The Economist recognises pioneers of energy-efficient chips and practical robotics

Celebrating world leading entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators, scientists and innovators at The Economist’s Innovation Awards 2013

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 - Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson, co-creators of the power-efficient ARM processor design found inside most of the world’s mobile phones, were today named this year’s winners in the Computing & Telecommunications category of The Economist’s Innovation Awards. Colin Angle, founder of iRobot, was named the winner in the No Boundaries category for his achievements in the creation of practical robots for the home, defense and businesses worldwide.

Sponsored by Huawei, the Computing & Telecommunications Award celebrates Professor Furber & Ms Wilson’s ingenuity in designing and creating the ARM processor, whose deliberately simplified “reduced instruction set” (RISC) design was intended to reduce costs. But when the chip was first test, it appeared to be using no power at all. Its simple, efficient design made it ideal for use in mobile devices, and it went on to become the standard in the mobile-handset business, powering billions of phones and tablets, including the iPhone and iPad.

“The ARM processor emerged from Britain’s home-computer boom in the 1980s and went on to change the world,” said Tom Standage, digital editor at The Economist and chairman of the panel of 30 judges. “We are thrilled to recognise its creators, whose role in the mobile revolution deserves to be far more widely known about.”

Victor Zhang, chief executive officer at Huawei UK, sponsors of this year’s Computing & Telecommunications Award, said “we’re very pleased Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson have been recognised for their work on the ARM processor. A technology that is core to the performance of some 95% of smartphones is a deserving recipient. Like ARM, Huawei wants to foster an industry ecosystem centred on innovation and respect for IP. Each year Huawei commits at least 10% of our annual revenue to R&D. That’s why we are delighted to be part of these awards which celebrate the people behind the world's most exciting technological breakthroughs. The future success of business and society alike relies on this important work.”

Now in their 12th year, the Innovation Awards recognise significant contributions in eight fields: Bioscience, Computing and Telecommuncations, Consumer Products, Energy and Environment, Process and Services, Social and Economic, No Boundaries and Corporate.

The No Boundaries category recognises achievements in emerging fields, and robotics is a good example, in no small part because of the work of Mr Angle. One of the worlds’ leading authorities on mobile robotics, Mr Angle is an industry pioneer with more than two decades of experience. He co-founded iRobot in 1990 with the aim of developing robots for practical use. The company’s products include the Roomba®, Scooba® and Braava™ domestic cleaning robots and other robots used for defence, security, medical and business applications.

“Mr Angle has been at the forefront of the effort to move robots out of the laboratory and the factory and into the world,” said Tom Standage, digital editor at The Economist and chairman of the panel of 30 judges. “We are delighted to highlight his accomplishments with this award.”

About the winners:

Computing & Telecommunications AwardSteve Furber and Sophie Wilson, the ARM processor

Sophie Wilson designed the instruction set for one of the first RISC processors, called the Acorn RISC Machine or ARM, in 1983. Originally designed to be inexpensive, its low power consumption later became one of its biggest selling points. ARM now licenses its intellectual property to companies such as Qualcomm, Apple, Intel, Samsung, and Texas Instruments who then make processors based on its designs. The company has 973 licensees and signed 22 new ones in the first quarter of 2013. Shipments of ARM chips are running at about 10 billion a year, up 35% from a year ago.

Once Ms Wilson had completed the basic work on the instruction sets, it was up to Steve Furber to turn the design into something that could be implemented and manufactured. It took them and their team about 18 months to go from idea to usable chip. Professor Furber is now ICL professor of computer engineering at the University of Manchester. Ms Wilson is senior technical director in Broadcom’s office in Cambridge, England.

No Boundaries AwardColin Angle, Advances in practical robotics

In 1990 Colin Angle started iRobot, a company with the vision of making practical robots a reality. Today, iRobot designs and builds robots that help with household cleaning, extremely dangerous military and civil defence operations, and allow doctors to communicate with patients from anywhere in the world.

The company’s 2012 revenue was $436 million. Mr Angle serves as chairman of the board and chief executive officer. iRobot has sold more than 10 million robots for home use since its inception. Its first, the Roomba vacuum cleaning robot, is an autonomous, disc-shaped vacuum that came to market in 2002. iRobot has also delivered more than 5,000 robots to military and defence forces and provides mobile remote presence solutions for healthcare and business applications. The company operates an educational outreach programme designed to encourage students to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects.

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About The Economist (www.economist.com)

With a growing global readership (now 4.5m) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognised and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary. Its website (www.economist.com) offers articles from the past ten years, in addition to web-only content such as blogs, debates and audio/video programmes. The Economist is now available to download for reading on Android, iPhone, or iPad devices.

About Huawei (www.huawei.com)

Huawei is a leading telecoms solutions provider serving 45 of the world's top 50 telecom operators. Huawei's products and solutions have been deployed in over 100 countries and support the communications needs of one third of the world's population. The company is committed to providing innovative and customized products, services and solutions to create long-term value and growth potential for its customers. 

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