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The Millennium Technology Prize Laureate 2010

14 Apr 2010

Professor Stephen Furber, Professor of Computer Engineering at The University of Manchester, has been shortlisted for the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize, the world’s largest award for technological innovation. He is one of three laureates announced in Helsinki today by Technology Academy Finland.

Professor Steve Furber
Professor Steve Furber

Professor Furber is the principal designer of the ARM 32 bit RISC microprocessor, found in most handheld electronic devices and in more than 98% of the world’s mobile phones.

The winner of the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize will be announced at a ceremony in Helsinki on June 9.

Professor Furber's innovation has underpinned the rapid growth in mobile communications, which has opened up economic opportunities and enhanced the quality of life for billions in the developing and developed world.  You may never have heard of ARM microprocessors, but probably use at least one every day. They tick inside our mobile phones, mp3-players, video recorders and home routers. Today ARM technology is used in more than a quarter of all electronic devices.

The development of the fast, energy efficient 32 bit processor 25 years ago unlocked the world of consumer electronics and to date, more than 18 billion ARM-based chips have been manufactured.

In 1985 Furber become the father of a microprocessor phenomenon - a single chip which did the same amount of work as other 32-bit microprocessors but used one tenth of their transistors - and consequently, one tenth of their electricity.  Furber was the principal designer of the ARM 32-bit microprocessor at Acorn Computers.

The original design was simple and elegant. It exploited Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architecture. ARM was the world’s first commercially available RISC microprocessor. It was initially used in the Acorn Archimedes personal computer released in 1987.

The relative simplicity of ARM processors made them suitable for low power applications. It is this that has allowed them to dominate the mobile and embedded electronics market as relatively low cost and small microprocessors and microcontrollers.

Furber is one of the leading developers of personal computing.  Acorn boss Hermann Hauser said “Steve is one of the brightest guys I've ever worked with - brilliant and when we decided to do a microprocessor on our own I made two great decisions - I gave them two things which National, Intel and Motorola had never given their design teams: the first was no money; the second was no people. The only way they could do it was to keep it really simple.”

After 25 years and 20 billion ARM processors, the success of the design is still magical. “We couldn't imagine selling millions of processors. And now it is billions. ARM was the right product at the right time. It was just perfect for the emerging system on chip -business in the early-Nineties.”

Furber has been portrayed in a TV show with actor Sam Philips playing a young Furber in the BBC Four documentary drama Micro Men. Set in the eighties, it told about the rise of the British home computer market, particularly the rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair, who developed the ZX Spectrum, and Chris Curry, the man behind the BBC Micro.

In 1990 Furber was appointed to Professor of Computer Engineering at Manchester University. He established a research group with interests in asynchronous logic design and power-efficient computing. Furber and his group continued to help the development of the ARM architecture.

The other laureates announced in Helsinki today by Technology Academy Finland are:Professor Sir Richard Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge, and Professor Michael Grätzel, Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces, Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

Notes for editors

Notes for editors

Millennium Technology Prize is Finland’s tribute to life-enhancing technological innovation. The prize is awarded every second year for a technological innovation that significantly improves the quality of human life, today and in the future. It is the world’s biggest technology prize and is awarded by the Technology Academy Finland, an independent foundation established by Finnish industry, in partnership with the Finnish state. The laureates were selected by the Board of the Foundation on the basis of recommendations made by the Selection Committee. The prize pool for the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize is €1.1 million. The Winner of the Millennium Technology Prize will be awarded €800 000, and the other Laureates will each be awarded €150 000.

Technology Academy Finlandpromotes technology by supporting scientific research that develops innovations and new technologies and contributes to the improvement of people's living conditions while building on humane values. Technology Academy Finland awards the international Millennium Technology Prize, the world's most respected technology prize, every two years.


1982   Acorn BBC Micro launched

1983   Acorn starts RISC Machine project with Furber as principal designer

1985  First ARM microprocessor produced

1987   ARM processor debuts as the first RISC processor for Acorn Archimedes desktop computer

1990   Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) spins out of Acorn and Apple Computers collaboration, Furber continues his research of low power computing as a professor at University of Manchester.

1998  ARM listed on the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. Over 50 million ARM powered products shipped.

2010   20 billion ARM based chips manufactured


Professor Furber's The Advanced Processor Technologies research group

Wikipedia article about ARM architecture


ARM Holdings