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

March saw a ground-breaking Quantum initiative take its next steps in the East of England, plus some big Deeptech investment news  world-leading initiatives take off in the region. From the world’s first commercial-grade quantum test network link to a cyber defence company with unparalleled growth, tech in the East is going from strength to strength.

BT activates world-first ultra-secure quantum network link between Adastral Park and University of Cambridge

BT has activated the world’s first commercial-grade quantum test network link. Running between the Adastral Park research base and the UK Quantum Network node at the University of Cambridge, this test link forms one part of the UKQN, which is the result of a collaboration between research and industry, run by the Quantum Communications Hub. It heralds the testing and demonstration of new quantum technologies.

BT’s managing director of research, Tim Whitley, commented: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of the next generation of network design, helping the UK take the lead in the development of ultra-secure quantum networks, and keeping our customers’ data safe in years to come.”

Cambridge Innovation Capital raises further £150 million to invest in region

Cambridge Innovation Capital plc (CIC), a venture capital investor focused on intellectual property rich technology and life science businesses in the Cambridge ecosystem, has completed a funding round of £150 million, bringing the total amount of capital raised to date to £275 million. The financing is one of the largest private financing rounds in Europe this year.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, commented: “CIC has grown since its launch to become a key part of the Cambridge ecosystem. It has provided support and investment to a portfolio of leading-edge businesses, each of which has the potential to substantially improve people’s lives.” The funds raised will be used to support CIC’s current portfolio of 25 companies and enable investment in new opportunities arising from both the University of Cambridge and the wider Cambridge ecosystem.

New Anglia LEP announces £14.5m funding for skills, innovation and productivity

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has announced Capital Growth Funding totalling £14.5m for four new projects which will boost skills, innovation and productivity in Norfolk and Suffolk. LEP chair Doug Field said: “Through its Growth Deal with Government, New Anglia LEP has been entrusted to make investments providing the infrastructure, skills and innovation that will supercharge our economy.”

The projects to receive funding are:

  1. University of Suffolk: Digital Skills & Innovation Accelerator. £6.497m. Establishment of a new, nationally significant ICT research and training centre, combining high quality academic capabilities, world-leading industrial research and development.
  2. City College Norwich: Digi-Tech Factory. £6.098m. A 2,780m² building to be focused on education, with innovative workshops and IT facilities, enabling a number of interconnected Digital Technology, Engineering and Design Courses to come together in a purpose-designed building.
  3. Suffolk New College: Digital & Technology Skills Hub. £1.6m. To provide new skills for local SMEs seeking to increase their digital capability.
  4. Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils: Norfolk & Suffolk Innovation Network. £440,000. To create a network across Norfolk and Suffolk to enable private, public and educational sector organisations and the public to explore, trial and implement Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Mr Field commented: “The quality of the business case put forward for each of these four projects put them ahead of a host of other strong applications. I believe each will make a lasting and telling contribution to achieving the aims of our Economic Strategy.”

Agri-Tech East chosen as first international partner for trade mission with Canada

Agri-Tech East has been chosen by the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) as its first international partner for HARVEST, an annual trade mission that includes introductions to key farming companies in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Agri-Tech East’s 170-strong membership of farmers, producers, technologists and entrepreneurs will have the chance to pitch their products and services to major Canadian producers, processors and investors.

Double awards success for AgriTech platform KisanHub

Cambridge-based crop intelligence platform KisanHub was awarded Young Company of the Year at the Business Weekly Awards. Next was the Cambridge News Business Excellence Awards, where KisanHub collected the Hewitson’s award for Business Innovation. Congratulations to the team!

Tech Nation unveils its new Future Fifty and Rising Stars cohorts

Tech Nation has announced the 24 new companies joining their Future Fifty programme. They include Cambridge-based Ieso Digital Health, which delivers online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to the NHS and healthcare providers around the world. Ieso has double cause for celebration – it has also been crowned Business of the Year in the 29th annual Business Weekly Awards.

Another new recruit is StarLeaf, developers of an advanced video conferencing platform. The firm was founded by a group of Cambridge graduates and still operates from an office in the city.

Tech Nation also announced its 10 new Rising Stars, which included Developing Experts, a cloud-based EdTech platform from Norwich.

Majestic Wine rebrands as Naked Wines

One of the very first TechNation Future Fifty cohort, Naked Wines of Norwich, is the new brand for Majestic Wine. This follows its acquisition by Majestic in 2015. “It is clear that Naked Wines has the potential for strong sustainable growth,” group chief executive Rowan Gormley said.

Cambridge-based Darktrace ranks 9th of Europe’s fastest growing companies

Cambridge-based AI for cyber defence Unicorn, Darktrace, has ranked ninth in the FT 1000: Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies list. Darktrace’s self-learning AI protects the cloud, SaaS, corporate networks, IoT and industrial systems against cyber-threats and vulnerabilities. “To secure a top 10 position in the FT 1000: Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies is testament to the fact that AI is now the cornerstone of cyber defence,” commented Darktrace CEO Poppy Gustafsson.

Conference season in full swing

Between the second outing for Ipswich’s Developer Conference Dev://east, the latest Tommy Flowers Institute conference  ‘The Future of Transport’ at Adastral Park, and ‘Fulfilling the promise of AI and disruptive technologies’: a UEA event with IBM,  conference season hit full swing in March.

For future events, keep an eye on our events page so you don’t miss what’s coming up next!