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20 April, 2016 - 18:46 By Tony Quested

Jewels in the crown as business leaders win Queen’s Awards

queen's award

East of England innovation, entrepreneurship and exporting prowess received royal assent in the UK today as trailblazing startups and mature companies from across the region won Queen’s Awards.

The Queen’s Awards arbiters have honoured three Cambridge winners from last month’s Business Weekly Awards – Horizon CEO Dr Darrin Disley, fast-growing cyber defence company Darktrace and the all-conquering Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group.

There are also Queen’s Awards for Cambridge gamechanger Argon Design – whose technology is already used by world leading business including Google, ARM, AMD,  Imagination, Renesas and Chips & Media – and for rapidly expanding Norwich software company Epos Now, which is going great guns on both sides of the Atlantic.

Other local winners included: James and James Fulfilment (Cambridge); Excalibur Screwbolts (Hockley, Essex); Omobono (Cambridge); Blok N Mesh UK (Braintree); Lintbells (Hitchin); Contamac (Saffron Walden); Ground Control (Billericay); Abiligroup (Ampthill); Photocentric (Peterborough); Rodtech (Hingham, Norfolk); Plasticell (Stevenage); Squirrels UK (Luton); Cambridge Integrated Circuits; Kinesis (St Neots); Mass Consultants (St Neots); Hayward Tyler (Luton); INTO University of East Anglia (Norwich); iCandy World (Biggleswade); Burland Technology Solutions (Ipswich); and Anglia Print (Beccles).

Cambridge entrepreneur Darrin Disley  is honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, not just for building a world-leading gene editing company at Horizon Discovery but also for his tireless work in mentoring and funding a string of impressive UK startups, taking them from often raw university IP to commercial success.

The Queen’s Award citation adds that Dr Disley “has made a major contribution to raising the profile of life sciences both in Cambridge and beyond. As part of his endeavours, he has concentrated on a voluntary programme to raise the profile of entrepreneurship and its connection with life sciences. He has given many hours of time to aid young entrepreneurs through mentoring and speaking engagements.

“In the past four years, over 100 young entrepreneurs have benefited from his advice, time and financial support and almost a dozen businesses have been launched, raising over £10 million pounds in capital. He remains an adviser to many of them.

“Darrin also provides assistance to several social enterprises, students from underprivileged backgrounds and advises and assists two universities along with Cambridge University Entrepreneurs.”

James and James Fulfilment in Sawston wins an Innovation Award for its e-commerce order fulfilment system.

The real-time, cloud-based innovation allows live integration of the entire supply chain connecting the end user with the suppliers. This means that warehouse operators work on the same underlying data as clients and customer service agents globally.

Customer service queries can be completed while the client is on the phone, and reports can be accessed from any web-connected location. Since its inception in 2010 by two graduates, James Hyde and James Strachan, the company has grown to a permanent staff of 15 with a turnover of £2.5 million.

Darktrace wins an Innovation Award for its cyber security product, the Enterprise Immune System. Inspired by the human immune system, the software learns risks and threats and adapts to deal with them.

The machine learning and mathematics behind the product were developed by specialists from the University of Cambridge. The software works with an understanding of what constitutes normal and abnormal situations.

Emerging behaviours that fall outside a normal pattern are identified and dealt with by the product, there is no need for prior knowledge of the threat’s existence. The company has now developed a system that can also help kill off any attacks that do slip through a system’s defences.

Founded in 2013 with the backing of serial entrepreneur Dr Mike Lynch together with world-leading intelligence experts from MI5 and GCHQ, Darktrace was hailed by PM David Cameron as “flying the flag” for the UK economy.

It now boasts more than 230 employees and 144 partners and has 20 global offices. The company claims to have detected over 8,000 threats and has 1000+ deployments across the globe.

Argon Design wins an Innovation Award for its gamechanging verification of video decoders for high definition (HD 4K) video. HD 4K is an ultra high definition standard that uses four times as many pixels as standard HD videos. Such high definition has created a requirement for ever higher compression of video so that it can be transmitted or stored with lower bit rates.

Argon Design works with high profile technology companies in the design of video decoders for displaying HD 4K video and has developed a tool, Argon Streams, to comprehensively verify such video decoders against the new standards.

Customers using Argon Streams can fully test video decoder designs before they begin chip manufacture, which reduces risk, cost and time to market. The innovation provides both direct income from licenses and consultancy fees and is key to the company’s financial growth. Founded in 2009, this is the company’s first Queen’s Award.

International Trade winner Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge, which now employs 1821 people, started trading in 1930 and specialises in military and commercial aircraft, business aviation, special mission vehicles and shelters, providing modification, manufacture, support and training.

The company’s key customers are major original equipment manufacturers, commercial airlines, aircraft maintenance companies, and government and military organisations. It has local offices in Europe, Australia, North America and the Middle East, with an export strategy driven by key account directors and a dedicated market research team. The company won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2013.

Cambridge Integrated Circuits wins an International Trade Award; established in 2007, its founding team has a history of innovation in resonant inductive position sensing, dating to a patent filed in 1994. The technology is used for detecting the precise linear or rotary position of moving parts inside machines, with today’s main applications being for industrial sensor modules, cash dispensers and surveillance cameras.

With almost all its income from overseas, the company has focused particularly on the US and Europe where customers are receptive to better ways of constructing products using new technology. 
Growth in overseas sales in the three years under review has been 120 per cent, mainly achieved through expansion into the US market and the development of new products for the German market.

New overseas markets for the period include Portugal, India, Canada, China and South Korea. Overseas sales have grown by 70 per cent over the last three years and the proportion of sales exported has increased to 37 per cent of total sales.

Burland Technology Solutions in Great Blakenham, Ipswich, which has won an export achievement  award, started trading in 2008 with the aim of raising the game in the electrical power distribution components world through the introduction of innovative, industry leading and high quality electrical distribution boxes, electrical power units and components.

The company originally planned to be exporting to eight or nine countries, but has far exceeded this by exporting to 17 countries including the US, Taiwan, India and China. A key achievement has been the successful patenting of two of its most unique products (new power receptacles) which has enabled the rapid growth of its Far East markets. Its overseas sales have now risen by 114 per cent, with the percentage of total sales exported rising to 43 per cent. 

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Alan Scott, CEO of Argon Design

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