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Raspberry Pi hopes chancellor's budget will boost support for UK tech industry

19 Mar 2013

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has called for the UK government to support national technology manufacturers ahead of the chancellor's budget this Wednesday.

raspberry-pi-foundation-executive-director-eben-uptonEben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, said the government's pledge to build a successful technology industry may be jeopardised if most of the country's manufacturing continues to take place abroad.

Upton said he hoped chancellor George Osborne's budget would include tax breaks and lending breaks for manufacturers.

Upton's comments follow a large shift in the production of the Raspberry Pi from China to South Wales - a previous national hotspot for manufacturers.

"Raspberry Pi is not even the highest tech product. If you are trying to develop bleeding edge technology, like in the areas of high-end tablets and smartphones, it can be hard to even get a prototype built here at the moment," said Upton.

"This does not only cause the UK to lose manufacturing business but research and development opportunities as well."

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is famous for the development of its ultra-low cost £22 microcomputer, targeted at schools and students.

"Well over 50 percent of the Raspberry Pi but not quite 75 percent is manufactured over here. We would eventually like to move all manufacturing back to the UK" said Upton.

"Manufacturing in the UK tends to be no more expensive than abroad and more convenient."

Upton said the foundation had struggled to find a package on package (PoP) manufacturer for the development of the Raspberry Pi in the UK.

"PoP allows you to put RAM on top of the processor. It's a standard process for mobile phone manufacturing in the Far East but there's a lack of manufacturers over here. Sony began PoP manufacturing in order to bid for the development of Raspberry Pi," said Upton.

"I think Sony created up to 30 jobs just by building the Raspberry Pi, and that was when the contract with them just started. So manufacturing can bring lots of jobs to the UK. There's a real impact."

Meanwhile, UK startup Huddle urged the government to do more to support national IT firms and reward businesses and public sector departments for buying software from UK firms.

"We don't have a large UK market and the government has a strong part to play in developing this. We need to make the best use of the home market and buy British," said Huddle vice president of worldwide sales, Simon O'Kane.

"The government has some good polices around this but they are low level at the moment. We want to see more of this and more action higher up the food chain."

In Osborne's Autumn Statement, he revealed a £5bn infrastructure spending plan that will include the expansion of ultrafast broadband to 12 UK cities.

Osborne also offered good news to the startup sector by offering business tax cuts and £1.5bn in loans to finance small firms' exports.

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Rosalie Marshall

Rosalie Marshall is the special projects editor and chief reporter at V3. Previously she was a reporter for IT Week and channel editor for online television site Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.

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