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Raspberry Pi wins UK’s top engineering innovation prize!

30 June 2017

The small but mighty microcomputer that has revolutionised control systems and redefined how people engage with coding wins the MacRobert Award.

Raspberry Pi 3

Known for spotting the 'next big thing’, the annual Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award is presented to the engineers behind the UK engineering profession's most exciting innovation.

The Raspberry Pi team was up against cyber security machine learning experts Darktrace and surface guided radiotherapy pioneers Vision RT for the coveted award. Its tiny, low-cost micro PC can be used as the control centre of almost anything, from video games to robots, multi-room sound systems, pet feeders, or scientific experiments. The ‘Pi’ has inspired a new generation of makers and brought computer programming into classrooms in a fun and engaging way.

Originally conceived as a way to boost computer science applications to the University of Cambridge, Raspberry Pi has created a whole new class of computer that has transformed the way engineers design control systems in industry. Before Raspberry Pi, each industry had its own suppliers of control computers, which in turn reduced competition and lowered quality. The robust and flexible Raspberry Pi has swept this market away and over half of Raspberry Pi’s are now sold to industry.

The Pi has also proved phenomenally successful in its original educational ambition. Over 12 million devices have been sold in total, re-engaging people with the power of coding, and helping to ensure that future generations are equipped for the increasingly digital jobs of the future. This success has been enabled by the Pi’s affordability: the product has been developed at a price-point that makes it accessible to anyone: just £28 for the flagship product, or an even smaller version, the Raspberry Pi Zero, at £4.

The winners receive both a gold medal and a £50,000 prize at the Academy Awards Dinner, hosted this year at the Landmark London Hotel.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said “All three of this year’s finalists demonstrate exceptional engineering, but what sets Raspberry Pi apart is the sheer quality of the innovation, which has allowed the computer to be used far beyond its original purpose. By blending old and new technology with innovative systems engineering and circuit board design, the team has created a computer that is cheap, robust, small and flexible. It is manufactured in the UK cheaper and at higher quality than elsewhere. Raspberry Pi’s original educational goal has actually resulted in a computer control system that can influence many different industries.

“Raspberry Pi has also inspired multiple generations to get into coding: children are learning about coding for the first time, often alongside their parents and grandparents. Communities in the developing world are being empowered by the Raspberry Pi and its modern day computing-on-a-budget.”

MacRobert Award Judge Dr Frances Saunders CB FREng said “The Raspberry Pi team has achieved something that mainstream multinational computer companies and leading processing chip designers not only failed to do, but failed even to spot a need for. With a team of engineers numbering in the tens, not hundreds or thousands, Raspberry Pi has redefined home computing for many thousands of people across the world, even taking 1 percent of the global PC market. Their refusal to compromise on quality, price point or functionality has resulted in a highly innovative design that has taken the education and maker market by storm, and they have created a world-beating business in the process.”

The unprecedented success of the Raspberry Pi, alongside a number of other initiatives, is helping to boost applications to university computer science courses, with many citing Raspberry Pi as their inspiration.

The winning team members are: Dr Eben Upton CBE, CEO; James Adams, COO; Pete Lomas, Director of Engineering, Norcott Technologies; Dom Cobley, Senior Principal Software Engineer; Gordon Hollingworth, Director of Engineering; Liz Upton, Director of Communications.

Video courtesy of Royal Academy of Engineering

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