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17 April, 2011 - 20:37 By Tony Quested

Anniversary Awards trigger new enterprise initiatives

Shen Wei, president of Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, with student entrepreneur, Cong Cong Bo

Business Weekly’s 21st Anniversary Awards ceremony in March 2011 marked the dawn of a new era for enterprise in Cambridge and the East of England.

‘Leveraging the future’ was more than just a thread running through the fabric of the East of England Business Awards dinner at Queens’ College. It is the mantra adopted by Business Weekly and key influencers attending the event, who have formed new collaborations crucial to the future development of the cluster.

The partners have pledged to find the ‘new Hermann Hausers’ prepared to pass on their serial entrepreneurship skills and experience to the current generation of young, talented and energetic Cambridge business drivers charged with piloting the star ship ‘enterprise’ through the blue skies of the future.

Given the talent existing in Cambridge’s female student entrepreneurship pool a few Hermoine Hausers wouldn’t come amiss – and there are signs in new start-up initiatives locally that the goal is achievable.

The seeds of fresh enterprise sown between Business Weekly and leading Awards guests include:-

• A new alliance between Business Weekly and CUE – Cambridge University Entrepreneurs – to nourish and nurture grass roots enterprise at student level

• An intensified search in collaboration with the University’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning for exemplar companies founded by Cambridge graduates

• An alliance with the Cambridge Biomedical Research Campus to promote potential global collaborations

• New ventures designed to create an internationally recognised GreenTech network from a currently diverse array of companies and opportunities

The 21st Anniversary Awards dinner made flesh the gilt-edged opportunities that lie ahead – and the enormity of the challenge in exploiting rather than squandering the chance as the Cambridge Cluster stands at the crossroads.

Endemic among the young companies in contention for both the Killer Technologies Award – won by Sphere Fluidics – and inaugural Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year Awards (won by Owlstone Nanotech) was the dynamism bright young brains and energetic minds and bodies can generate.

The Private Company of the Year winners, RealVNC – headed by chairman Andy Hopper – International Trade champion CamSemi, thriving under David Baillie’s leadership, and the fast-moving Horizon Discovery epitomised what the young guns should be shooting for as they mature.

And the metaphorical ‘greybeards’ – not just double champions Domino (winner of Quoted Company of the Year and Business of the Year Awards) but also some of the region’s longest established companies attending the event – demonstrated why it is vital not to throw the baby boomers out with the bathwater.

All the initiatives being pursued by Business Weekly and our partners are designed to ensure that in a FutureTech scenario of avatars, AI and active lenses – superbly articulated by guest speaker Ian Pearson, the celebrated futurologist – we learn from our ‘ancients.’ More importantly, the ancients must respect the young – because they ARE the future.

The first 50 years of the Cambridge Tech Cluster are done and dusted – optimising the next half-century is the collective challenge for all the companies among a glittering 200-plus executive audience at the Awards presentation.

Shen Wei, president Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, who was on the CfEL table at the Awards, said there was an urgent need to find fresh stimuli for students to encourage them to start their own companies rather than settle for the security of a job within an established business.

She said: “CUE is a leader in promoting grass-roots entrepreneurship, which is extremely important for the development of high growth businesses in UK, as well as the commercialisation of University based technologies from Cambridge and beyond.

“We have a prize pool of £42,000 to give away to student entrepreneurs. Companies formed after the the CUE competition such as Light Blue Optics, Owlstone, Enval, Cambridge Temperature Concepts and many more have become key players in the Cambridge hi-tech community.

“However, we are facing many issues. We have noticed a trend of more students preferring roles at established corporates rather than starting new ventures. Even students with viable business ideas are selecting corporate careers as they believe it is more secure and better protected than entrepreneurship.

“The marketing budgets of the big recruiters far outweigh those of student societies so even fewer students are aware that creating or joining new ventures are possible after graduation.

“We feel confident that Business Weekly – ‘extraordinary champion for the support of Enterprise’, as described perfectly by CfEL director Shai Vyakarnam – will help us to achieve that extra mile.”

Female entrepreneurs like Shen and Cong Cong Bo may not have to wait long for the cavalry to arrive. Jon Bradford, the dynamic young director of the new Cambridge Springboard programme, told me at the awards that he was seeing a lot of female chief executives among the candidates for the inaugural competition. “That has to be good for the future of entrepreneurship,” he said. “Talent is talent regardless of gender.”

The value of winning Business Weekly’s Awards as a ‘springboard’ to growth was emphasised in film tributes from enterprise champions Shai Vyakarnam and Richard Green, CEO of Ubisense, and from three past Businesses of the Year – TTP, via co-founder Gerald Avison; AVEVA, courtesy CEO Richard Longdon; and Abcam through CEO Jonathan Milner.

Messages of goodwill were received from Hermann Hauser – at a family wedding in New Zealand – David Cleevely, head of Cambridge Wireless who was abroad on business, and from Business & Enterprise Minister, Mark Prisk.

Guest executives exercised a good deal of social enterprise at the dinner, donating £2,133 for our adopted charity, Wallace Cancer Care, in a prize draw offering hospitality and racing for two at Newmarket Racecourses.

Felicity Pugh, for the charity, said: “Business Weekly is to be congratulated for giving the guests a very good celebration of your 21 years.

“The wonderful total raised is so gratefully received by all of us who work hard to make the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and the treatment as smooth as it possibly can be.”

The Awards themselves were presented by Ian Pearson on behalf of the sponsors, Birketts LLP, SEGRO, Anglian Water, PwC, Barclays Corporate, TTP Group and CfEL.

All the categories were hotly contested, none more so than the inaugural Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year Award where Owstone Nanotech just pipped Arcus Global, Breathing Buildings, CAMBfix, Cambridge Temperature Concepts, Enecsys, Enval and Lumora.

Sphere Medical did well to emerge victorious in the ‘Killer Technologies’ category where the judges had several rounds of trying to split some brilliant young contenders to assess which technology could potentially make the greatest difference to our lives.

And in all the other categories, there were half a dozen contenders for every crown. Meridian Audio, ip.access, Datanomic and Cambridge Broadband were particularly unlucky – each being a whisker away from glory in three separate categories. But as we remarked on the night, there were certainly no losers in the room.

The non-sponsor judges who gave up so much time to retain these awards as the UK’s most credible long-running B2B competition were Sir Michael Marshall, Hermann Hauser, Charles Cotton, Harriet Fear, Teri Willey, John Snyder, Richard Longdon and David Cleevely.

Sir Michael turned the tables on Business Weekly with a surprise presentation of a specially engraved obelisk to Business Weekly executive directors Tony and Kate Quested for what he called “a magnificent and sustained contribution from Business Weekly to the success of the region’s business community and the region’s economy.”

• Business Weekly wishes to thank 2Cs Communications for a superb job in handling all the sound and visual presentation of the Awards, filming of executives and production of all stageing and promotional materials for the events. Thanks also to Marshall Executive Chauffeur, Newmarket Racecourses and Hotel Du Vin, Cambridge, for their contributions to different aspects of the celebrations.

Next year’s East of England Business Awards dinner will be held at Queens’ College, Cambridge, on Tuesday March 20, 2012.

East of England Business Awards winners

Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year:

Winner – Owlstone Nanotech.

Shortlisted: Arcus Global, Breathing Buildings, CAMBfix, Cambridge Temperature Concepts; Enecsys, Enval and Lumora.

Killer Technologies

Winner  – Sphere Fluidics.

Private Company of the Year

Winner – RealVNC

Quoted Company of the Year

Winner– Domino UK

International Trade

Winner – CamSemi

Young Business of the Year

Winner – Horizon Discovery

Business of the Year

Winner – Domino UK.

Runners-up and highly commended for major categories and Business of the Year:  42 Technology; Cambridge Broadband; Camfridge; Cambridge Healthcare; Cambridge Pixel; Cognovo; Datanomic; Green-Tide Turbines; Inotech AMD; ip.access; Lab21; Lintbells; Meridian Audio; Ninja Theory; Open Cloud; Oval Medical; PDX; Plextek; Psynova Neurotech; Rapid Biosensor Systems; Redd&Whyte; Shearline Precision Engineering; Toby Churchill Ltd.

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