LONDON CSR has won this year’s Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for its single chip BlueCore family of Bluetooth ICs.
A five-strong team of CSR (Cambridge, UK) engineers, CEO John Hodgson, Commercial Director and Co-founder Dr Phil O’Donovan, Technical Director and Co-founder James Collier, Sales Director and co-founder Glenn Collinson and VP of Operations Chris Ladas, will receive a tax-free prize of £50,000 between them plus a gold medal for the company from HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace on June 6.
Prince Philip is the Academy’s Senior Fellow and has presented the MacRobert Award every year since its inception in 1969.
Dr Robin Paul FREng, Chairman of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said, “From a standing start in 1999, CSR has established a leading position among the world’s largest semiconductor companies. They have achieved a remarkable breakthrough to meet the Bluetooth wireless standard proposed in 1998 on a single chip and have moved astutely to become the global market leader, with over 900 Bluetooth consumer products using their chips.”
Academy President Lord Broers, added, “They had a brilliant idea, gathered the best engineers to develop it – including nearly 300 people at their research headquarters in Cambridge – and have become a global success story by exploiting a totally new market opportunity. This is what the MacRobert Award is all about – seeking, seizing and securing commercial opportunities through outstanding engineering innovation”.
CSR’s key technology breakthrough in the late 1990s was to pioneer a silicon chip with an integral radio transmitter. But said Dr Phil O’Donovan, CSR’s Commercial Director and co-founder, “It sounds easy but in fact the ‘noise’ of the electrical signals on a tiny electronic chip would normally swamp a radio receiver working with micro-volt signals, and at the time it was thought to be impossible.”
James Collier, CSR’s Technical Director and Co-founder discovered that judicious frequency planning could enable the radio component to communicate through the din of the silicon chip’s digital traffic. This is like the ‘cocktail party’ effect, where you can hear certain voices over the crowd.
The company floated on the London Stock Exchange in March 2004 and entered the FTSE 250 four months later. Since 1999 they have designed over 30 different BlueCore chips, which are manufactured in Taiwan, and the company is now ranked number one in every Bluetooth market segment. CSR has shipped more than 100 million chips since its foundation, covering 60 per cent of all qualified Bluetooth enabled products, to customers which include industry leaders such as Nokia, Dell, Panasonic, Sharp, Motorola, IBM, Apple, NEC, Toshiba, RIM and Sony using BlueCore™ chips in their range of Bluetooth products.
O’Donovan said, “CSR is honoured to win the MacRobert Gold Medal. This award is recognition of CSR’s highly innovative and commercially successful semiconductor products. Also, it strengthens our ability to further encourage and motivate young people coming through the UK educational system to choose engineering as a career”.
CSR’s success was announced by Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science and Innovation, at the Academy’s annual Awards Dinner on June 2. The three other finalists for this year’s award were Agilent Technologies for acceSS7 Location for tracing mobile phone signals, Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping (OHM) plc for controlled source electromagnetic sounding for oil exploration, and SPI for highly efficient, ultrabright fibre lasers.