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22 May, 2018 - 13:27 By Tony Quested

Cambridge technology hothouse hands ownership to workforce

Technology and product design business Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP) has become a fully employee-owned company as it embarks on its next stage of growth. 

An employee ownership trust has been set up to hold the company’s shares on behalf of its staff.

“We believe this is a great opportunity for CDP to accelerate our mission to become a world-leading innovator with the company’s most important asset – its staff – at the centre of our strategy,” said CDP founding partners Mike Cane, Mike Beadman and Matt Schumann.

“It means we can continue to grow without the involvement of external shareholders so we can maintain full control over the direction of the business and our creative culture.” 

The CDP leadership team of 10 partners will continue to manage the company and the staff will have a say in the company’s future through an elected employee council. 

As an employee-owned company, CDP joins the ranks of organisations such as John Lewis, which is probably the most well-known – and the UK’s largest – employee-owned business.

Cane said: “We have been very successful as an owner-managed company but we believe that – to achieve our ambitious goals – we need a structure that is not only scalable but ensures our talented staff have a direct stake in the success of the business.

“Following a major strategy review last year, we realised that our team wanted to be more directly involved in the CDP story – so we decided to break away from the standard company structure.” 

Since it was founded by three engineers 22 years ago, the company has grown to around 120 scientists, engineers, researchers and designers in Toft near Cambridge UK, and Palo Alto in California. 

“Employee ownership through an employee ownership trust provides us with a stable and equitable structure that has the flexibility to scale and adapt to whatever the future brings,” said Mike Beadman. 

“It neatly gets around many of the unintended consequences that come with other employee ownership models. It is fundamentally more democratic and inclusive – values that resonate with the CDP creative culture.”

Over the last three years, CDP has significantly expanded its capabilities to make it a ‘one-stop shop’ for businesses in the healthcare and consumer sectors that need to innovate and launch their next-generation products quickly. 

While its strength has traditionally been in technology and engineering design, it now also has strong teams working at the front end of innovation – helping clients optimise their innovation plans – and at the back end, where its manufacturing engineering group sets up new processes and multinational supply chains. 

“Partnership has always been in our name – and now it means even more,” said Matt Schumann. “Every member of staff, in every interaction with our customers, will be fully invested in the success of their project. Working together, with our goals aligned, we believe is the best environment for innovation to occur.” 

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