News & Analysis

Jobs and strategy concerns follow ARM acquisition

15th September 2020
Mick Elliott

Oh, the irony. Just days after the government announced its intention to spend millions of pounds on technology start-ups in the hope they grow into another Amazon, Intel or well, ARM, one of the UK’s greatest technology companies has been sold to US chip maker NVidia.

It didn’t have to be like this.

Not long after Brexit referendum, Softbank, the Japanese company made an offer to acquire ARM.

Despite pleas from those who know what it means for a country to have a world beating technology company, Theresa May’s government refused to intervene, proclaiming the deal showed that post-Brexit, “Britain was open for business.” A great company let go for the sake of a nice easy sound bite.

Softbank has now sold ARM to NVidia and pocketed a handy $8bn profit.

Speaking on the BBC, Hermann Hauser, co-founder of ARM described the deal as “an absolute disaster for the UK.”

The government says it is looking at options to protect UK jobs and technology following this deal.

The Labour Party has already called for the government to ensure any jobs protections are legally guaranteed.

Though given this is a government which will happily tear up an international treaty protected by law, it will need to keep a straight face when negotiating any promises from NVidia.

At least ARM is now owned by a semiconductor company rather than an investment bank. That is a better fit.

The question marks hover over Nvidia’s position as a customer of ARM and the fears of customers that it will give itself first dibs at any new ARM architecture.

Some may baulk at this conflict of interest and look to shift to another independent architecture, notably RISC-V.

The other side of the coin suggests there’s not much point shelling out $40bn for a company and the drive away its formidable customer base.

NVidia’s CEO Jensen Huang (pictured) says the company will create a world-class AI laboratory in at ARM’s headquarters in Cambridge, “a Hadron collider or Hubble telescope, if you like, for artificial intelligence." 

It will also an AI training institute in Cambridge, and make its curriculum available throughout the U.K.

 

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