#UK Japanese tech company joins GeoSpock’s new $5.4m round


Cambridge based extreme data analyser GeoSpock has taken its funding to date to $32 million following a new $5.4m Series A round which underpins further global expansion for the business.

GeoSpock, which has just won the Business Weekly Disruptive Technology Award, is making huge strides in Asia and elsewhere on the global map.

The latest funding round was led by nChain and Cambridge Innovation Capital and joined by NTT DoCoMo Ventures – the investment arm of Japan’s premier provider of telecoms and ICT services – plus existing investors Global Brain, Parkwalk, KDDI Innovation Fund, 31 Ventures and Meltwind.

GeoSpock is using the new money to invest in its product and technical capabilities and accelerate the development and adoption of the fastest, most scalable database on the market. 

A world of opportunity is opening up for GeoSpock. With the emergence of connected vehicles, smart cities, and the deployment of IoT sensors, the amount of data produced globally has exploded. 

Traditional databases have proven too slow and cumbersome to provide genuine, real-time insights or be the basis for next-generation artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases. 

GeoSpock is disrupting the big data analytics market by producing a uniquely cost-efficient, scalable, and fast database that takes advantage of parallelism and distributed compute architectures.  

Dr Steve Marsh, founder and CTO said: “Businesses have realised that advanced analytics and rapid innovation is the key to building competitive advantage in a data-driven world, so where billion row queries that took hours were once acceptable, the market now demands trillions of rows and speed-of-thought results. 

“Aside from performance and scale, database technology needs to be built with the future of the connected world in mind – providing flexibility and cost predictability, even as the demands for big data continues to grow.

“Through the combination of connected-device data and advanced analytics we believe that planetary optimisation is possible. 

“We are excited to welcome our new strategic investors, and look forward to establishing key partnerships with global industry leaders in order to help improve the way we live, the way we move, and the way we consume.

“Over the past 12 months we have seen a lot of momentum picking up in the telco IoT space, with a growing emphasis on device intelligence and analytics combined with 5G connectivity in order to power next-generation use cases such as Smart Cities, Asset & Supply Chains, Connected & Autonomous Vehicles and long-term, to help measure and correct the root causes of climate change. 

“We believe that carrier service providers are the natural providers of connectivity for IoT. Having KDDI, and now NTT Docomo, two of Asia’s biggest telcos, backing the strategic value of GeoSpock’s analytics technology is a great validation point. 

“Adding to this is nChain – a world leader in distributed ledger technology, which could be a critical component in the cross-vendor monetisation of IoT, shows the strength of the partner ecosystem GeoSpock is assembling.

“Businesses have realised that advanced analytics and rapid innovation is the key to building competitive advantage in a data-driven world, so we know for certain that the demand for contextual intelligence is only going to increase over time. 

“Handling the scales of data that are now being generated is a huge problem for many industries, but one which we believe GeoSpock is in a very strong position to solve.

“The key takeaway is that GeoSpock DB is a cost-efficient, hyper performance analytics database solution which uses unique technology to overcome the speed, scale and siloing restrictions of existing databases.”

GeoSpock CEO Richard Baker added: “Our database is able to disrupt the $386 billion IoT Big Data Analytics market. We expect to become central to the companies and nations across the globe, transforming their legacy data infrastructures and building agile logical data warehouses. 

“Versus existing competitors our platform is the best performing solution on the market – it is faster, more flexible, and drives cost predictability for connected everything workloads where location, time, and device analytics underpins autonomous decision making.”

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#UK Cambridge company acquired by NASDAQ IT giant


NASDAQ-listed Altair has acquired Cambridge UK software firm Ellexus for an undisclosed sum.

Michigan-headquartered Altair is a global technology company providing solutions in data analytics, product development, and high-performance computing (HPC). Its acquisition of Ellexus will provide the company with additional storage functionality for high-performing computer solutions.

Ellexus, based at St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge, created a leading input/output (I/O) analysis tool, which helps customers find and address issues quickly, improving speed accuracy and cloud readiness. 

Its software products, Mistral and Breeze, are used for I/O diagnostics, optimisation, and dependency detection by HPC administrators of large enterprises. Altair plans to integrate them into the storage aware scheduling functionality of Altair PBS Works™.

“Altair continues to expand its reach and capabilities for HPC environments to support important modern workloads including for data analytics, AI and ADAS,” said James Scapa, Altair’s chief executive officer and founder. “The acquisition of Ellexus is particularly relevant in these domains as storage aware scheduling for big data applications is critical.”

Ellexus founder Dr Rosemary Francis said: “There is no better place for Ellexus’ products to get into the hands of global customers who can immediately benefit. Altair’s growing leadership in HPC is exciting and exactly where I want to be to help grow the business and stretch technology to its limits.”

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#UK Arm-fired Bamboo shoots for hi-tech heavens with $7m funding


Cambridge Science Park server architecture specialist Bamboo Systems has closed a $7 million funding round to take its Arm-based technology proposition to greater global heights in an $80 billion global market.

The new money will drive expansion in Research & Development and the company’s go-to-market strategy.

The round has been led by existing investors Seraphim Capital and Opea Holding with support from the UK’s £1.25 billion Future Fund – a UK government funding package designed to support startups driving innovation and development through the coronavirus outbreak. 

Cambridge is home to Bamboo’s European office while its US operations are anchored in San Jose, California.

Arm-based compute platforms have been gaining traction, from AWS expanding its Graviton offerings to Apple’s announcement to switch from Intel to Arm chips for all its Macs. The world’s fastest supercomputer, Fugaku, is also based on Arm. 

Now, with NVIDIA’s recent announcement that it plans to acquire the company, Arm architecture is poised to further and massively disrupt the status quo in compute.

Bamboo Systems chief executive Tony Craythorne believes the fiunding and the growth strategy will help Arm revolutionise the world of compute. He said: “We are so pleased that Seraphim Capital and Opea Holdings are continuing to invest in Bamboo with another strong show of support for our unique server architecture. 

“We’re also delighted that the UK Future Fund has invested in us as well. These investments underscore the value of our technology that is about to fundamentally change the concept of compute in the data centre.”

Earlier this year, Bamboo announced  its ground breaking B1000N Series of servers. A fully configured B1008N consists of eight servers providing 128 cores, 16 DDR4 memory channels to 512GB DRAM, 24GB/s to 64TB of NVMe storage, fed through 160Gb/s network bandwidth. 

This is delivered in a single rack unit (1U) at approximately 50 per cent of the cost of a legacy Intel-based server, 25 per cent of the energy consumption and 20 per cent of the rack space.

James Bruegger, managing partner of Seraphim Capital said: “We are delighted to continue to support Bamboo Systems at a time when interest in Arm servers has never been higher. 

“With the likes of AWS, Apple and now NVIDIA betting big on Arm, we believe now is the moment for Arm servers to make a major impact on the $80 billion server market.

“Bamboo’s revolutionary server architecture holds the key to delivering the massive space, cost and energy savings that the server market desperately needs.”

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#UK Glorious results for Cambridge cluster law firms in new Legal 500 guide


Cambridge Cluster and East Anglian law firms cover themselves in glory in the new edition of the profession’s ‘bible’ – The Legal 500 clients guide –published online today by Legalease.

Particularly strong are local firms’ performances in the areas of Corporate Law, Real Estate, technology and the life sciences.

The Legal 500 prides itself on being even-handed and the all-round excellence of this region’s practices across all legal disciplines bears that out. 

More importantly for this region’s companies across a range of industries desperate for the best legal advice in these trying times the guide underlines that top lawyers and carefully sculpted teams can offer best-in-class advice whether clients trade nationally or globally. This quality is reflected in The Legal 500’s recommendations for leading individuals, Hall of Fame supernovas, next generation lawyers and rising stars – more of which in follow-up features.

Business Weekly will be highlighting different sectors over the coming week, leading to a special feature in print and online. Today we focus on practices which star in the fields of corporate law and Technology Media & Telecoms.
The Legal 500 analyses this region’s strength in Corporate & Commercial Law without fear or favour and in compiling its general reviews, names firms alphabetically within tiers.

Tier 1 rated for Corporate & Commercial Law work in Cambridge are Birketts, Goodwin, Mills & Reeve and Taylor Vinters.

The Legal 500 reports: “Birketts LLP has a three-partner team in Cambridge that works as part of a cross-office practice across 50 lawyers East Anglia and in Essex. 

“The firm has specialist skills in data protection, public sector procurement, franchising, intellectual property, share options and tax, as well as an extensive roster of corporate and M & A transactions. 

“As well as local and national work, the practice led by James Allen handles an increasing volume of cross-border advisory and transactional matters. Quentin Golder, who focuses on early-stage funding and venture capital matters, M & A partner Adrian Seagers and rising star associate Nick Burt are recommended.

Nick Burt of Birketts LLP

“Goodwin hired a team of corporate and venture capital lawyers from Taylor Wessing LLP in early 2020 to launch its Cambridge office. The office is a key hub for the firm’s UK technology and life sciences practice, which acts for both corporates and investors. 

“It already has a substantial client base in the local area, among which are innovative life sciences and most disruptive technology companies. Among the key hires are partners Adrian Rainey, David Mardle and Malcolm Bates, counsel Elizabeth Rhodes and associate Adam Thatcher. 

“Clients describe the practice as ‘one of the “go-to” teams in Cambridge for spin-outs and start-ups – responsive, pragmatic and commercial’.

“Mills & Reeve LLP has a leading regional and national M & A practice and many of its transactions also have an international element. Its recent work includes several IPOs, high-value matters for private equity investors, venture capital transactions and key deals in the technology, education and healthcare sectors. 

“M & A and cross-border transaction specialist Tom Pickthorn and head of the technology and life sciences group Kevin Calder are the lead partners in Cambridge. 

“Firm managing partner Claire Clarke has particular expertise in education work and formation of investment funds. Anthony McGurk is recommended for private equity, food and agribusiness, and life sciences matters. Up-and-coming partner Jonathan Greenwood is recommended for education M & A and mid-market corporate work.

Claire Clarke, Mills & Reeve

“Taylor Vinters has a ‘strategic and proactive approach to its clients rather than the transactional approach many firms employ’, according to one client. 

“The firm acts for high potential IP-rich emerging companies, venture capital funds and serial acquirers on inbound and outbound national and international transactions. Innovation economy and venture capital partner Charles Fletcher leads a six-partner practice that works seamlessly between the Cambridge and London offices.

“Head of corporate and insolvency Adam Bradley focuses on M & A, early-stage investments and joint ventures. Sian Scanlon has a strong focus on transactions in the technology and life sciences sectors. ‘Methodical and logical’ senior associate Nick Palmer focuses on private company and partnership transactions. Senior associate Sarah Ilic joined from Tees Law.”

The guide says of Tier 2 ranked BDB Pitmans: ‘All team members are technically knowledgeable, proactive and personable,’ according to one client of BDB Pitmans.

“James Stephen and Duncan Walker are the lead partners and they handle substantial transactions, frequently involving complex and novel issues, for a diverse portfolio of clients in East Anglia and further afield. 

“Their sector experience includes the full spectrum of technology companies in East Anglia, particularly around Cambridge, with many clients based in the city’s science and technology parks and innovation centres. They range from entrepreneurs and SMEs to larger corporates with in-house legal teams.

Also in Tier 2 are Hewitsons and Penningtons Manches Cooper. The guide reports: “Clients praise the ‘excellent client service, responsiveness, appreciation for business considerations and cost-effectiveness’, of the team at Hewitsons. 

‘The team finds an excellent balance between paying good attention to detail while keeping a sensible commercial view of any points at issue’, remarks another. 

James Lawrence, Hewitsons

“Corporate partner James Lawrence, technology specialist Andrew Priest and business services head Emma Shipp lead the five-partner practice, which handles a broad range of corporate work for the larger corporations and businesses including acquisitions, disposals, reorganisations and financing. 

“It has particular expertise in the technology, life sciences, property development and agribusiness sectors. Up-and-coming partner Laurence Evans is also recommended.

“The corporate practice at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is led from Guildford and London but the Cambridge office plays a key role in the firm’s national offering. Helen Drayton handles all aspects of company law, including mergers and acquisitions, and has a particular focus on MBOs and acquisitions for owner-managed businesses.”

Tier 3 firms are Ashtons Legal, Dixon Phillips, Greenwoods and Howes Percival. 

The Legal 500 says: “The four-partner corporate practice at Ashtons Legal is led from Ipswich by Geoff Hazlewood and although none of the partners are in Cambridge full-time, the office is key to the firm’s service offering. 

“The firm is active in the local marketplace in its key sectors and it handles substantial Cambridge-based transactions involving veterinary practices, franchising, technology, care homes and regional banks.

“Dixon Phillips is a small firm focused purely on corporate, commercial and property law. For the last 11 years it has grown its SME client base in the region, focusing on businesses with turnover of up to £25 million, through its commitment to strong client relationships. 

“The practice led by Oliver Phillips joins the ranking this year and is praised for its ‘extremely personalised service with easy contact to partners’ and its ‘willingness to be agile, responsive and proportionate to the level of risks’. ‘It would be great if every firm of solicitors was as responsive and caring,’ remarks one client.

“At Greenwoods GRM, practice head David Woods is based mainly in Peterborough but works across both of the firm’s Cambridgeshire offices. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the region and brings to bear the firm’s extensive expertise in the technology, business services and manufacturing sectors. 

“Partner Alastair Gunn and associate Claire Banks, who are also based in Peterborough, also handle a significant flow of work through the Cambridge office. Gunn has notable expertise in share, trade and asset disposals, MBOs, MBIs and acquisitions.

“Howes Percival LLP continues to build the profile of its Cambridge office, with corporate and commercial work a growing feature of its work. Practice head Oliver Pritchard, who works between the Norwich and Cambridge offices and joined in 2020 from Browne Jacobson LLP, brought with him a long track record in the health sector. 

“The firm also hired director Brigitta Naunton in Cambridge from Thomson Webb & Corfield LLP to handle private company M & A, equity investments, corporate reorganisations, joint venture and shareholder arrangements. Nathan Horton, who previously led the practice, left the firm to pursue a career outside the law.

Oliver Pritchard, Howes Percival LLP

Elsewhere in East Anglia, Birketts and Greenwoods are bracketed in Tier 1 while Ashtons Legal and Buckles Solicitors in Peterborough srae a Tier 2 ranking.

The guide reports:  “Birketts has a five-partner corporate group in Ipswich that is a key hub for the firm’s cross-office corporate finance, transactional and commercial work. Acting for both local and national businesses, the firm handles a growing volume of cross-border matters, alongside major domestic M & A transactions. 

“James Austin, Mark Henry and Mark Gipson are the lead partners for corporate finance, commercial advice and transactional matters. Alexandra Nelson, who has experience in cross-border M & A transactions, and Andrew Tubb are other partners to note. Associate Emma Bysouth is one to watch. 

“Greenwoods GRM is a prominent regional firm with its headquarters in Peterborough, where the core of its corporate and commercial practice is based. 

“It acts for businesses of all size from start-ups to listed companies, among which are local, regional, national and international enterprises. 

“The team works in close co-operation with other key practices such as property, employment, pensions and regulatory, and with the firms’ other offices in Cambridge and London. Practice head David Woods, key partner Alastair Gunn and associate Claire Banks are the names to note.

“Ashtons Legal focuses on core sectors such as technology, veterinary practices and care homes. It also has the region’s leading franchising practice. 

“It has a strong client base among the region’s SMEs, which call on it for advice on commercial matters and corporate transactions. Geoff Hazlewood leads the Ipswich practice. 

“He and Paul Whittingham, who handles corporate matters for clients in the veterinary sector, are ‘standout partners with excellent reputations across the region’.

Paul Whittingham, Ashtons Legal

“Buckles Solicitors LLP in Peterborough has a ‘professional, knowledgable and very responsive team’ that handles complex regional and cross-border corporate matters. 

“The firm has an established reputation for assisting family-owned generational companies, working closely with the wealth management practice team on corporate restructurings. 

“Through its affiliate offices in Paris and Milan, the firm also handles deals with international elements. Practice head Nigel Moore and associate Nadine Duncan are the key contacts.”

Birketts and Mills & Reeve share top spot for Corporate & Commercial work in Norwich with Ashtons Legal and Howes Percival nudging into Tier 2 rankings.

The Legal 500 reports: “Birketts LLP has an outstanding reputation for corporate and transactional work, particularly in the Norwich market, though it also handles national and, increasingly, cross-border matters. 

“The firm has specialists in public company work, mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganisations, restructuring and employee ownership trusts. Adrian Possener, Greg Allan and Ed Savory are the three partners in the practice. Possener is known for public company work, IPOs and bond issues; Allan handles complex reorganisations and M & A; and Savory frequently acts for SMEs in East Anglia and further afield. ‘The team at Birketts is responsive, commercial and knowledgeable,’ remarks one client.

“Mills & Reeve LLP has a strong regional and national presence for corporate and M & A work, and many of its transactions have an international element.
“Among its clients are private equity and venture capital investors, SMEs and large listed companies. In the Norwich office, Craig Hodgson is head of corporate and Greg Gibson leads on commercial matters. 

“Head of the Norwich office James Hunter has more than 25 years’ transactional experience, notably for owners and acquirers of mid-market businesses. 

“Natalie Wade is recommended for work in the independent health sector acting for private equity buyers and large consolidators of dental practices and health providers. Senior associate Christina O’Brien is also recommended.”

Natalie Wade, Mills & Reeve

The guide says of Ashtons Legal: “Geoff Hazlewood in Ipswich leads the corporate and commercial practice at Ashtons Legal, which has strong practitioners in Norwich. It has particular expertise in work for veterinary practices, technology companies, care homes and regional banks. 

“James Tarling advises a broad range of local businesses on corporate transactions, as well as assisting high-growth technology companies. John Chambers and Damian Humphrey are nationally recognised for their niche franchising expertise. 

“Senior associate Mark Watson is also recommended. Clients praise the firm’s ‘quick and intelligent advice’, noting that it has ‘a good blend of skills that complement each other in getting the job done’.

“Howes Percival LLP has a new lead partner in Oliver Pritchard, who is practice head for both the Norwich and Cambridge offices. He joined from Browne Jacobson LLP in early 2020 and has specialist expertise in the healthcare sector, in which he acts for a national client base. 

“The firm is also heavily involved in transactions in the leisure and tourism sector, in which it has recently completed high-profile deals for clients such as Craft Leisure Limited. The firm principally acts for owner-managed businesses, high-net-worth family estates and agriculture businesses.

• For more visit legal500.com

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#UK Electric Vehicle movement on the charge!


It could be easy to forget about positive developments taking place, particularly in relation to the built environment and how we go about our lives, writes Greg Hilton, a Partner in Carter Jonas’s Energy team, Cambridge

But progress is being made, with some of these advancements presenting landowners, developers and the community at large with new opportunities and benefits. 

The world concerning electric vehicles (EVs) is a case in point. The advantages of EVs over conventional petrol/diesel cars has long been discussed, including improvements to air quality and the health benefits that come with this. 

To mark their importance, September saw the first World EV Day – billed as a simple yet effective concept, to celebrate EV ownership worldwide. 

Observing the occasion, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced £12 million in funding to propel ground-breaking EV research. Later in the month, official figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) showed that 33,000 pure electric and hybrid vehicles were registered between April and June, compared with 29,900 diesel vehicles. 

According to the DfT, this was the first time that more alternative fuels cars than diesel cars were registered in three months. This comes at a time when the Government is looking to boost measures to ensure that all new cars and vans are ultra-low emission. 

In February 2020, it released plans to bring forward the end to the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if feasible. A consultation that launched on the matter finished on 31 July. Many MPs are now applying significant pressure for this target to be changed to as early as 2030, for the UK to align with other countries within Europe. 

To serve the increasing numbers of EVs already on the road, and future targets, a step-change in the availability of charging infrastructure is required, presenting a range of opportunities for landowners and developers. 

Dwell time is key to identifying the right charger capacity for any site. The range of charging technology infrastructure available varies from 3kW to 350kW. 

These can charge vehicles from empty to full between 30 minutes and 12 hours depending on the battery size. Lower capacity infrastructure charges over a longer period. 

Higher capacity infrastructure that provides a speedier way to top up is typically found on motorways and A-roads – though the cost of the charge point is much greater than those producing charge over a longer period. 

Faster charging stations also require additional grid infrastructure and this is often competing with other sources of demand or generation on the network. 

There are three distinct categories: Roadside (Electric Forecourt); Workplace and Visitor Attractions and Residential/Commercial Development. 

Electric Forecourt is essentially a 21st-century filling station, offering ultra-rapid charging, with an ability to charge a full vehicle battery from empty within 30 minutes.

Suitable sites are between 0.5 and 2.5 acres, require road frontage adjacent to the strategic highway, with over 20,000 vehicle movements, have an appropriate grid connection and limited planning constraints on or adjacent to the site. 

There are often renewables, including solar PV and battery storage, on-site or adjacent, to reduce the site’s reliance on the National Grid at peak times and to ensure the security of supply. 

Landowners could expect to receive up to £100,000/annum to lease the land to a developer over a 20-30-year term, whilst also contributing to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals and future-proofing the road network for a dramatic increase in EVs year on year. 

Visitor attraction sites relate to dedicated parking spaces for staff or customers, offering fast or rapid charging, with an ability to charge a full vehicle battery in one to four hours. 

Suitable sites are those with parking for staff, fleet vehicles or visitors. Examples include fast food and coffee outlets, leisure, retail parks, theme parks, supermarkets, offices, and commercial buildings.

Landowners could expect to receive an income whilst futureproofing / diversifying their business potentially helping them to stay ahead of the competition and attract a greater number of visitors. 

Residential and commercial development sites offer slower chargers. Fitted on driveways, residential streets and within commercial property developments, they are typically used for home charging overnight, or whilst at work. Slow chargers can charge a battery from empty in around 12 hours. 

Most residential or commercial property development is viable provided there is sufficient grid capacity on-site, including large employers, companies with large EV fleets, hotel chains and multi-storey car parks. 

Landowners can expect to achieve charging at a reduced rate, paying more like 14p/kWh versus up to 35p/kWh charging en-route. Grants are available to encourage the implementation of charging, especially on new housing and commercial developments, and it is becoming increasingly common for conditions to be imposed on new planning consents to demand that EV charging infrastructure is installed. 

As well as presenting an opportunity for income generation, other benefits for reducing reliance on fossil fuels are well-established. However, competition for grid connection is common, as more decentralised generation connects to the network across the UK. 

Couple this with there being a finite number of opportunities in strategic locations means that those acting on the opportunity now will gain a ‘first-mover advantage’.


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#UK Xaar stock boosted by confidence in upbeat strategy


Cambridge coding and marking technology specialist Xaar plc gave shareholders a welcome boost as its interim results to June 30 painted a brighter picture of the future and predicted a return to profitability in the medium term.

The stock rose almost nine per cent in the UK to within striking distance of the 52-week high as shareholders looked beyond the figures to a strategy they believe will fuel ongoing growth.

First half revenue of £23.7 million was in line with management expectations and consistent with H2 2019, down seven per cent year-on-year while the pre-tax loss was £1.1m compared to £1.29m at this stage last year – a steady performance considering how COVID-19 has blitzed so many global industrial markets.

Xaar reported a strong balance sheet with net cash of £23.9m with working capital reduced by a modest £2.7m in the first half of 2020.

CEO John Mills said solid progress had been made in implementing a new strategy across the business. Specifically, a change in go-to-market strategy for the Printhead business has seen new accounts won and customers re-engaging. 

Mills said the revamped business, backed by a more upbeat brand, meant that the restructured business was well positioned to navigate the current economic climate with a clear product roadmap.

He said: “We are very pleased with these results; they demonstrate the business is on track and our new strategy is working despite the unprecedented economic backdrop. It is particularly gratifying to see us win new business as we re-engage with customers in our core markets.

“There has been a positive reaction by customers and employees alike to our new commercial model. In addition, with the next generation of products in our roadmap and the rollout of our new corporate brand, we believe Xaar has an exciting future.

“The continued short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to assess the performance for the remainder of the year with any certainty. 

“The short-term outlook is positive; with our order book remaining strong across the business coupled with a strong balance sheet and cash position for the group, we are well placed to withstand volatility in the market.

“The success we have had in the first half of the year leaves the business well-positioned. The foundations being laid at present will provide a springboard for future growth and a return to profitability in the medium term.”

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#UK Great decision as Secondmind blooms from PROWLER.io


Tech entrepreneur Vishal Chatrath believes he and senior colleagues have teed up a new wave of global growth after rebranding the Cambridge-based AI and ML decision-making business PROWLER.io as Secondmind.

Launched less than four years ago, the startup’s engagement with international customers has soared as management decided to go for ‘best’ rather than go for broke. 

Today the thrusting young company is re-branded as Secondmind to reflect its globally unrivalled decision-making engine of that name as the technology takes a further upspin.

The company has already raised $50 million from global backers to date with a lot more to come and retains its world lead. Its potential would appear to have no identifiable ceiling. Investors certainly believe so.

But Chatrath and his team – mega-confident in the model – are masterfully controlling the pace of growth to ensure long-term sustainability. It already knows it is best-in-breed. 

It has identified and flourished in its core vertical markets. Having laid the most solid of foundations, Secondmind can now build one of the most powerful AI and ML businesses on the planet.

The rebrand reflects and reinforces the company’s Secondmind Decision Engine – a new paradigm for people in business to make better decisions. 

Backed by more than four years of practical, award-winning artificial intelligence and machine learning research, Secondmind is closing the gap between people and AI with easy-to-use and understand ML technology, designed to help businesses better predict, plan, compete and manage risk in an increasingly uncertain world. 

The Secondmind Decision Engine is an ML-powered software-as-a-service platform designed to supercharge decision-making across myriad industries, including those in which visibility is low, data is sparse, and uncertainty is high. 

The engine leans on direct-to-consumer software design best practices to help non-technical people understand Secondmind predictions, influence outcomes with their domain expertise and make complex decisions with ease and confidence. 

Currently in limited release, the Secondmind Decision Engine is helping decision-makers in leading transportation and logistics companies to make better demand forecasting, planning and asset allocation decisions within their global supply chain operations. 

The scalability and versatility of the ML technology in the Secondmind Decision Engine is also helping leading automotive companies to significantly reduce engine calibration time in production and accelerate time to market for the company’s industry leading fuel-efficient cars. 

While supply chain and automotive have been prime early targets, Chatrath perceives that any corporation dependent on increasing the efficiency of their machines – in multiple markets – and the energy sector would benefit from leveraging Secondmind. These sectors are synergistic enough not to warrant Secondmind straying uncomfortably far from core, says Chatrath.

The young company has already employed some of the brightest maths brains in the world and it shows in the core technology: The Secondmind Decision Engine is powered by a unique combination of Gaussian Process-based probabilistic modelling and decision-making ML libraries. 

This technology suite is adept at quantifying uncertainty, identifying operational trade-offs and explaining outcomes using sparse and low volume data –capabilities that meet business decision-making demands where other ML techniques like Deep Learning struggle.

The technology is the result of more than four years of practical ML research from Secondmind Labs, the research and development arm of the company and on-ramp for promising ML solutions with practical, real-world business decision-making potential. 

Secondmind Labs is led by Professor Carl Edward Rasmussen, a world-leading authority on probabilistic ML, and is home to an award-winning team of researchers, data scientists and machine learning engineers.

Chatrath says: “Today marks an exciting milestone, one that takes us one step closer to achieving our mission of empowering people with AI to make better decisions. 

“The Secondmind team has done an incredible job in transforming leading-edge ML research into impactful decision-making technology and solutions that are already making a bottom-line impact to the businesses of our global partners.”Secondmind decision making engine dashboard

Backed by leading venture funds including Passion Capital, Pearson and Tencent of China, which also backs games giant Frontier Developments, Secondmind has played a steady hand through the coronavirus pandemic.

Chatrath tells me that the company decided to work remotely at least a month before the Government announced the March 23 lockdown. 

Management read the runes from China’s troubles with the virus as early as February and decided that it had more than enough firepower to let people work from home.

They also decided to surgically examine what, if anything, was holding back the company’s global acceleration and what positive changes might take the business to higher plateaus.

Chatrath says: “Our technology is so early that it is not always easy for potential customers to understand. We decided to better explain what we do and how we do it and lay out the benefits for customers in clear and precise terms so that they could maximise the benefits of our engine.

“We are proud of the fact that throughout the pandemic we have worked incredibly closely with customers and have had the opportunity to explain the technology in detail. We are fortunate to have so many people with 10, 20, 30 years or more experience in the supply chain and automotive sectors.

“We explained that the technology was not designed to and never would replace humans, that machines would not be taking over the world. It is not Matrix or Minority Report or some other Hollywood fiction.

“We explained that humans would make the key decisions – but that they would be helped to do so by our technology. That applies to users whether they are based in Shanghai, Hamburg or London. So we have used our time in the lockdown to great effect.”

Japanese carmaker Mazda is just one of the global clients who have benefited from the close working relationship with Secondmind. Carmakers generally are seeing greater efficiencies in terms of performance and emission control and are benefiting from using Secondmind technology that improve engine calibration while using 1000 times less data compared to current tools. 

This means that a test bench now needs to only run for one hour rather than 1,000 hours to get enough data for calibration – and any machine issue, marine engines, wind and steam turbines can harness these staggering efficiency gains.

Chatrath reports a huge appetite from companies in industrial markets to improve their decision making to take massive time and cost out of their manufacturing operations.

When one considers that carmakers alone could face billions in fines from as early as January 2021 if they fail to hit EU Co2 targets the efficiencies that Secondmind’s engine can help bring about would pay for themselves many times over. 

That’s a decision any company would find easy to make – not so scores of others that Secondmind is geared up to help – but they have core values in common. Values such as heightened credibility in their own marketplace and delivery of an unwavering positive impact on the bottom line.

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#UK COVID-19 challenges being met by life science and HealthTech sectors


So far, 2020 has been a year of turmoil and the global pandemic has added a new level of pressure to and reliance on the UK’s healthcare, life sciences and health technology sectors, writes Dona Ardeman, Partner with law firm Mills & Reeve.

In response to the pandemic, these sectors have had to mobilise and be innovative to formulate a vaccine, manufacture and re-design ventilators, develop technology to monitor any outbreak and protect the vulnerable in our society, all as part of our current fight against Coronavirus. 

Life sciences and health tech funds are rising up to the challenge of innovation in healthcare and are supporting companies to introduce and implement revolutionary ideas to make our healthcare system, and those of other countries around the world, better equipped and stronger than before, to deal with future crises.

Cambridge-associated rising stars include funds recently set up by Start Codon, the o2h group and Future Care Capital. One key factor these funds share is they are ideally structured to support companies who can address issues arising from the pandemic.

Both Start Codon and the o2h group provide companies with high-tech facilities and work alongside its entrepreneurs to take their ideas and products to the next level. 

Start Codon has recently set up an accelerator fund in Cambridge to invest in a range of healthcare and biotechnology-focused companies and provide early-stage companies with state-of-the-art labs, office space, mentoring as well as access to a dedicated team and network.

Start Codon’s innovative fund seeks to support companies with ideas that could positively impact the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of disease. It is a great example of a fund setting itself apart from the crowd and aiming to support its portfolio companies as they develop innovative businesses which will address some of the key problems the world is facing.   

Also seeking to make a difference is o2h Ventures Limited’s Therapeutics Fund (also known as the o2h Human Health EIS Fund). Its target is to support and grow companies with new therapeutic drug opportunities or technologies. 

The Therapeutics Fund nurtures companies with ideas to make significant impact in this space. They see this as a move away from the traditional fund investment landscape as, alongside its financial support, o2h Ventures Limited offers portfolio companies incubation in its Mill SciTech Park and support to carry out their first research experiments. 

Finally, in collaboration with RYSE Asset Management LLP, Future Care Capital is launching a new fund, FCC RYSE Fund I LP, investing in companies in the healthcare industry who have the potential to significantly change the promotion or improvement of standards or training in the healthcare sector.

It is looking to invest in portfolio companies who are being innovative in the areas of digital health, assisted living, medical devices, education, training and development, with investments already envisaged in Cambridge. 

Its prospective investments include Cambridge-based Healthera, a Cambridge-based company with a vision to build a single smart platform to digitise and provide medicines, healthcare services and other products for patients, pharmacies and GP practices.

These new life sciences and health teach funds will no doubt not only have a profound effect on Cambridge and continue to grow Cambridge’s biotech cluster, but may also have a wider positive impact on addressing problems arising from the pandemic.

With fund managers also engaging with entrepreneurs to overcome their hurdles and investing time to nurture life sciences businesses, we are bound to see new products supported by these funds coming to market. 

• You can call Dona on +(44)(0)1223 222499 or drop her an email at: Dona.ardeman [at] mills-reeve.com

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#UK Local life science investment goes from strength to strength


The global economic and societal challenges brought by COVID-19 have impacted all industries, many quite extensively, writes Simon Ormiston, partner at  PwC in Cambridge.

In contrast, the performance of the life sciences sector has gone from strength to strength, with sentiment and confidence in it borne out by continuing significant scientific progress and levels of investment. This is exemplified by the Cambridge cluster, reinforcing its position as a leading centre globally and a key destination for businesses, research and investment.

A number of players here have made a huge contribution towards the COVID-19 testing, treatment and prevention efforts but it’s by no means all about the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19. 

The IP developed in Cambridge addresses a broad spectrum of therapeutic targets  and the strength and clinical potential of the drug candidates and platform technologies means there is significant investor appetite and activity – both from private and public sources.

If there were ever concerns that fund-raising would potentially dry up in the absence of face-to-face meetings whilst we have been working remotely, they were quickly dispelled. A number of substantial venture capital rounds were announced since March, which included:

  • Nodthera – $55 million Series B
  • ReViral Ltd – $44m Series C
  • Bit Bio – $41.5m Series A
  • Mission Therapeutics – $15m in equity investment 
  • Biofidelity Ltd – $12m Series A

Despite initial concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on capital markets and IPO valuations, the IPO market has remained buoyant. NASDAQ seems to be by far and away the market of choice. 

Bicycle Therapeutics listed there in May last year, and others, including Horizon Discovery and F-star Therapeutics (via its recently announced merger with Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals) have announced that they are evaluating such a move, and plenty of others are waiting in the wings.

Cambridge also continues to provide corporates with high potential and successful IP and products to strengthen their offerings, such as Nanna Therapeutics’ sale to Astellas Pharma Inc and NeoGenomics’ investment in, and option to buy, Inivata.

The focus on industry corridors is of increasing importance to economic development and spatial development strategies. Down the A1 corridor from Cambridge is the Stevenage bioscience catalyst and its growing cluster of leading edge life sciences companies are also contributing to the strength of the UK life sciences industry. 

This includes the recent $120m series C investment into Freeline Therapeutics and their announcement of an IPO, and Bayer’s acquisition of KaNDy Therapeutics.

The links between the two centres are becoming stronger, which should help with the continued acceleration and performance of the wider cluster, building the deeper and larger talent pool so necessary for future expansion of the industry.

In these ongoing uncertain economic times, it is more important than ever that the life science cluster here in Cambridge celebrates and builds on its successes!

For more information, email simon.j.ormiston [at] pwc.com (Simon Ormiston).

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