Friday 18 September 2020 10:02 am

Does Nvidia's buyout of ARM signal the death knell for UK tech entrepreneurship

Earlier this week, it emerged that the UK’s largest technology firm, ARM, was to be sold to US giant Nvidia.

The deal, worth £31bn, led to cries from Arm founder Hermann Hauser that it would be an “absolute disaster” and would cost UK jobs.

However Jensen Huang, Nvidia’s chief executive, said the deal would create “the premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence”, and promised to keep the Arm headquarters in its home of Cambridge.

For the City AM debate, James Egan of Shaw Academy and Chris Greenwood of Netapp look into whether the deal signals an oncoming era of decline in UK tech entrepreneurship.

Read more: Nvidia to buy UK chip designer Arm for $40bn

Yes, says James Egan, CEO at EdTech scale-up Shaw Academy

As we enter recession, ARM’s sale signals pragmatism over entrepreneurial ambition, and reportedly puts jobs at risk. 

We are entering a new era of entrepreneurship-through-necessity, with thousands of innovators creating ventures when furloughed or made redundant. 

From policy down to access to business education and funding, we must help this new generation and inspire them to compete as home-grown entrepreneurs on the global stage – otherwise, we risk a decline in tech entrepreneurs putting the UK on the map. 

I have seen first-hand, scaling up a business and opening offices outside the UK and Ireland, that international reputation matters. 

We must work harder to ensure that UK and European scale-ups are seen as having a high-ceiling and an attractive place for top talent. 

For those entrepreneurs, we need to show the UK and Europe is a viable, vibrant ecosystem for companies to scale, fundraise and compete globally – not a stepping stone, or an incubator for tech giants in other regions.

Read more: Tech companies ramp up hiring as London moves past lockdown

No, says Chris Greenwood, UK managing director at cloud computing firm NetApp

Far from killing off entrepreneurship, Nvidia’s acquisition of ARM will give local technology entrepreneurs a shot in the arm needed that could help propel the UK out of the recession by inspiring the next generation of UK tech success stories. 

There are reasons to be positive. Firstly, the acquisition proves M&A is a viable route to innovation and UK-built technology has global credibility. 

Secondly, the emergence of high-performance cloud computing at manageable costs is an area Nvidia wants to develop for its artificial intelligence (AI) proposition.  

Cloud computing was the rare commercial success during the pandemic as it powered the worldwide switch from office to remote working. 

This technology is rapidly driving the next great wave of British tech innovation in the private and public sector. 

Read more: Boris Johnson sees off potential Tory rebellion on Brexit bill

I urge that we focus on the emerging opportunities provided by the democratisation of cloud computing and AI technologies. 

Our sector and government should be assured by the fact there was British technological innovation before ARM and this will continue post-ARM.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.