Carl Hingley, Senior Automotive Technician at The University of Birmingham’s School of Mechanical Engineering has received a Papin Prize in recognition of his contributions as a technician – sometimes described as the ‘unsung heroes’ of UK higher education.

The University of Birmingham, in conjunction with our fellow research intensive universities across the Midlands, celebrated the work of the technicians who underpin university life with the inaugural 2015 Higher Education Technicians’ Summit on Tuesday 30 June. The Summit was held in association with the research and innovation collaboration of the six leading Midlands universities and the Science Council.

Kelly Vere, Conference Chair, said: “The Summit is the first of its kind – celebrating the achievements, skills and expertise of university technical staff. We are thrilled to have attracted inspirational speakers and the support of a number of learned societies and organisations, all of whom are fully committed to the professional recognition of technicians in higher education and beyond."

Celebrating the talent of technicians
The skills, talent and experience of technicians were celebrated via the inaugural Papin Prizes, which were given to individual technicians across the Midlands region who have demonstrated excellence.

Carl is the Senior Technician for Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham and manages the University’s Formula Student Racing Team. He has worked at the University for over 30 years and was recently received a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Carl said:

I am so happy to have won the Papin prize as it recognises the hard work and dedication that Technicians put into their work. My 39 years here at Birmingham University’s School of Mechanical Engineering has seen me work with so many graduating students, and  they have gone on to incredible jobs in industry. I feel in a small way I have contributed to their success. The upskilling of technicians is clearly seen throughout the sector and I see a bright future for my apprentices. There are always challenging times within higher education, but the skill, dedication and sheer determination of technicians will always shine through.

The Papin Prizes are named after Denis Papin, a 17th century technician who worked with Robert Boyle. Papin invented the steam digester and was one of the first technicians to publish in his own name.

Talks from an astronaut, a lord and a knight

The consortium attracted over 400 guests, who heard from high-profile keynote speakers including:

  • Dr Helen Sharman OBE – first Briton in space, now Technical Manager at Kingston University
  • Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya KT CBE FREng FRS – Professor of Manufacturing and Chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Trustee of the Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nottingham

These distinguished speakers focussed on broader issues around technical skills and education including the importance of technical skills in driving forward innovation, and current initiatives to ensure the future provision of technical education to young people.

Dr Sharman said: “Technicians are usually the unsung heroes and heroines of university life. More than just enabling practical laboratory classes and research, technicians are the glue without which huge chunks of university life would fall apart. Properly recognising technical skills and ensuring full developmental support will ensure universities benefit fully from this wealth of resource”.

Lord Bhattacharyya said: “Technicians play a vital role in supporting STEM subjects in universities and contribute enormously to research, education and outreach activities. I am delighted to see that education and apprenticeship opportunities for technical roles have increased over recent years, and this will encourage more young people to embark on a technical career.”