Edinburgh base of Auticon, whose IT consultants are autistic, cheers merger with Norwegian peer

The Edinburgh base of a social enterprise whose IT consultants are autistic – and whose investors include Sir Richard Branson – has hailed its merger with a Norwegian counterpart to create what is billed as the largest autistic-majority company in the world.
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Auticon, which launched in the Scottish capital in 2019 and is based at the Bayes Centre in Edinburgh, is merging with Unicus to create a company where more than 80 per cent of its 575 employees are on the autism spectrum, operating in 14 countries, including Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, and France as well as the UK and Norway. It expects to by the end of this year turn over €50 million (£43m) and have more than 600 employees.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, has been brokered by Ferd, an Oslo-based, family-owned investment company and shareholder in both companies, which come together under the umbrella of Auticon GmbH as future joint holding company of Auticon and the Unicus shareholders. Unicus founder and boss Lars Johansson-Kjellerød commented: "With the focus on neurodiversity, we will continue to create unique results for our customers and an increased quality of life for our employees. I am looking forward to the journey ahead."

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Lee Hutchison, Edinburgh-based job coach at Auticon, said: “The [merger] marks an important moment to celebrate the impact of placing inclusivity at the heart of the workplace. Our growth and success proves that making accommodations in the workplace is beneficial for everyone – on both an individual and business level. We are very excited to begin this new chapter and continue our work in identifying and nurturing autistic talent, as well as supporting more businesses in making the workplace diverse, accessible and inclusive.”

The merger is creating what is billed as the largest autistic-majority company in the world (file image). Picture: Kent Smith/Hand Cranked Films Inc.The merger is creating what is billed as the largest autistic-majority company in the world (file image). Picture: Kent Smith/Hand Cranked Films Inc.
The merger is creating what is billed as the largest autistic-majority company in the world (file image). Picture: Kent Smith/Hand Cranked Films Inc.

The two merging companies say that according to internal polling, staff report significant quality of life improvements, including increased self-esteem, quality of life, income, confidence, and improved wellbeing – with Auticon highlighting how across society, fewer than 30 per cent of people with autism are currently in meaningful employment. The organisation, which has previously received funding from Scottish Enterprise, has stressed that autistic people face a “catalogue” of barriers preventing them from entering the workforce.

Confidence

Helen Giles, Edinburgh-based Auticon consultant, has now said: “Everyone working [here] has the freedom and confidence to be their authentic, autistic selves. Every day we get to put the best versions of ourselves forward, focusing on thriving at work rather than merely surviving, which means we can provide our finest skills to the clients. I am immensely proud that Auticon is now the largest autistic-majority company in the world. I am proud of what we have achieved already, what we will achieve in the future and to see more opportunities for autistic people like me."

Sir Richard Branson cheered the merger, stating: “We invested in Auticon back in 2016 at Virgin, because we were so impressed by the way they were nurturing neurodiversity and helping autistic people (who have so many brilliant skills) find meaningful employment. Seven years on and Auticon has just joined forces with Unicus AS to become the largest autistic-majority company in the world.”

Also commenting was Auticon finance chief Markus Weber, who said the enlarged organisation now has “unlimited possibilities and guidance for further growth”.