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Nvidia has bought Cambridge-based Arm from SoftBank for £31.2bn – the largest semi-conductor transaction of all time.
The sale has prompted concerns over the neutrality of the chip designer, and fears that it could cost jobs in Cambridge, but Arm’s new US owner has pledged that the company “will remain headquartered in Cambridge” and promised expansion to create an “open centre of excellence.”
“Arm and Nvidia share a vision and passion that ubiquitous, energy-efficient computing will help address the world’s most pressing issues from climate change to healthcare, from agriculture to education,” said Simon Segars, CEO of Arm, which designs the chips used in almost every mobile phone. “Delivering on this vision requires new approaches to hardware and software and a long-term commitment to research and development. By bringing together the technical strengths of our two companies we can accelerate our progress and create new solutions that will enable a global ecosystem of innovators. My management team and I are excited to be joining Nvidia so we can write this next chapter together.”
The deal “brings together Nvidia’s leading AI computing platform with Arm’s vast ecosystem to create the premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence, accelerating innovation while expanding into large, high-growth markets”, Arm said in a statement.
Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, said: “AI is the most powerful technology force of our time and has launched a new wave of computing. In the years ahead, trillions of computers running AI will create a new internet-of-things that is thousands of times larger than today’s internet-of-people. Our combination will create a company fabulously positioned for the age of AI.”
Simon Segars and his team at Arm have built an extraordinary company that is contributing to nearly every technology market in the world. Uniting Nvidia’s AI computing capabilities with the vast ecosystem of Arm’s CPU, we can advance computing from the cloud, smartphones, PCs, self-driving cars and robotics, to edge IoT, and expand AI computing to every corner of the globe.
“This combination has tremendous benefits for both companies, our customers, and the industry. For Arm’s ecosystem, the combination will turbocharge Arm’s R&D capacity and expand its IP portfolio with Nvidia’s world-leading GPU and AI technology.”
“Arm will remain headquartered in Cambridge. We will expand on this great site and build a world-class AI research facility, supporting developments in healthcare, life sciences, robotics, self-driving cars and other fields. And, to attract researchers and scientists from the UK and around the world to conduct groundbreaking work, Nvidia will build a state-of-the-art AI supercomputer, powered by Arm CPUs. Arm Cambridge will be a world-class technology centre.”
The US giant, based in Santa Clara, California, has committed to invest in the Cambridge ecosystem.
It said: “We will create an open centre of excellence in the area once home to giants like Isaac Newton and Alan Turing, for whom key Nvidia technologies are named. Here, leading scientists, engineers and researchers from the UK and around the world will come to develop their ideas, collaborate and conduct their ground-breaking work in areas like healthcare, life sciences, self-driving cars and other fields. We want the UK to attract the best minds and talent from around the world.”
Arm was an independent company until it was acquired by Japanese conglomerate Softbank Group Corp and the SoftBank Vision Fund for US$32bn in 2016 – a move which its then-chairman later described with “regret ”.
Cambridge’s Labour MP, Daniel Zeichner, has also repeatedly called for the government to intervene in the sale of the company which has designed almost the entire suite of chips which control smartphones. Mr Zeichner has described the international trade minister’s response to a question about saving the city’s tech giant Arm from the clutches of US-based Nvidia as “meaningless guff”.
The sale is a shock for the Cambridge, which is proud of its ability to develop world-leading technology and pharma: the sale follows a desperate bid to stop the ownership shift which included one of Arm’s founding fathers, Hermann Hauser, who spun the chip maker out of Acorn in 1990.
Dr Hauser previously told the Cambridge Independent the potential sale of Arm Holdings to Nvidia would be a disaster for Cambridge and the UK, and would destroy its business model of neutrality, through which it licences its technology to any company – including those that would be considered Nvidia’s rivals.
He said it was a blow for the UK’s tech sovereignty and would fuel the trade war between the US and China.
Dr Hauser told the Cambridge Independent that Nvidia’s promises about Cambridge were “not worth the piece of paper they are written on unless they are legally binding”.
By Mike Scialom
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