The end of an era for the Silicon Fen.
The £3bn takeover of Cambridge’s Aveva Group, which the group confirmed this morning, marks a big moment for one of the UK’s most successful startup clusters, as it becomes the last of the city’s one-time unicorns to be sold into foreign ownership.
Although Aveva will maintain its name and Cambridge hub as part of the deal announced today with France’s Schneider Electric, Schneider will be taking a majority stake in the company through the London Stock Exchange’s reverse takeover mechanism.
The announcement came just days after the remnants of Autonomy – the first of the big Silicon Fen tech groups to be sold – made its way back into British hands as part of Micro Focus’ purchase of HPE Software.
The disastrous Autonomy sale in 2011 was followed by deals for Cambridge neighbours Domino and CSR in 2015, and last year’s £24bn purchase of chip designer Arm Holdings.
The city is still hotbed of activity with large numbers of start-ups, while larger US groups such as Microsoft and Amazon have local bases there, but some figures have raised concerns about the lack of larger UK groups that could compete with Silicon Valley.
Tony Raven, the head of Cambridge University’s technology transfer arm Cambridge Enterprise, told the FT after the Arm sale that “we’ve become great starters, but we’re not finishers …at the moment in the UK we’re not able to take these companies on in the way that Apple and Google and everyone else has on the west coast”.