Tech in the East of England: The March 2018 roundup

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

As the spring conference season gets into its stride, our roundup this month includes events in Suffolk and Norfolk, news from Cambridge, and big opportunities at BT.

East’s potential identified in government Creative Sector Deal

According to Government’s Industrial Strategy Creative Sector Deal, East Anglia is among the most highly concentrated creative clusters in the UK.

This £150m ‘sector deal’ is part of the government’s long-term Industrial Strategy.

Norwich, Colchester and Cambridge are among 47 clusters that account for 82% of the UK’s creative industries employment and 75% of creative businesses. 

The deal will contribute to a number of creative projects, including £33m ring-fenced for immersive tech such as VR and AR.

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport said: “Britain’s creative industries are an economic and cultural powerhouse and this ambitious deal will make sure they continue to thrive as we build a Britain fit for the future.”

BT unlocks more opportunities in the East

With its global research and development facility based on the outskirts of Ipswich, BT is a major employer in the region.  We were pleased to hear that the telecoms giant is creating even more graduate jobs and apprenticeships in the East of England.

As part of a drive to recruit 1,300 roles across the country, BT is offering 300 new apprenticeships and graduate jobs, of which 150 will be based at Adastral Park in Martlesham. The rest will be located in Essex and Hertfordshire.

The new roles include opportunities in TV, cybersecurity, engineering and customer service.

BT is using a number of high-tech solutions to recruit for these roles. The firm has created a VR experience for candidates to get a feel of what it’s like to work at BT, as well as a ‘Crystal Maze’ style experience to test problem-solving ability and enthusiasm.

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, said: “We’re proud to be leading the industry by investing in training a huge number of people in the digital skills that the UK economy so vitally needs.”

Mr Patterson continued: “Our apprenticeship and graduate scheme will equip people with the skills and on the job training they will need to succeed in the future. I’m looking forward to welcoming all our new recruits into the business.”

Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed BT’s recruitment announcement, citing that it was in alignment with the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Cambridge creates hub for Angel investors

The UK Business Angels Association has just launched a new angel investment hub at the Bradfield Centre – a deep tech workspace based at the prestigious Cambridge Science Park. The hub will provide training and networking to prospective angel investors, as well as connecting them with startups seeking investment.

Business angels are one of the main sources of investment for startups and SMEs. On average, UK business angels collectively invest £1.6bn a year. The UKBAA is the national trade association for angel investors and represents the interests of over 18,000 investors and 180 organisations.

The Bradfield Centre and Cambridge Science Park is currently home to over 100 tech startups and SMEs and has network partners including Cambridge Network, CW, TechEast and Judge Business School. Creating a base for angel investors in the heart of Cambridge’s tech community will hopefully make it easier for the surrounding businesses to attract investment.

James Parton, managing director of The Bradfield Centre said: “Capital, advice, connections – these are all essential ingredients to grow a successful tech business. 

“Bringing more of these ingredients into the Cambridge ecosystem is a key part of our mission at The Bradfield Centre, and the establishment of a UKBAA angel hub at the centre represents a real boost for local entrepreneurs and investors alike.”

A Cambridge acquisition and tech award wins

The Bradfield Centre is the newest tech space in a city already rich in research parks, co-working spaces and incubators. One of these is the Babraham Research Campus on the southern side of Cambridge, where Benevolent AI has just acquired a new drug-making facility .

Founded in 2013, Benevolent AI is a world-leader in the development and application of AI for scientific purposes. The firm works with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms and has contributed to several major breakthroughs and accelerated drug development. Benevolent AI is now the UK’s first AI company able to cover the entire drug development process.

Ken Mulvany, founder and chairman of BenevolentAI, said: “The acquisition has expanded our scale and capability overnight and created something that previously did not exist – an AI company truly integrated across every stage of the drug development process.”

And finally, a number of Cambridge tech businesses saw success at this year’s Business Weekly Awards. The annual event rewards business successes from Cambridge and the surrounding areas.

AI firm PROWLER.io was named Startup of the Year, while engineering software firm AVEVA won the Quoted Business of the Year Award. Online games firm Frontier Games received the prize for Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year and PlayFusion won ScaleUp of the Year.