A firm developing an on-the-spot breast cancer and bone disease test has won £50,000 from the Royal Academy of Engineering.
It said the technique, designed by Oxfordshire’s Cobalt Light Systems, was the most promising technology to come out of the UK this year.
The test works by analysing the chemical composition of a substance behind virtually any barrier, including skin.
Princess Anne presented the award.
John Robinson, chairman of the judging panel, said it could “improve the lives of millions of people”.
Cobalt’s bone disease scanner is currently in pre-clinical trials on NHS patients at the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, University College London, and at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex.
If the trial is successful it will be developed to create a system that looks more specifically at osteoporosis. It is hoped the method could lead to earlier diagnosis in patients.
The breast cancer test, which is still in the early stages of research, would work by using the same non-invasive technique, rather than a needle biopsy.
The technology is already being used in an airport liquid scanner, which could relax the existing hand-luggage liquid ban.
The Insight100 system can analyse bottles of up to three litres, to determine if they contain anything considered a threat. The scanners are being used in 65 airports in Europe, including Heathrow and Gatwick.
Cobalt beat finalists Rolls-Royce and OptaSense to win the award.