Degree Speeches
Sum mer 2001

Robin Saxby

Public Orator, Professor Simon Jones, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on the morning of Thursday 12 July 2001

Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, Vice-Chancellor, Mayor and Mayoress of Charnwood, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ARM - (originally Advanced RISC Machines Ltd., now ARM Holdings plc) is one of the outstanding British engineering successes in the last 40 years. It has pioneered a new technology, a new business model and has risen in 10 short years from a 12-person start up to a FTSE-100 company, a world-beater and a world shaper.

The management team behind that, who include founders Tudor Brown, Mike Muller, Jamie Urquhart and its Chief Executive Officer Robin Saxby have the been the leaders of this remarkable industrial success story.

ARM is a new economy company. It doesn’t manufacture, it designs, it doesn’t sell, it licences its design but unlike many new economy companies it also makes significant profits for its shareholders and staff.

Robin Saxby is the head of this remarkable company: A man of significant and distinguished talents, but one of great modesty and thoughtfulness. On our first meeting about the award of this degree he pressed me to ensure that the skills and talents of all his staff were explicitly related in the citation. He spoke at length with a conviction and a passion about the need for team working and shared values and vision. He spoke about the importance each and every one of his staff played in making their company the success it is.

So what does this company, ARM provide? Well about 80% of you in the audience probably have an ARM design on you now. The vast majority of mobile phones have ARM chips in them. The microprocessors that provide mobile telephony, text messages and answerphones are all designed by ARM. They don’t manufacture them - many other companies do that for them– they don’t assemble the circuitry into phones, They provide the ideas and the designs, the intellectual property. ARM is perhaps the biggest and best example of a new economy company, which relies on knowledge and design skills, not materials and manufacturing processes.

In 1990 Robin and his team were the visionaries of a new manufacturing-free company with a goal to be the world standard and the drive to achieve it in less than a decade.

Robin Saxby has a long and distinguished history in the electronics industry. At the age of 13 he had his own electronics repair business. By 18 he had chosen to study electronics at Liverpool, attracted by the buzz and energy that city had in the 1960’s. As a new graduate he was reporting the results of his work at the Royal Television Society. Such energy and enterprise soon caught the eye of major figures in the electronics industry Motorola was his next post. He rose rapidly in the hierarchy of Motorola before leaving to take up his first Chief Executive role, as head of Henderson Security Systems. Henderson provided him with a useful grounding of business experience, but he was soon attracted back into the semiconductor industry when he joined the start-up European Silicon Structures - ES2 - as Managing Director of the UK company and head of its US branch US2.

A head hunting phone call led him to start ARM, with backing from Acorn, Apple and VLSI Technology.

From its beginnings as 12 engineers in a Cambridge barn it is now a 700 person strong company, in the FTSE 100, a world standard for low-power microprocessors and a world-beater in its designs, skills and expertise.

Robin Saxby and his team have created and delivered that vision

But the mark of a person is not simply that of his achievements. It also lies in his values and attitudes and here at Loughborough we have been fortunate to experience and benefit from these.

ARM have supported an entire degree program within the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. ARM has also funded a research chair (the Armchair as it is now widely known) and Robin has made sure that the staff and students associated with this program have had a chance to experience his vision, passion and commitment to excellence.

He came to give us a talk, bringing along the latest Sony Gameboy, which incorporated an ARM-designed chip. He didn’t just come and talk and leave, He took us all out for a Chinese meal. He took over the restaurant and made sure that he spoke to each and everyone of our 35 students there. Moving from table to table, mixing advice, encouragement and some rather good jokes with lashings of prawn won-tons, kung-po chicken and Chablis. My own (admittedly hazy) memory is leaving at 1am pleading an early engagement the next day to see Robin still eagerly communicating the ARM vision and methods to a table of rapt 21-year olds. Such concern for the well being of our students and staff is a clear indication of the values, character and spirit of the man.

To Robin Saxby then, in recognition of the efforts of his team and the company ARM, an outstanding example of British engineering excellence and in the eyes of an institution which recognises and celebrates engineering achievements, Chancellor, I present to you and the University Robin Saxby, Engineer, Leader and Entrepreneur for the Degree of Doctor of Technology, honoris causa.

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