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Arm founder says the UK has no chance of tech sovereignty

Government fritters away homegrown technologies and has no strategy to lessen reliance on other countries

Arm and Acorn co-founder Hermann Hauser says the UK has "no chance in hell" of being technologically self-reliant, stressing the need for European countries to have their own access to critical technologies so they are not quite so dependent on the US.

The inventor and entrepreneur was speaking at Bloomberg's Technology Summit in London, where he noted that Britain has struggled to keep local ownership over technology companies that start here.

A perfect example is Arm itself, which the UK government short-sightedly allowed to be sold to Japan's SoftBank for about £24 billion ($25.5 billion) in 2016, and which is now likely to be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York following a planned public offering.

However, more recently Schneider Electric announced it is to acquire all the outstanding shares of Aveva – an industrial and engineering software company described as one of the more successful UK technology concerns over the past couple of decades.

The UK government also allowed the transfer of Newport Wafer Fab – the country's largest semiconductor fabrication plant – to Dutch company Nexperia, itself owned by China-based Wingtech. The government is subsequently trying to decide whether to reverse that transaction.

According to Bloomberg, Hauser was insistent that Europe and the UK need to have access to critical technologies so as not to be dependent on the US, citing former president Donald Trump's threats to withhold technology as a means of coercion against other nations.

Trump had used semiconductor design software, largely controlled by American companies, as "a weapon to force other countries including Britain to do what he wants," Hauser said.

Dependency on semiconductor technology and computers is now so severe, countries in Europe "just have to find our own independent access to critical technologies," he added.

One question that countries need to ask themselves is whether they have all the critical technologies needed to run a country and its economy.

The answer for Britain is "absolutely no, there is no chance in hell that Britain could ever become technologically sovereign," Hauser said.

The situation for the UK is particularly dire thanks to the lack of any discernible technology strategy from the government.

In July, the House of Lords Library published a report asking if microchip supply is a national security issue – looking at the global supply chain, production geopolitics, and foreign ownership. It concluded by stating that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was working on a semiconductor strategy "to be published shortly," but this has yet to materialize.

In contrast, both the US and EU are already putting into action plans to boost the technology industries within their respective geographies, in the shape of the $52 billion CHIPS Act in America and the €43 billion ($41 billion) European Chips Act, both introduced this year.

Hauser co-founded the company that was to become Acorn Computers in 1978, and in 1990 was involved in the spin-off from Acorn of its chip division, Advanced RISC Machines (Arm). Hauser is also the founder of venture capital outfit Amadeus Capital Partners Ltd. ®

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