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Microsoft acquires The Marsden Group in Industry 4.0 push

As Covid-19 hit and consumer demand for cloud soared, heavy industry turned to the same technology, embracing cloud, Internet of Things, and automation to stay up and running amidst lockdowns and employee absences.

Microsoft is now capitalizing on this growing demand by filling out its Industry 4.0 portfolio with The Marsden Group – a Scotland and Texas-based rapid prototyping outfit that builds software for sectors including offshore oil drilling, industrial plants, factories and manufacturing facilities. Software products developed by the firm include Vision IQ, which uses AI to monitor offshore drilling environments to prevent accidents, and Sense IQ, which employs electronic sensors for the equivalent use on factory floors.

As a long-term Microsoft partner, Marsden previously worked with Unilever using Azure to build detailed digital factory models that collected real-time data for optimising outputs. According to Omar Abbosh, corporate vice president of cross-industry solutions at Microsoft, Marsden will now aid the digital transformation of more industrial processes using Microsoft’s cloud, edge and AI products:

“In our ever changing world, we see an urgent need to build agile operations and supply chains to address disruptive market forces and consumer demands”, wrote Abbosh in a blog post. “With this investment, we are taking the next step to help our customers across all industries envision and build digital solutions faster.”

Microsoft’s commitment to Industry 4.0 is reflected in a spate of acquisitions made over the last year, all aimed at building out a stable of next generation industrial capabilities. The firm acquired cloud network software vendors Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch in 2020, both firms with expertise in industrial 5G. These were joined by IoT security company CyberX, data modeling startup ADRM Software, and UK robotics firm Softomotive.

The technical capabilities conferred by these investments are likely to mean Microsoft will remain a leading Industry 4.0 player. But growing demand suggests we could see more competitors emerge as deal making accelerates and investment flows into smart manufacturing start-ups.

“Microsoft’s latest foray into the industrial technology world provides further evidence of a resurgent industrial sector – with the S&P 500 Industrials benchmark out-performing the market this year and purchasing managers’ indices rebounding, we expect quality industrial tech businesses to be in high demand as the COVID recovery and shift to Industry 4.0 gather pace.”

Andy Lister | Partner and Industrial Technology Practice Lead

Andy has spent the last ten years advising entrepreneurs, shareholders and boards on business sales, acquisitions, equity fund raisings, valuations and strategic reviews. Andy has worked with clients in a number of technology-enabled sectors, including smart infrastructure, the internet of things, M2M communications and clean technology, and has also worked with a number of high growth manufacturing and industrial distribution businesses.

Andy has a particular interest in cross border M&A, has completed deals with North American, European, African and Asian counterparties, and brings practical emerging markets experience having worked as an M&A advisor in India from 2008 – 2010.

Andy is a prize-winning chartered accountant, qualifying in 2004 with KPMG in Leeds, before joining KPMG’s Corporate Finance team in London in 2005. Andy was a Director at KPMG before joining Acuity in July 2015.

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