CSR plc, the Cambridge-based wireless silicon company, has won this year’s Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for its single chip BlueCore™ family, the revolutionary devices which have fuelled the inexorable rise of Bluetooth wireless products, from mobile phones to medical devices.

The five-strong team of engineers, CEO John Hodgson, Commercial Director Dr Phil O’Donovan, Technical Director James Collier, Sales Director Glenn Collinson and VP of Operations Chris Ladas, 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 Monday 6 June 2005. Prince Philip is the Academy’s Senior Fellow and has presented the MacRobert Award every year since its inception in 1969.

“From a standing start in 1999, CSR has established a leading position among the world’s largest semiconductor companies,” says Dr Robin Paul FREng, Chairman of the MacRobert Award judging panel. “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.”

“I’m delighted to see CSR winning this year’s MacRobert Award,” says Academy President Lord Broers. “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. “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,” says Dr Phil O’Donovan, CSR’s Commercial Director and Co-founder. But 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.

Critically, CSR’s outstanding innovation performance has been matched by commercial success. They floated on the London Stock Exchange in March 2004 and entered the FTSE 250 just 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.

“Bluetooth is also being used to create whole classes of products that were not previously possible,” says Glenn Collinson, CSR’s Sales Director and Co-founder, “such as wireless medical devices that benefit patients and remove the load from healthcare professionals. The LifeSync wireless sensor and ECG monitor from GMP Wireless Medicine Inc gives patients freedom from wires and gives 12-lead ECG continuous monitoring and reporting. The Digital Pulse Oximeter from Nonin Medical Inc wirelessly measures and reports the saturation of oxygen in arterial blood. Both of these products use our chips.”

Phil 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”.

Notes for editors

  1. First presented in 1969, the MacRobert Award honours the winning company with a gold medal and up to five team members with a tax-free prize of £50,000 between them. Founded by the MacRobert Trusts, the Award is now presented by the Academy after a prize fund was established with donations from the MacRobert Trusts, the Academy and British industry.
  2. CSR’s success was announced by Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science and Innovation, at the Academy’s annual Awards Dinner on 2 June. 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.
  3. Last year’s winner of the MacRobert Award was IBM UK for WebSphere MQ software, which has helped businesses save billions of dollars by providing a failsafe means of exchanging business-critical information between computer systems
  4. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  5. About CSR
    CSR plc is the leading global provider of Bluetooth technology and has developed expertise in other single-chip wireless communication standards such as Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11). CSR offers developed hardware/software solutions for Bluetooth based around BlueCore, a fully integrated 2.4 GHz radio, baseband and microcontroller.

    CSR is now producing its fourth generation BlueCore devices. BlueCore4 supports the Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) standard which was ratified at the end of 2004. BlueCore4 remains the only EDR silicon to be shipping in volume today. In November 2004 CSR launched UniFi, the first single chip 802.11a/b/g embedded solution specifically targeting the mobile phone and consumer electronics markets.

    BlueCore features in over 47 per cent of all Bluetooth devices shipped and over 60 per cent of all qualified Bluetooth enabled products and modules listed on the Bluetooth website with industry leaders including Nokia, Dell, Panasonic, Sharp, Motorola, IBM, Apple, NEC, Toshiba, RIM and Sony using BlueCore devices in their range of Bluetooth products.

    In March 2005, CSR acquired Clarity Technologies Inc., for its Clear Voice Capture (CVC) technology that enhances the audio performance of any voice-based product or system. Applications for CVC include wireless headsets, handsets and automotive hands free systems.

    CSR has its headquarters in Cambridge, UK, and offices in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden and both Texas and Detroit in the USA.
    More information can be found at www.csr.com

    More information about Bluetooth technology can be found on the SIG web site at www.bluetooth.com

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Or Alan Woolhouse at CSR plc tel. 01223 692689
Or David Marsden, EML (PR agency for CSR) tel. +44-208 408 8000