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The sale of Arm is a test case for silicon nationalism in the UK

6 10 1
16.09.2020

In early September, Dominic Cummings revealed to colleagues that he was exploring plans to scale up Britain's technology industry. "[We are looking at] ways we can build [$1trn] tech companies", the Downing Street adviser wrote in an email, as reported by Business Insider. The government, according to the Times, is so committed to investing in the tech sector that it might be willing to accept a no-deal Brexit in order to unshackle itself from EU state aid rules.

Why, then, less than a fortnight after Cummings' ambitious missive, is the government now passing up the chance to rehome a company once described as the jewel in Britain's tech crown?

It was announced on 14 September that Nvidia, a US chip manufacturer, has struck a deal to buy the Cambridge-based chip-design company Arm from SoftBank, a Japanese venture capital firm, for $40bn. Arm's principal product is the world's most popular chip architecture, which has been used to make more than 130 billion computer processors. Its technology is used in more than 95 per cent of the world's smartphones.

A government spokesperson previously told NS Tech that it could hypothetically block the takeover, but a senior Whitehall source told the BBC on 14 September that it would not do so (although it may attach terms). One source reportedly said that any attempt to block the sale would be "four years too late as it's SoftBank's to sell".

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© New Statesman


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