Tech in the East of England: Spectral Edge raises $5.3m, tech startups get a boost and more

Tim Robinson, COO of TechEast, shares his monthly roundup of the biggest tech news stories from East Anglia.

April kicked off to a positive start: according to research from RSM, the number of technology startups in the region is up 46% in the last year – 660 East Anglian software development businesses were set up in 2017, compared to 452 in 2016.  

Cambridge image tech startup Spectral Edge, raises $5.3m

Spectral Edge has raised $5.3m (£3.72m) in series A funding from previous investors, Parkwalk Advisors and IQ Capital.

The image processing firm combines cutting-edge imaging tech with machine learning to provide sharper pictures and videos on mass-market devices. Spectral Edge’s tech has a wide range of applications, including mobile, security, and live video streaming.

The firm – based at the Bradfield Centre on the Cambridge Science Park – will use the funding to expand its R&D team to 12 people. It will also support product development, helping embed the technology into smartphones, webcams and security applications alongside its existing TV and display products.     

Spectral Edge CEO, Rhodri Thomas, said: “We are delighted to have the continued support of IQ Capital and Parkwalk Advisors as Spectral Edge moves to the next phase of growth and we see our technology reaching the marketplace…This funding will allow us to continue to realise real world applications as we further strengthen our technical team.”

The connection between business and academia is particularly strong in Cambridge and plays a big part in Spectral Edge. The R&D team includes five PHDs, with other team members being part of ARM Holdings and Microsoft alumni.

Growth and investment for Ipswich’s Adastral Park

BT’s Ipswich campus – Adastral Park – has seen several exciting developments this month. Suffolk Coastal’s District Council has signed off a large housing and infrastructure development adjacent to the existing campus. The £96m investment is a partnership between the council and the land owner, Carlyle Land Ltd.

The development will create 2,000 new homes for the area, as well as community facilities like schools and health facilities, and much-needed infrastructure improvements. Enhancing infrastructure is one of the region’s biggest challenges, so it’s reassuring that this project includes provisions for developing the local road and public transport networks.

The development is expected to create 300 extra jobs, as well as providing knock-on benefits for Adastral Park’s tech community. As well as BT, the campus is home to Innovation Martlesham – a cluster and incubator for digital businesses.

Adastral Park saw more good news at the end of April, announcing a new investment partnership with Indian giant Tech Mahindra, who have invested in a new ‘Makers’ Lab’ at Adastral Park to carry out R&D on AI and machine learning projects. The new lab is a collaboration between BT, Innovation Martlesham, and Tech Mahindra.

Tech Mahindra is valued at over $4.7bn. In 2016, it was named as one of the Fab 50 companies in Asia by Forbes.

CP Gurnani, CEO and MD of Tech Mahindra, said: “Innovation is the key to survival in the digital future… We at Tech Mahindra are taking the philosophy of disruption by design to our client ecosystem, academia and people through our research arm Makers Lab in UK.”

£20m Research England investment in regional Agritech Cluster

Four East of England universities – Cambridge, UEA, the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Lincoln – have formed the Ceres Agritech Knowledge Exchange Partnership along with the University of Reading. The three-year partnership aims to assist agritech businesses with research and innovation.

Ceres has received a £4.78m grant from Research England, as well as a further £15m from corporates and technology investors.

Due to the high-concentration of agriculture in the region, East Anglia has a strong agritech sub-sector. Ceres will work closely with businesses in the sector to explore areas like AI, robotics, nutrition, genomics, and plant sciences. It’s hoped that the innovations produced by Ceres may be licensed for use by agritech businesses.

Iain Thomas, head of life sciences at Cambridge Enterprise, said: “Farmers, food processors and producers are eager to explore and adopt new technologies to improve their competitiveness and efficiency… Cambridge University wants to play a significant part in the successful development of an agritech cluster.”

Norwich scaleup Lintott wins Queen’s Award for industry

Lintott Control Systems – based in Norwich – has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the innovation category. Lintott is a digitally enabled manufacturer of water and wastewater treatment technologies.  

The award honours the firm’s new digital platform, i-Catalyst, which allows customers to design and manage their own water treatment systems, storing general drawings, electrical schematics and user manuals accessible through QR codes. The technology also enables Lintott to run a “visual digital factory” with integrated and streamlined processes.

Judges praised Lintott’s ability to “radically reduce the development time of bespoke equipment, from tens of days to just hours”.