The team behind the tiny cheap ‘Raspberry Pi’ computers has been awarded the UK’s top engineering prize – The Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Prize, at a ceremony in London last night, beating the two other finalists, cyber-security firm Darktrace and radiotherapy pioneers Vision RT.
The award was given to the Raspberry Pi because of the role it played in helping to re-invent computing.
“With a very small team of engineers, Raspberry Pi has redefined home computing for many thousands of people across the world,” one of the award judges, Dr. Frances Saunders, said.
Designed to help inspire more young people to get into computing, Raspberry Pi’s tiny low-cost micro PC can be used as the control center of almost anything, from video games to multi-room sound systems to robots and scientific experiments. The ‘Pi’ has inspired a new generation of makers and brought computer programming into classrooms in a fun and engaging way.
The tiny computer launched in 2012, has come a long way in these five years. More than 14 million units of the device have been sold and it recently partnered with Google to add artificial intelligence.
“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. They hoped to sell a few thousand units, but sales have now passed 14 million, and the Pi is widely used in factories as well as in classrooms and homes, even taking 1 percent of the global PC market,” Frances said.
Speaking with the BBC prior to the ceremony, Raspberry Pi Trading CEO Eben Upton described the award as “a validation of the fact that we have built something bigger than we ever envisaged.”
Previous winners of the innovation award, which has been run since 1969, include the creators of the CT scanner; the designers of the Severn Bridge; and the team at Microsoft in Cambridge that developed the Kinect motion sensor. The winners receive a gold medal and a £50,000 prize.