How the UK can deliver innovation on a world stage

Technology has real potential to change lives for the better. However, when designing something new, it is always important to take into account that these technologies must end up in real products which consumers are compelled to buy, and find their lives enriched as a result.


Imagination Technologies, a leading UK-based designer of intellectual property (IP) used in multimedia, processor and communications chips, is run on a philosophy that spurring innovation is about looking for discontinuities and spotting trends across multiple markets. This involves a deep understanding of what drives markets and how technology must be designed to address that.

Sir Hossein Yassaie (below), CEO, Imagination Technologies says: “The consumer market enables everyone in the supply chain to thrive, provided they are truly end-user focused. This growth can only be sustained through ensuring the best possible user experiences and original, exciting product offerings that make a real difference to consumers. The entire industry must be increasingly aware of what consumers want and need, and focus their engineering towards fulfilling those needs.”

Mobile is perhaps the best example of this; when the first smartphones were launched, even industry insiders were wondering whether there was any future for these devices in the context of portable electronics. Since then, smartphones have become everyone’s main computing device – in part due to the powerful but low-power PowerVR graphics technologies that Imagination has pioneered.

Everything will need to be smart, so most devices will need a CPU with low power credentials for the next wave of wearable devices. Imagination’s latest MIPS processors, for example, are designed to be extremely small and efficient, enabling products that do amazing things, yet can run for weeks or even months without recharging the battery.

However the only way to optimise the power, performance and cost of a product is to integrate everything on the same chip. Imagination was a pioneer of this everything-on-the-SoC trend many years ago, when most were convinced graphics would never end up on the same chip as the CPU. The result: making smartphones possible. So their latest Ensigma RPU (radio processing unit) technology is set to ruffle a few more feathers.

p12-3For years, including key functions such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on the SoC (system-on-chip) has been a hot topic among silicon design engineers. By incorporating an RPU into the SoC, future generations of devices can deliver a compelling combination of ubiquitous connectivity as well as world TV and radio reception if needed – ideal for the myriad low-cost, battery-powered products that will define the Internet of Things.

Continues Yassaie: “Two out of the top three silicon IP companies are UK-based. The rest of the UK tech sector should capitalise on these innovative home-grown chip technologies and the software and applications built on top of them, all designed and implemented here in the UK. There is still great opportunity and potential for UK companies to be successful on a global stage if we do the right things and have the right policies implemented.”

Imagination strongly believes the UK needs to ensure that we have a technology and industrial strategy that takes the current environment, industry trends, and expertise and skillsets into account – and actively steers the UK towards a strong and vital position for the future.

“There are positive signs but all these efforts need to be part of a larger strategy co-ordinated between industry and government,” concludes Yassaie, “and we need this happening yesterday.”

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