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Cambridge Design Partnership becomes fully employee-owned company


By Paul Brackley


The founding partners of Cambridge Design Partnership. Picture: Keith Heppell
The founding partners of Cambridge Design Partnership. Picture: Keith Heppell

Toft-based adopts John Lewis model to be more democratic and inclusive

Mike Cane, founding partner or Cambridge Design Partnership
Mike Cane, founding partner or Cambridge Design Partnership

Cambridge Design Partnership has joined the like of John Lewis in becoming a fully employee-owned company.

The technology and product design firm, based in Toft, has set up an employee ownership trust to hold the company’s shares on behalf of staff.

In a statement yesterday, CDP founding partners Mike Cane, Mike Beadman and Matt Schumann said: “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.

“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.”

Mike Beadman, founding partner or Cambridge Design Partnership
Mike Beadman, founding partner or Cambridge Design Partnership

Under the move, CDP’s 10 partners will continue to manage the company while staff will have a say in its future through an elected employee council.

Mike Cane added: “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.”

CDP was founded by the three engineers 22 years ago and has grown to around 120 scientists, engineers, researchers and designers, based in Toft and in Palo Alto in California, US.

Matt Schumann, founding partner or Cambridge Design Partnership
Matt Schumann, founding partner or Cambridge Design Partnership

“Employee ownership provides us with a stable and equitable structure that has the flexibility to scale and adapt to whatever the future brings,” added 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.”

CDP has become a one-stop shop for businesses in the healthcare and consumer sectors looking to innovate and launch their next-generation products quickly.

It has added to its core strengths in technology and engineering design with a front-end innovation team, while at the back end its manufacturing engineering group helps sets up new processes and supply chains.

Matt Schumann said: “Partnership has always been in our name – and now it means even more. 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.”

Some of the Cambridge Design Partnership team, pictured for Movember. Picture: Keith Heppell
Some of the Cambridge Design Partnership team, pictured for Movember. Picture: Keith Heppell

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