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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Top UK innovation prize for IBM
Computer cables
The software lets different computer systems talk to each other
IBM has scooped an eminent UK engineering award for its "middleware" breed of software called Websphere MQ.

Used by top global banks, it has transformed e-commerce, allowing data transfers across computer systems without the need for custom coding.

The Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert prize rewards technological and engineering innovation.

IBM, one of four finalists, was awarded the 50,000 prize money by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh at a London ceremony.

The software, developed by IBM's Hursley Laboratory in the UK, is crucial for the computing infrastructure of many top companies.

"This award recognises the importance of software as an engineering discipline in its own right, as much as it recognises the success of IBM WebSphere MQ," said Graham Spittle, director of the Hursley lab Director.

"The MacRobert Award is an indication of the maturity of the industry and recognition of the significance of the role IT plays in the modern world."

'Pioneering' ware

Banks that provide internet services make use of the software's adaptability so that transactions take place without mistakes, even when computers go offline.

The software means vital information can be swapped between computer systems, wherever they are and whatever hardware, programming language or operating system they use.

E3 electronic advanced fuel system: Delphi Diesel Systems
Websphere MQ: IBM UK
Pilkington Activ self-cleaning glass: Pilkington
Switchable 2D-3D displays: Sharp Laboratories of Europe

IBM describes the software, which was developed in 1994, as "pioneering" because it lets applications on any of over 40 separate computer platforms to communicate and handle data transfer easily.

Previously, the only way to connect such systems was through custom coding.

"Without Websphere MQ we might never have enjoyed the full benefits of the e-commerce revolution," said Dr Robin Paul, Chairman of the MacRobert judging panel.

"When you realise how many IT systems have to talk to each other when, for example, you check your balance and transfer funds online you really start to appreciate the value of this innovation.

"By enabling seamless communications between computers, the engineers at Hursley have effectively created the oil that now keeps the world's e-commerce machine running."

The other finalists for the MacRobert award included self-cleaning glass, an eco-friendly fuel-injection system, and displays that can switch from 2D to 3D.

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