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Tech in the East of England: the July 2018 roundup


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

East Anglia dominates the quarterly Irwin Mitchell UK Powerhouse Report published this month. According to the report, Cambridge is the fastest-growing city economy in the UK, with 2.6% economic growth over the last quarter and £8.9m GVA.

Ipswich placed second in Irwin Mitchell’s league table, with 2.5% growth and £4.5m GVA. Norwich rounded off the top five, with 2.4% growth and £2.7m GVA, placing just after Reading and Milton Keynes.

The report flags that each of the top five cities have a “sizeable” technology sector contributing to their successes. While the report identifies that the UK tech sector is growing 2.6 times faster than the rest of the economy, it identifies that skills and talent remain a challenge.

It is also interesting to consider the strength of the three towns and cities as a single East Anglian unit. The combined GVA of Ipswich, Cambridge and Norwich is over £16m. That’s greater than the likes of well-established tech clusters Bristol (£13.4m), Milton Keynes (£11.6m), and Sheffield (£11.3m). The average growth rate of the region is 2.5%, making East Anglia as a whole the fastest growing region in the UK.

The UK’s regional clusters can change fast, so Irwin Mitchell’s quarterly reports provide a valuable ‘pulse check’ during the months between the annual Tech Nation Reports. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out to see how the Eastern clusters continue to grow.

More good news for Cambridge: research by KPMG hails the city the “VC investment capital of Europe”. Cambridge and the East of England received over £291m in venture capital during the second quarter of 2018, composed of 22 separate investments of which over half of the investment went to healthcare and life sciences tech, a sector increasingly underpinned by digital tech.

Debugging tech Undo receives £10.6m

Undo, a debugging software platform based in Cambridge, has received £10.6m in Series B funding, another chunky raise for the region.

Undo’s funding is the latest Deep Tech investment from Cambridge Innovation Capital. Japanese VC firm Global Brain Corporation and Parkwalk Advisors also contributed to the round.

Founded in 2005, Undo allows software development companies to debug their products quickly and effectively. The firm is the leading debugging platform for Linux, and has offices in Cambridge and the US. Undo was founded by Greg Law and Julian Smith, and initially operated out of Law’s shed, very East of England, the equivalent of the garages in Silicon Valley that gave birth to Apple and Google.

The firm will use its investment scale its commercial and customer success capacity by adding Java, Python, and other languages to the platform. It will also be used to grow Undo’s software development team, accelerate its product development and expand its US operations.

Victor Christou, CEO of CIC added: “Undo is typical of the sort of business in which CIC invests. It has innovative technology, which addresses the challenges brought about by the problem of software accountability. Undo has built a commercially applicable solution to a real market need and is a testament to the high calibre of businesses that are flourishing in the Cambridge cluster. We are very pleased with the progress Undo has made since we first invested in 2015 and are delighted to continue to support the business as it gains further commercial traction.”

Government invests in East Anglian Careers Hub

Careers and education in the East of England is to receive a boost with the creation of a new ‘careers hub’ to prepare young people for the world of work.

The New Anglia Careers Hub will feature 32 schools and colleges in East Anglia, and is one of 20 such hubs to be created in England. The hub will help connect young people with universities and employers to help them make the best choices for their future careers.

The Careers Hub is to be delivered by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, and will receive a share of £5m from the Government.

The creation of these new hubs is in line with the Government’s careers strategy, published back in December. By providing young people the best support in their careers, this will ensure businesses in the region have the talent they need to grow and thrive. Since a lack of access to talent is regularly identified as a challenge for the East in the annual Tech Nation Reports, this is especially welcome.

Doug Field, Chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Our ambition is for the New Anglia Careers Hub to transform the careers advice on offer for our young people. Through extensive evidence gathering for the Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy and a number of industry Sector Skills Plans we’ve listened to business about their needs for the next generation of workers. The next step is to listen to our schools – but more than that, for the schools to set the agenda, both staff and pupils, all guided by our two lead schools, through the framework put in place by the LEP.”

Norwich Research Park strengthens collaboration

The world-class life sciences and agri-tech centre Norwich Research Park has announced an ambitious twelve-year plan to become a globally recognised cluster and form closer links with the business community – both locally and nationally.

The new vision was unveiled by Anglia Innovation Partners (who manage the park) at a launch event at Centrum: the hub at the heart of Norwich Research Park. The strategy emphasises the importance of collaboration between academia and business, as well as supporting its 3,000 scientists and clinicians to consider and find commercial applications and spin outs for their research.

Anglia Innovation Partners also revealed plans to establish an accelerator facility to help entrepreneurial scientists access advice on business planning, marketing and fundraising.

David Parfrey, Executive Chairman of Anglia Innovation Partners, said: “We want to bring our scientists and clinicians to the fore so we can show what we are doing. We have to build our capacity for research and build our capacity to commercialise that research.”

He continued: “I have a particular interest in how we get science from the work bench into something that makes a difference people can see, whether it is economic or social or both.”

Norwich Research Park has already invested £1.6m to support researchers to find commercial opportunities in their work and the new strategy bodes well for greater collaboration with the East of England’s vibrant digital business community.