Another year of deep tech
The Cambridge Cluster has seen another year of growth in both the number and value of deals completed, with over £700 million invested in more than 120 deals in the year to October 2018, according to Beauhurst, more than double that achieved in 2017.
The scale of this investment activity reflects the high quality of the many exciting businesses forming and flourishing in our Cluster, writes Victor Christou, CEO of Cambridge Innovation Capital.
A significant proportion of these businesses are built on the Cluster’s strengths in particular areas of deep technology – robotics, genomics, artificial intelligence, sound recognition, Internet of Things and next generation biologic therapeutics.
Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) was established to provide the investment and expert support needed for such technologies to develop to commercial maturity. CIC has now invested over £100 million in 24 companies that reflect the strengths of the Cluster.
Robotics coming of age
Over the last year, we have continued to support our portfolio, including participating in the largest investment of the year in Cambridge. In June 2018, CMR Surgical secured $100 million to advance its robotic system Versius, designed for minimal access surgery, through regulatory approvals, into scale-up and commercial sales.
Minimal access surgery is physically tiring, and the use of robotics can accelerate training and increase productivity of surgeons. Versius has been designed to mimic the human arm, with the surgeon using controllers, similar to a gaming console, to control it. Versius will provide hospitals with a flexible, value for money robotic solution to improve patient outcomes.
The place to be for sound technology
Cambridge has established a reputation as a world-leading centre for sound technology development. This has been endorsed by the acquisitions of Evi by Amazon, with its technology now incorporated in Alexa, and VocalIQ and Entropic, which were acquired by Apple and Microsoft, respectively.
Many global technology companies now actively scout in Cambridge for sound and speech technology development capabilities that can give them a lead over their competitors and several have based dedicated development teams here. The creation of AudioTelligence, for which CIC led the initial £3.1 million funding round in September 2018, is the latest in the long heritage of cutting edge sound-focused companies.
Loud background noise makes it difficult to hear or understand a conversation: not just a problem for humans but also for voice activated devices.
AudioTelligence has developed a software-based solution to separate speech from background noise that can be cost-effectively integrated into consumer products for the smart home and hearing assistance.
AudioTelligence is a spinout of CEDAR Audio, itself a spinout from the University of Cambridge, demonstrating that the Cluster is maturing and now creating offspring from mature businesses that have grown within it.
It also illustrates that companies may need space to pivot or reinvent themselves to meet evolving market opportunities. Supporting a company to make this change requires understanding investors who appreciate deep tech.
Entrepreneurs such as William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of Evi and a member of CIC’s Advisory Panel, are invaluable in providing expert guidance to such companies.
Forefront of artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is another area in which Cambridge technology leads the world. SWIM.AI, a business founded in Silicon Valley, has opened a research office in Cambridge to capitalise on this expertise.
CIC led a $10 million Series B funding in the summer to help SWIM.AI implement its strategy. The company is at the forefront of edge computing, which enables real-time analysis of streaming data on ‘edge’ devices such as traffic controllers and smart meters.
SWIM’s technology can optimise controls in, for example, smart cities and digital manufacturing where machine learning algorithms can identify issues before they arise.
CIC’s investment in SWIM.AI complements other artificial intelligence companies in our portfolio.
Geospock, a developer of extreme data management technology used to manage smart cities and transportation systems, raised £5 million in February 2018 and Undo, which de-risks software development, raised $14 million in July 2018.
Strong business models
This year has shown that Cambridge entrepreneurs are continuing to create companies with all the potential to be globally important businesses in the future. We are excited by the breadth and quality of high-tech businesses developing in the Cluster and look forward to continuing our pivotal role in the development of the best of these in the future.