Awards young guns hitting fresh targets

The presentation of the 2021 Business Weekly Awards at St John’s Innovation Centre highlighted a step change in the profile and prospects of the new wave of Cambridge tech and life science game-changers.

Taken across the board, this is the youngest cohort of winners we have ever had. More to the point they are raising more money much earlier than forerunners honoured throughout the 31 years of these Awards.

And, reflecting changing times, a third of our winning businesses were founded or co-founded by women.

Most of the winning companies are scaling on two fronts, hiring – or endeavouring to hire amid stiff UK competition – more staff at a faster rate and either moving into new HQs or preparing to relocate.

It is also noteworthy that the winners’ technologies reflect the new strength and diversity of Cambridge’s business landscape. Sustainable technologies are very much to the fore, and not least because of novel yet advanced AI and Machine Learning platforms.

Genuine next-generation life science technologies hold the promise of increasingly personalised treatments for a range of illnesses, including cancer.

Companies that have invested money in the winners told Business Weekly that they were excited about the increasing maturity of their portfolios as well as the potential global impact of the science and technologies represented.

Chief operating officer Waseem Shiraz (above left) collected Cambridge Quantum’s Business of the Year accolade from Kevin Calder of lead forensic sponsor Mills & Reeve. 

Cambridge Quantum has powerful global investors and collaborators and is doing famously on both sides of the Atlantic. The company builds tools for the commercialisation of quantum technologies with a focus on software and cybersecurity.

The Awards proved an amazing triumph for Cambridge GaN Devices, the young but globally influential power electronics pioneer which had three winners on parade. This was the first time any business had scooped a trio of trophies. The company won the Tech Scale-up of The Year accolade which was presented by Andrew Baker-Campbell of TTP to co-founder Giorgia Longobardi (above).

Longobardi was named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year – a trophy sponsored by Cambridge Judge Business School and presented by Bruno Cotta, executive director at the CJBS Entrepreneurship Centre. Fellow co-founder, Professor Udrea (above left) received the Cambridge Enterprise Academic Entrepreneur of the Year accolade from CE’s Paul Seabright.

Cambridge Enterprise’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to Professor Steve Young (below left), a serial dontrepreneur who has sold companies to Microsoft and Apple and helped the latter establish a significant speech recognition technology hub in Cambridge.

Young Company of the Year is always a good guide to future progress and the honour this time went to Mestag Therapeutics whose CEO Susan Hill received the crystal obelisk from Ian Smythe of Arm (below). Mestag’s vision is to transform the lives of people affected by inflammatory disease and cancer.  

Engineering in its broadest and most profound sense was honoured in the Sir Michael Marshall Engineering Excellence Award presented by Robert Marshall. The winner was CN Bio Innovations which has developed a Liver-on-a-Chip specifically designed for the research of drug metabolism, toxicology and liver diseases. Alberto Garcia Naranjo (below left) accepted the obelisk on the company’s behalf.

In terms of export successes, Domino Printing Sciences endures and UK operations director Carl Haycock received the International Trade Champion trophy from Stephen Ainsworth of long-term Awards sponsor Barclays.

The AI Champion Award is becoming one of the most hotly contested of all time. Artificial Intelligence is impacting upon pretty much every aspect of business activity as well as our lives and Eagle Genomics, this year’s winner, has identified and maximised the most profitable aspect of its technology.

The reach and influence of Eagle’s technology has been global from Day One. Among the first companies to benefit from Eagle’s expertise were global organisations Unilever, Eli Lilly, GSK, Procter & Gamble and MedImmune. 

The microbiome discovery platform company was recently chosen to join the latest cohort of the Microsoft AI Factory, based at the world-renowned Station F startup campus in Paris.

The Eagle Genomics platform utilises AI to analyse complex genomic and microbiomic data at scale, delivering new insight and allowing enterprise brands to assess the viability, efficacy and safety of products. Eagle revenues have soared by 300 per cent over the last year. Dr Alex Mitchell (above left) received the honour from Rod Faul of Kao Data.

The largest entry in terms of numbers was received for the Life Science Innovation Award, sponsored by AstraZeneca. The trophy went to Alchemab Therapeutics, whose chief scientific officer Dr Jane Osbourn received the accolade from AstraZeneca’s Jonathon Bell (below). 

Alchemab is harnessing the power of the immune system to cure disease by using nature’s most effective search engine – adaptive immunity. The company tags itself ‘the protective self antibody company’ with the aim of identifying novel unbiased targets and therapeutics by evaluating convergent protective antibody responses in groups of resilient patients.

It is leveraging functional and advanced analytical approaches to evaluate antibody repertoires obtained from RNA from blood & tissue samples and its initial therapeutic focuses are on the areas of oncology, neurodegeneration and infectious diseases. The company raised $82 million in a Series A round in April.

Also hotly contested was the Disruptive Technology prize which was handed by David Gill of St John’s Innovation Centre to another exciting young Cambridge company, Nu Quantum. CEO and co-founder Carmen Palacios-Berraquero (above) accepted the award for Nu Quantum which is a telecoms company that develops end-to-end quantum cryptography systems.

New on the parade ground this year was the Sustainability Champion Award and it brought a stream of entries from companies with a broad range of CleanTech credentials. The inaugural winner was SATAVIA and founder and CEO Adam Durant was thrilled with the honour. Claire Ruskin of Cambridge Network presented the accolade.

SATAVIA is helping to make flying smarter and greener. It is regarded as the only solution delivering actionable insight in aviation which is able to combine and validate multiple environmental, weather, aircraft and maintenance datasets. 

This month, SATAVIA and global aviation giants Etihad and Boeing launched EY20 Sustainable Flight, the world’s first commercially operated flight combining SATAVIA contrail prevention with sustainable aviation fuel.

There have been some stunning performances by Cambridge companies on global stock exchanges in the last 12 months, principally in the UK and US. A number of new IPOs on both sides of the Atlantic have kept investors keen. 

The Quoted Company of the Year obelisk was awarded to Marshall Motor Holdings. PwC’s Simon de Young did the honours by handing over the trophy to Jamie Crowther, Operations Director at MMH (above).

Marshall Motor Holdings reported 2021 first half revenues 49 per cent higher year-on-year to more than £1.334 billion. And, is if by Royal command, on the eve of the presentation MMH revealed that it had acquired Motorline Holdings for £64.5m cash, adding another 48 franchises with a potential return of £3bn.

There’s no keeping biotech out of the limelight and the Life Science Scale-Up of the year obelisk went to a business with massive potential – PetMedix. Dr Tom Weaver (above left), CEO of the animal healthcare specialist, received the trophy from Robert Tansley of Cambridge Innovation Capital.

PetMedix has established itself as a world leader in the emerging companion animal antibody field and is currently the only group capable of making mature, fully species-specific antibodies. 

It has expanded operations, boosted headcount and raised significant expansion capital. Heavyweight Chinese, Japanese and US backing allowed PetMedix to complete an oversubscribed $37 million Series B round in September to advance its innovative pipeline through clinical development.

The Cambridge Judge Business School Graduate Business of the Year Award was won by another dynamic Cambridge startup destined for global greatness – Cyted. Judge’s Bruno Cotta presented the obelisk to Cyted CEO Marcel Gehrung (below left), a Cambridge PhD who was recently named a Forbes 30 Under 30.

Gehrung is looking to double headcount in double-quick time and the business has the financial runway and tech pipeline to do so – but Gehrung is combing the UK and wider afield for the right talent rather than filling gaps for the sake of it.

Cyted was founded in 2018 by a team of scientists and clinicians from the University with support from Cancer Research UK. It focuses on providing digital diagnostic infrastructure to drive the earlier detection of disease. Its technologies use artificial intelligence and novel biomarkers to unlock clinical insight and improve patient outcomes. Cyted leverages deep learning on medical information to generate context-sensitive reports that augment the ability of clinicians to detect disease. 

• Photography by Alan Bennett of Media Imaging Solutions