This past year has shown more than ever how vital our digital connections are to the way we live and work – and this year’s South West tech list showcases the businesses and projects at the forefront.
The dismantling of the office-based 9-5 has also pulled down the barriers of the South West’s peripherality. The pandemic has shown that businesses can set up and have staff anywhere, pitching to clients from anywhere.
Dan Pritchard, co-founder of Tech South West said the network organisation is having more conversations with investors than ever about the region’s rapidly evolving tech ‘ecosystem’.
He said: “In property and in business, there does seem to be a shift from London to the regions. Bristol is an incredible tech success story. But the rest of the South West is on the move too – a very definite upward curve.
“If you can work anywhere, why wouldn’t you choose the South West?”
The Tech List is the fourth we’ve published as part of the #BacktheGreatSouthWest campaign, backed by key sponsors Pennon Group and supported by the Great South West Initiative across Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.
The list highlights some of the pioneering businesses and projects that are fuelling the new tech economy.
The list is far from exhaustive – we know there are many more tech businesses out there doing amazing things which are not represented on the list.
We want the Tech List to be a snapshot of the kind of projects putting the region on a global stage.
And as the eyes of the world are on Cornwall for the G7 Summit this week – there is no better time to show our worth.
Steve Hindley, chairman of the Great South West initiative, said: “ Our region is blessed with stunning natural capital making us an incredibly desirable area to live, and the investment in digital capabilities means that we provide a compelling proposition for companies to base themselves here.
“The region is increasingly a beacon for innovative businesses that do not need to be tied by geography and can instead take advantage of good work-life balance here.”
The region is already home to a range of world-leading technologies. Cornwall is poised to offer deep space communications for future missions to the moon and Mars, whilst Plymouth is creating the world’s first 5G ocean-based marine testbed to support the development of new marine technology. The region is also the base of the Met Office and the UK Hydrographic Office, alongside world-leading expertise from Exeter and Plymouth universities.
Mr Hindley said it is investing in digital skills training to address the skills gaps and ensure that people across the region – including those in harder to rural and coastal communities – are able to acquire the skills they need to secure higher value jobs in the future.
Susan Davy, Pennon’s chief executive, spearheading the campaign, said that the region needs investment in order to reach its potential.
She said: “For existing rural businesses to grow and new ones to be founded, we need to unlock our region’s potential with improved digital and transport infrastructure.
“The South West can be seen as the best place to come and set up an innovative new business, not just to visit on holiday, delivering new and better paid jobs for the people that call it home.”
21 to watch
Affinity Digital – Truro
Cornish software development company Affinity Digital has won three large contracts over the last year including developing the website for G7 in Cornwall this week.
The company, which specialises in enterprise-level software development, also started a project with the Cabinet Office at the beginning of lockdown in 2020.
Sales director Jonathan Duval said: “Working remotely has allowed Affinity Digital to be judged based on our people and the quality of our work, not on our location or an expensive office. Cornwall can feel quite distant from the action but, with remote working and more people feeling comfortable meeting and getting work done online, we’ve been able to secure the new contracts without the need to meet anyone in person.
In the lead-up to the pandemic, Affinity Digital was considering expanding its office space. Plans have since been revised, with the central Truro office now playing a different role as a place to host meetings and creative workshop sessions, while the majority of the work will be completed remotely.
Over the last year the company has hired six new employees, three of whom are located in Cornwall. Future growth plans will still look to recruit local talent first, however, thanks to an increased acceptance of remote working, the company now has the flexibility to draw on talent from across the UK.
Jonathan said: “We usually had some contingent of remote workers in the form of outsourced specialists from around the UK so the concept was not new to us. Now, with everyone on the same page, we’ve managed to adapt all of our processes to better suit this way of working, which has resulted in increased efficiency. We still work an eight-hour day, but with no commute or distractions around the office, productivity has increased significantly.
The firm received help from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub to secure funding to make the changes implemented over the past year.
Applegate – Barnstaple
Applegate is a cloud-based procurement system that allows businesses to find multiple quotes for supplies. The system is pioneering Artificial Intelligence
At the start of the pandemic, Applegate established a Covid-19 Supply Hub as a free service for organisations needing to source PPE and other essential supplies. This enabled the supply of over a hundred million items, helping hundreds of nursing homes, care agencies, councils and others, both in the South West and across the country.
Applegate is a partner in setting up Supply Devon, a £250,000 project funded by Innovate UK to enable Devon businesses to buy from each other and to boost Devon’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Codices Interactive – Penryn
This gaming studio from Cornwall is one of the tech business to watch out for after winning a gong in last year’s Tech South West Awards.
Codices Interactive, which emerged out of Falmouth University’s Launchpad, won Best Start Up for successfully reaching over a million monthly global players for its gaming products last June.
Codices Interactive came to prominence for developing tools to use on live-streaming platforms to engage and monetise audiences.
The firm provides a live interactive video platform, enabling broadcasters to create interactive shows. Its first product, QuizKit, is now the most used gameshow creation tool on the Twitch platform, with more than 1,500 monthly active broadcasters.
At the time, Tim Edwards, CEO of Codices which recruited seven new members last year, said: “We’ve been incredibly lucky in that we’ve always had more work than we can deliver.
“Over the last few months, we’ve taken on software developers, a content team and a business development manager. It’s been an interesting challenge, we’ve had to update our processes to manage a bigger team, but we’re now seeing the benefits in that we can do more quicker. We’ve improved our tech, we’ve got new projects in the pipeline, including one with Amazon Prime, and we’re launching a new product in the new year.
Data Duopoly – Falmouth
This start-up company has developed an app so businesses can manage queues and social distancing. It has enjoyed remarkable growth during the pandemic and is now set to grow further after attracting investors including the European Space Agency.
Data Duopoly is “revolutionising the visitor experience” in venues worldwide after being set up by Tanuvi Ethunandan and Erin Morris in Falmouth University’s venture studio Launchpad.
It quickly received backing from several angel investors – typically high net-worth individuals who provide finance in exchange for equity – which has unlocked further funding, sending the company into the next phase.
The app tracks and monitors visitor distribution, reducing queues and managing bottlenecks at venues such as theatres, museums and theme parks.
During the pandemic it adapted the technology to prioritise customer and staff safety so businesses could use the tech to ensure social distancing.
After successful pitches the pair behind Data Duopoly received investment from three South West angels and a London-based investor.
This unlocked match funding from Aerospace Cornwall and the European Space Agency after it named the business as one of its top 50 start-ups.
This funding will allow the pair to scale up their business and also help Data Duopoly further diversify its tech as it starts a project with Falmouth University to manage campus distribution. To date, its work has used GPS tracking to monitor outdoor distribution management. It is now pivoting to track indoor areas.
Elixel – Plymouth
Elixel is a digital product studio based in Plymouth city centre. The team members pride themselves on solving big problems with creative thinking and long lasting partnerships with their clients.
During the past 12 months they have designed a mobile application for managing deliveries, a recruitment platform for security workers and helped a large UK insurer to double insurance applications through the development of a new online application and policy management tool.
Elixel is part of a wider group with offices strategically placed across the UK and mainland Europe. The group as a whole has a headcount of over 500 and services clients globally.
Filmily – Totnes
Totnes-based Filmily have spent the past three years developing an AI based SaaS product to create branded media from live events.
Collecting and analysing content from thousands of mobile phones, the technology automatically creates content for fans, brands’ social media, rights’ owners, and major events.
Working with the likes of American football franchise San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, Wasserman, Harlequins and USTA, the company has recently received investment from Stadia Ventures in the US. A pipeline of sports clients is coming on board across the USA, Canada, UAE and Europe and the company’s music offering, for American festivals, launches later this year.
Glas Data – Truro
This Cornish agri-tech business has developed a system to alert farmers when animal feed silos are almost empty. The system will also automatically place an order with their feed supplier.
Glas Data’s system uses an Internet of Things sensor to track how much feed is being stored. The sensor translates the compression of the silo’s legs into weight to calculate how much animal feed is being stored and then transmit data up to 20 miles away.
Colin Phillipson, co-founder of Glas Data, which is based in Truro, said the new tech gizmo and software will minimise margins of error and help farmers focus their time on other things as order feed is now automated and happens only when needed.
He said: “To find out how much animal feed is in a silo, traditionally farmers have either used a viewing hatch on the silo or banged on the silo’s side with a mallet.
“With a huge margin for error, there was scope for costly mistakes like over filling bins and wasting animal feed.”
With Glas Data’s system, data from sensors is displayed on the GlasCore dashboard – an easy to understand one-screen display which can be viewed by the farmer on their tablet, laptop or mobile phone.
Mr Phillipson added: “Access to accurate data means farmers can measure efficiencies, by monitoring the amount of feed used each day. It will also be possible to calculate the feed consumption per animal and to correlate this against other productivity metrics.”
Headforwards – Camborne
One of Cornwall’s largest tech companies, the outsourced software firm has a 110-strong team works with a range of key clients across the UK.
Founded in 2011, building collaborative relationships between clients and its expert development teams, it aimed to create a new type of outsource company for software development.
Since its launch, co-founders Toby Parkins and Craig Girvan have played a key role in driving forward Cornwall’s tech sector, with Mr Parkins a founder director of Agile on the Beach and a director of both Software Cornwall and Tech South West.
It is also a key player in FibreHub, a new space for digital, software and tech organisations, next to the Cornwall College Campus in Camborne.
The project is part of a long-running vision to put Cornwall’s tech businesses on the map and offer a hub for digital organisations in the county.
Mr Parkins said: “Cornwall is a thriving community for tech businesses and we’ve got a stronger voice and a bigger impact when we collect together.
“Many businesses have similar challenges, and they all need flexible workspaces, rapid internet connectivity and a community where they can share ideas. FibreHub offers all those components in one place.”
As FibreHub grows, Headforwards aims to bring the same quality services, community spaces, and high-speed internet connectivity to new buildings in the future.
Intelligent AI – Exeter
Intelligent AI is a new insurtech startup that has successfully secured close to £1m from investors and Innovate UK. It has developed an online Intelligent Risk platform for the commercial property insurance sector that draws in some 300 data points, to reduce risks and improve premium accuracy.
Its Digital Twins of Risk product uses artificial intelligence to provide detailed risk profiles of all properties across extensive property portfolios. A pilot project involving 20,000 properties in the US ranging from port authorities to wind turbine sites, is underway.
Jurassic Fibre – Exeter and East Devon
Digital connectivity has been an essential element to people’s lives in recent months. In just two years ultrafast fibre internet provider Jurassic Fibre has built a network across parts of East and North Devon, Dorset and Somerset, focusing on towns and rural areas, not cities.
Backed with £250m investment from Fern Trading, the Exeter-based company has grown to over 200 employees and is on track to connect 350,000 premises by 2024.
Knowthis – Plymouth
Launched in November 2019, Knowthis is a creative digital design agency specialising in print and bespoke website design and digital campaign creation.
Based at Plymouth Science Park, the company was set up by Ben Saul, an experienced creative lead and digital specialist with a history of helping organisations of all sizes for over 23 years.
Skilled in creative conceptualisation, brand development, user and customer experience, user interface design and campaign design. Knowthis are a start-up business with big ambitions to grow and recently featured in the Business Live, 10 Brilliant SW startups .
The team are currently working with a large selection of companies across multiple sectors including Mercedes-Benz UK, HM Treasury and recently won their first Canadian client, Pinnacle Drilling.
Lumentum – Torbay
An advanced technology company delivering innovative photonics technologies, the global firm has a significant presence in Torbay including R&D facilities.
The South West operation focuses on new products in the telecommunications sector, including Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and 5G. It is among the firms comprising Torbay’s Hi-tech cluster including , II-VI, Gooch & Housego and Spirent, and new innovative businesses such as Bay Photonics, Davies & Bell and Effect Photonics.
LumiraDx Care Solutions – Camborne
Founded in 2014 by a group of entrepreneurs with a successful track record of building and scaling diagnostics and health IT businesses, LumiraDx is now expanding its representatives and subsidiaries in key markets globally.
The company focuses on smarter connected diagnostics for community-based healthcare, through a next generation point of care diagnostic platform.
Made with Maturity – Plymouth
This web design agency run by a Plymouth couple has won a raft of international clients as the Covid pandemic removes traditional borders.
Made with Maturity, set up in 2015 by husband and wife Ben and Clare Stirling, only had one non-UK client before the coronavirus crisis hit in early 2020.
But with the the signing of a deal with a software development firm operating in the USA and Russia, in May 2021, it brings the number of international clients to eight.
Made with Maturity is now also working with businesses in Germany, Spain, Thailand, Portugal, Finland, and Poland. The clients are in a variety of sectors including TV and media, healthcare and medical and manufacturing.
Made with Maturity operates from offices at Plymouth Science Park, returning from home-working at Easter 2021 when restrictions were eased.
The firm provides web design and digital marketing and is focused on UX (user experience) design, which means it stays onboard to continually improve the websites it creates, and increase their efficiency, what it calls “creating an environment”.
M Subs – Plymouth
The “game changing” £1million robotic Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in June 2021, after being assembled at Plymouth’s M Subs.
The 15m long, aluminium-hulled trimaran, bristling with the latest sensors and AI (artificial intelligence) set off from Plymouth to Cape Cod in the USA. The vessel will have no-one on board, being piloted remotely from the UK and USA and collecting vital data about climate change, plastic waste pollution and marine mammals.
The project is among the latest for Estover-based M Subs, the UK’s leading manufacturer of military submersibles. The company partnered with non-profit research organisation ProMare on MAS, and also global tech giant IBM and Plymouth firm Marine AI.
M Subs is recognised as the UK’s leading manufacturer of military submersibles and has already completed a manned platform, the Dry Combat Submersible (DCS), for the United States of America’s Special Forces Command. It completed successful trials in the waters around Plymouth in 2019
The MAS project was started in 2016 and has involved input from engineers and scientists in Plymouth, the USA, and Norway. The modular vessel was built in a shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, when no British shipyard was able to take on the project. It was shipped in pieces to Plymouth in the early weeks of the coronavirus lockdown and assembled, safely, at the M Subs factory at Estover.
Perpetual Research Consultancy – St Austell
This Cornish firm is looking at ways to charge up electric boats remotely. Perpetual Research Consultancy, registered in St Austell, Cornwall, is aiming to develop an advanced charging system for electric vessels using VHF technology which they say could have a big impact on marine operations as it would reduce charging down time and turnaround for survey vessels, electric submarine and offshore platform vessels.
Company director Dr Mike Taylor, said: “Wireless charging is already employed for electric vessels, whether they are crewed, remotely operated or fully autonomous.”
To help the firm with its research and development, EU-funded Marine-i has provided funding for the project.
Dr Taylor added: “Having access the leading-edge research available through the Marine-i project was a huge asset for this project.”
Prof Lars Johanning, programme director for Marine-i, which is based in Hayle, Cornwall, said: “Electric vessels will play a massive role in future marine operations.
“A system that delivers faster charging, and therefore quicker turnaround times for vessels, would be a very attractive commercial proposition for operators. This unique new technology would therefore have a massive global market.”
Pushed – Plymouth
This Plymouth animation and video production company run by a husband-and-wife team was chosen to create 3D animated content for the first Government-approved and globally-recognised industry beauty qualification in 2021.
Pushed, run by former ITV staffers Dave and Karen Meadows, has created four hours of e-learning material, the equivalent of two feature films worth of animated content designed to become the beauty industry’s gold standard for nail technician training and qualifications.
The Nail Knowledge training course, devised by Professional Animated Learning, consists of three masterclasses with 16 lessons and a total of nearly six hours of interactive e-learning.
The content was written by three of the nail industry’s biggest names: Marian Newman, Doug Schoon, inventor of Shellac, and Vitaly Solomonoff.
Pushed is known in the animation industry for creating animated opening titles for a variety of popular TV cooking shows including Rick Stein and James Martin.
Mr and Mrs Meadows, who both worked for ITV Westcountry, set up their production company to create animation and video content using a wide variety of animation styles, such as 2D, 3D, hand-drawn and stop-motion.
They employ three experienced graphic designers and have offices in Plympton, in Plymouth, and Southampton.
Pushed has worked for firms and organisations including ITV, the National Trust, Brittany Ferries, Fairway Furniture, Imperial College London, Sky, English Heritage and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Rowe IT – Plymouth
Based at Plymouth Science Park, Rowe IT counts the Met Office, MOD, Central Government and UK Hydrographic Office among its clients.
It creates scalable bespoke software from weather forecasting systems built by specialist engineers to building systems to store petabytes of information.
In the last three years, Rowe IT has increased revenues by 61% year on year, and has seen the team grow three-fold. It recognises that recruiting in the South West can be a challenge and has started a graduate apprenticeship scheme, with their first apprentice starting in September.
Rowe IT is growing its technical capability and capacity, particularly in the cloud space with Amazon and Microsoft, and aims to further business growth this year.
Timewade – Exeter
The challenges of the past 15 months has seen Timewade focus on a variety of IT and tech solutions for its SME clients across the South West.
The fast-growing Exeter-based tech solutions company works in sectors including manufacturing, where shifts to ecommerce during the pandemic, has seen key projects delivered around digital integrations and automation. Timewade’s CEO Julian Wills also runs Technology for Success, a free tech strategy programme for SMEs.
The Immersive Dome – Plymouth
The first immersive video dome of its kind in Europe opens in Plymouth this summer as part of the £7.6million upgrade of Devonport’s historic Market Hall.
Developed by Real Ideas Organisation, in partnership with Plymouth City Council and the Institute of Digital Art and Technology at University of Plymouth, the Market Hall will create a new space for digital businesses, especially those working in immersive and creative applications of technology.
The Immersive Dome is the first of its type – 15m in diameter, 210 degrees over the top, with a flat floor design – in Europe. The only other one like it in the world can be found at SAT in Montreal, Canada.
Lindsey Hall, chief executive of Real Ideas, said: “ It puts Plymouth on the map internationally as a place with an emerging tech cluster around immersive, and here in Plymouth offers incredible experiences and opportunities to people living and growing up in Devonport and the wider city.”
Ultrabeam Hydrographic – Hayle
Marine tech company Ultrabeam Hydrographic has enjoyed remarkable growth in the past year or so thanks in part to a project in collaboration with the British Army to create the terrain survey soldier of the future.
Designed in Hayle, where the business is based, the Argonaut is the latest project the company. Resembling a Mars rover, the robot, funded by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, which come under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), was designed to find a way to map rivers and waterways remotely in war zones.
The amphibious rover will hopefully replace human reconnaissance soldiers and reduce casualties during the risky operation of investigating how to get an Army convoy across a waterway in a conflict zone.
While Ultrabeam’s main customers are port authorities, councils, salvage companies and telecom businesses laying cables across the ocean floor, the project with the MoD is part of growing niche sectors in which its technology and knowhow is in demand.
The firm, founded in 2018, has grown from two members of staff to 11 and moved from hotdesking at The Workbox in Penzance to its own office at Hayle Marine Renewables Business Park.
As well as the Argonaut, the company has three other remotely-operated craft.
Ultrabeam was one of only five companies chosen by DASA to look at new technologies to help the soldiers of the future.
Gabriel Walton, the company’s technical director and co-founder, said: “The Argonaut is a prototype platform built to investigate this issue.
“It is operated remotely from a control station and driven to the water crossing. During the journey the vehicle is scanning the environment using lasers and creating a detailed, highly-accurate 3D model.
To find out more about Plymouth Science Park, visit: https://plymouthsciencepark.com