decided to take to the road in an equally innovative Audi TT, to visit some of the nominees and find out more about what they’re doing.
The Moonshot category of the awards celebrates pioneering innovators, with the shortlist including companies such as London-based Google DeepMind, who are changing the shape of artificial intelligence, and Target Malaria, a non-profit organisation who aim to overcome one of the world’s most chronic diseases.
Edinburgh is the first stop on the road trip, where one of the institutions involved in the Novosang project is based, whose aim is to create man-made blood. Several universities and research centres, including Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, and NHS Blood and Transplant make up the project.
‘The team are honoured to be shortlisted,’ said Professor Marc Turner, the Medical Director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. ‘Our work certainly comes into the Moonshot category and is very challenging on almost every level.’ The work of this project offers solutions to routine treatments and cellular therapies for treating degenerative diseases, and is due to begin trials with human subjects as early as 2017.
Back in the TT, the next destination is Reaction Engines in Oxfordshire. The TT’s superb engine makes the drive smooth and hassle-free; you can book a test drive to experience it for yourself at Jardine Motors Audi. Reaction Engines is working on a new concept for a single-stage space plane – one that will be able to take off like a conventional jet.
Reaction Engines CEO, Mark Thomas, speaks about the nomination: ‘Innovation that will change the world in your lifetime – it’s a genuine moonshot!’ The speed of the plane is even more impressive than the Audi R8, and will be able to fly at Mach 5, travelling from London to Sydney in just three hours.
From Oxfordshire, the TT speeds its way to Bristol, where start-up company Open Bionics resides. Open Bionics is changing the face of prosthetic limbs by using 3D-printing methods to create bionic hands. These revolutionary limbs are much cheaper to produce than conventional options, and have a far greater capacity for personalisation; children are able to choose comic-book-inspired designs, for example.
Samantha Payne, co-founder of Open Bionics, says: ‘The calibre of the projects we have been placed alongside is phenomenal. It’s great to be recognised amongst these projects for our contribution to technology for good.’
The final stop took us to West London, and finding the exact location was a lot simpler than complex letters on a sat-nav; we simply put three words – index, home, raft – into an app and off we went. Our destination was, of course, the home of mapping-revolutionaries, What3Words. By dividing the globe into 57 trillion squares, and identifying each with a unique three-word combination, they are able to literally put people back on the map.
Giles Rhys Jones, chief marketing officer, explains the app’s mission: ‘Poor addressing means packages get lost, friends don’t meet each other, and around the world over four billion people are invisible to the state because they don’t have a way to describe where they live. Just being nominated for the Moonshot award is a huge honour.’
The public voting closed at the end of September, and the awards ceremony for the lucky winners will be held in November. Until then, it’s time to let the TT rest back home at Jardine Motors Audi. Why not pay us a visit and explore our own innovations yourself?