Lower cost alternatives to KEIL's super-expensive MDK / uVision?

As a small consultancy in the UK, competing for a limited number of jobs, I find Keil's uVision / MDK to be cost prohibitive.

I would dearly love to include ARM based devices in the designs I make, but since I only need to go as far as proof-of-concept with prototypes, the cost of the development tools is excessive for me.

The project I'm currently working on has an Audio Processor with a Cortex-M3 core. I'm not trying to build the full firmware suite - that will be outsourced - but I do need to get as far as proof-of-concept with the firmware.

Are there any free or lower-cost alternatives that provide a decent IDE, linker and compiler for ARM based devices? If they are compatible with the ULINK2 that would be a benefit too.

**EDIT** Spelling / grammar.

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  • Sometime back, I got into a similar situation and prepared a list of alternatives, note that there are lot more alternatives. I remember porting everything from keil uVision5 to GNU toolchain on a Linux Virtual machine for ARM Cortex M0 based SoC (nRF51) from Nordic Semiconductor with relative ease. You might also want to try out GNU MCU eclipse (It tries to bundle everything in one place, something that uVision 5 does quite well) 

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