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UK computing charity opts to manufacture product abroad

UK computing charity opts to manufacture product abroad
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UK computing charity opts to manufacture product abroad4

Finance | Kirsty Weakley | 19 Jan 2012

Production of a cheap educational computer by UK charity the Raspberry Pi Foundation is underway, but the first batch is to be produced in China to save money.

Eben Upton, founder of the project, said that it if the charity had chosen to manufacture in the UK, as it had originally hoped, the project would have cost more and taken longer.

He said that by manufacturing in China, the charity would make a few pounds profit on each unit which could then be reinvested in the charity's research and development activities, but if it had selected a UK manufacturer the charity would struggle to break even.

Upton is confident that the Chinese manufacturer has adequate workplace conditions. He did not name the manufacturer, but said: “For various reasons we are aware that they are a good employer, but that was not formally part of our assessment.”

Another factor is that it is cheaper to manufacture the product abroad and then import the finished product rather than import the necessary components to build the product in the UK because British companies have to pay import duty on individual components but not on the finished product.

Timescale was another important factor for Raspberry Pi and it could not find a UK manufacturer that could produce the computer in less than 12 weeks, compared to China where the manufacturers can do it in four weeks.

Upton started looking at ways to produce a cheap computer about five years ago when working as a computer science lecturer after realising that computing and IT students had less experience of programming since home PCs had become more sophisticated.

The Raspberry Pi PC is credit card sized and plugs into a TV screen and keyboard and at £16, or £22 for a model with the ability to connect to the internet. Upton hopes children will be able to afford one and use it to learn about programming and code.

Following last week’s announcement by education minister Micahael Gove that IT education in England and Wales is to be overhauled, Upton also hopes that schools might be interested in buying the devices.

The first batch of 10,000 computers should be on sale in February.

 

Don Macdonald
IT Training Partners
13 Mar 2012

I suppose we could do like the Chinese and copy the design of the hardware and assemble it here;

Nick McCloud
Head Boffin
descartes
7 Feb 2012

"UK students lag behind in ICT due to costly hardware sourcing decisions"

Kits would increase the cost, making it here would increase the cost - thereby defeating the object of the exercise - which do we need more, thousands of better skilled students or a short production run for a handful of UK workers.

Speaking as a UK based electronics manufacturer

Jeremy Barker
Specialist Adviser
Scunthorpe CAB
20 Jan 2012

While in many ways I applaude what the people behind Raspberry Pi are trying to do which relies on "open source" software it would have been far better if they also made the hardware "open source" so that anyone who wanted to could manufacture it.

Their comments about the cost and delay in UK sourcing are a sad indictment of the state of the UK electronics industry.

Geoff Baker
Executive Director
Aid-4-Africa
19 Jan 2012

This is in my opinion a total scandal and a sell out to China. With unemployment at it's highest for almost 18 years in the UK it's time to think of all those who need work - and certainly a UK charity should not be supporting Chinese employees.

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