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A lesson in innovation from Premier Farnell


More than 70 people from businesses throughout Yorkshire recently attended our seminar entitled ‘powering innovation’ and included speakers from Premier Farnell discussing the company’s ground breaking Raspberry Pi microcomputer.

Leeds based FTSE 250 Premier Farnell has evolved from a largely catalogue-based distributor into a multi-channel organisation with e-commerce at its core. The company has established a global reputation for innovation through the creation of its ‘element14 Community’, an online hub for design engineers across the world to share, develop and learn about new technology. It has also shaken up the industry with the launch of the powerful and adaptable credit-card sized Raspberry Pi, developed with the aim of making programming cool at school. 

Chris Sullivan, global head of Solutions Marketing at Premier Farnell, talked through what has been an extremely exciting 18 months in the ‘Life of Pi’. By defining the market for the minicomputer the Raspberry Pi has gone viral, making it one of the fastest growing computer companies in the world selling over one million units in just a year. This has been achieved from the UK; through an ‘open platform’ collaboration of ARM, Linux and Python. From its Leeds head office Premier Farnell has driven a hugely successful PR and social media campaign that has led to the simple £29 product being sold in over 64 counties worldwide - only last week the first order was placed in the Kingdom of Buton.

Whilst it was designed with education in mind, wanting to re-engage students with computer programming, it has taken the business sector by storm and the applications have been endless from computational engineers at the University of Southampton building a supercomputer from 64 Raspberry Pi computers and Lego, to a micro-brewery in the US using the Pi to help run its brewery programme.

Clarion is currently testing the Raspberry Pi as a serious contender for replacing its fleet of Windows XP computers. Microsoft officially stops support of Windows XP in April 2014 and the Raspberry Pi may fill the gap as a low cost, quick and easy deployment solution to connect with Clarion’s next generation virtual desktops. By adopting a virtual desktop infrastructure strategy, Clarion plans to streamline the management of its corporate desktops, giving its team secure, anywhere access to business critical applications from any device.

Please watch our IT Infrastructure Manager explain how we are trialling the Pi.

With support and funding from Google, 15,000 Raspberry Pi microcomputers are to be given free to schools in the UK with a view to creating a new generation of computer scientists.


Crowd funding

Matthew Hattersley, partner and head of commercial at Clarion, also discussed the growth of crowdsourcing and crowd funding – both channels that, going forward, can help innovative products such as the Raspberry Pi to get to market by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, usually via the internet. Clarion, in conjunction with a client, is assisting with a strategic review for the Government’s Technology Strategy Board in relation to crowd funding for innovative products.

“There is no doubt that with the success of these methods in the US with the likes of Kickstarter leading the way, there is likely to be a dramatic uptake in the UK, particularly as traditional sources of funding are proving to be challenging,” explained Matthew. “Already, we are seeing entrepreneurial businesses actively leveraging the power of social media to float ideas for new products and services, securing the forward buy in from potential investors to give confidence to progress projects that might not have happened otherwise.

“The idea of crowd funding has only recently moved from being a peripheral, specialist, highly risky market to one that is beginning to seem a credible route to market for start up projects. In the coming years, we believe crowdsourcing and crowd funding will be key developments for companies looking to be innovative, drive down costs and get easier access to funding for innovation.”

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For further press information, please contact:
Susan Reid on (01423) 56 99 99 or susan@appealpr.com