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18 November, 2020 - 00:06 By Tony Quested

Cluster deals hit $66.85 billion in 12 giddy months

Looking at major deals in the last 12 calendar months it’s hard to overshadow the $40 billion swoop by US technology heavyweight NVIDIA for Cambridge superchip architect Arm in September 2020 in terms of value or significance. It is a record acquisition price for Cambridge – assuming the deal goes through.

Looking at a last 12 months of significant transactions, cash has been flying into the Cambridge cluster from where news of bleeding edge technology positively flies across the Atlantic. Deals involving local businesses have racked up to just shy of $66.85bn despite COVID-19.

Our deals focus runs from the start of November 2019 – and what a start! Consort Medical was acquired by global group Recipharm for $650 million and Abcam agreed to pay €120m cash to acquire Expedeon’s Proteomics and Immunology business, expanding offerings into the fast-growing conjugation segment.

Life science measurement and testing business LGC, with bases in Newmarket and Hoddesdon, was sold for around £3bn to a consortium comprising private equity groups Cinven and Astorg and the sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Azeria Therapeutics secured £32 million Series B financing in November to expand the global reach of its technology. Syncona injected £29.5m of the cash alongside existing investor the CRT Pioneer Fund.

Iotic won investment of €7.5m to accelerate growth and meet increasing demand for its pioneering digital twin technology. Iotic enables enterprises and their ecosystems of assets, objects, companies and people to interact automatically and securely. It operates in a $260 billion industry that’s expected to double by 2021.

The investment from leading European VCs IQ Capital, Talis Capital and Breed Reply, was designed to drive rapid deployment, deepen channel partnerships and expand market adoption of its patented Iotic Operating Environment, Twin technology and Event Analytics. 

Apple kick-started December by acquiring Spectral Edge, focused on commercialising enhanced image fusion technology.

Wireless telecoms services business WHP Telecoms acquired Cambridge neighbour Sitec Infrastructure Services to create a group with a turnover in excess of £100 million and 500 employees. 

Cambridge graphene electronics technology company Paragraf added £3.4 million to its series A round with Draper Esprit joining as significant investor, bringing the total haul to £16.2m. 

The round was led by Parkwalk and included investment from IQ Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, Cambridge Enterprise and Partners Investment Company, as well as several angel backers.


Image courtesy of Paragraf

2020 began with quoted Beds-based creative products company IG Design Group reversing transatlantic acquisitional trends by agreeing to buy a US business in the sector for £89.7 million and raise £120m through a placing to help fund the cash element of the deal.

IG, one of the world’s leading designers, innovators and manufacturers of celebrations, gifting, stationery and creative play products, formed a new subsidiary – Tom Merger Sub Inc – as the vehicle for the acquisition of CSS Industries, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based designer and manufacturer of craft, seasonal and gift products.

TeraView, the Cambridge-anchored pioneer and leader in terahertz technology and solutions secured $6 million funding from existing and new investors, including two Korean companies.

Backers included Wonik Investments, Pathfinder H and Ingenious and the money was earmarked to further accelerate product and technology development, customer support and sales & marketing.  

Inotec AMD, a Cambridge medtech business that has developed a device to heal and treat complex chronic wounds, clinched £7m in a funding round led by Praetura Ventures. Existing investor Amadeus Capital Partners, Puhua Capital, Boundary Capital and a group of high-net-worth angel investors joined Praetura.


Stan Boland, CEO of Five

Five – the autonomous vehicle technology pioneer – raised $41m Series B funding. It brought Five’s total raised to $77m, making it one of Europe’s best-funded self-driving startups.

Synthetic biology pioneer Evonetix closed a $30m Series B round led by new backer, Foresite Capital, which is based in San Francisco. Evonetix is developing a desktop platform for scalable high fidelity and rapid gene synthesis.

Cell culture technology company CN Bio Innovations raised $9m to accelerate commercialisation in its key US market, fund expansion in Europe and scale its Cambridge headquarters.

Cambridge InsurTech business INSTANDA completed a $19.5m Series A, led by Assembly Capital Partners, to underpin expansion in the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Midwich – an audio visual distributor based in Norfolk – expanded into the US through a $46.1m acquisition of Indiana company Starin Marketing Inc.

AudioTelligence, a Cambridge company dedicated to making speech clear and intelligible in a noisy world, raised a further $8.5m in Series A funding. The round was led by Octopus Ventures with participation from existing backers Cambridge Innovation Capital, Cambridge Enterprise, and CEDAR Audio.

Cambridge University spin-out, Xampla, dedicated to reducing microplastic pollution, raised £2m seed funding in April. The round was co-led by Cambridge Enterprise and Amadeus Capital Partners with participation from Sky media group’s impact investment fund Sky Ocean Ventures and the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund VI, managed by Parkwalk.

South Korean Big Data business NHN Corp decided to invest almost £10 million in Cambridge mobile payments technology specialist Bango to strengthen the companies’ global partnership.

Cambridge UK and Boston US drug discovery and development company Cerevance closed a Series B round bringing in $45m from new investors including GV (formerly Google Ventures) Bill Gates and Foresite Capital alongside existing backers.

As May blossomed, Cambridge life science business Inivata, which was staring down the barrel in a fight for urgent funding, clinched lifeline capital through a $25m investment from the US cancer diagnostics and services company NeoGenomics.


Ken Roberts, CEO at AudioTelligence with Andrew Williamson, Managing Partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital

Cambridge investment funds Amadeus Capital Partners and Ahren Innovation Capital chipped into a fresh $150 million private placement for AI unicorn Graphcore –  a semiconductor company that develops accelerators for AI and machine learning.

Games developer Jagex was sold for the second time in four years when US-based Macarthur Fortune Holding paid $530m through one of its funds, Platinum Fortune LP to acquire the business from Shanghai Hongtou Network Technology.

Featurespace, which uses AI to battle financial fraud, raised £30m in May to underpin global expansion. The round was led by Merian Chrysalis Investment Company. 

In June, Nanna Therapeutics was sold to Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma Inc in a deal valued at £12 million. Nanna is a 21st century drug discovery company addressing age-related diseases for which others are failing to provide effective treatments.

NodThera raised a $55m Series B led by Novo Holdings and including new investors Cowen Healthcare Investments and Sanofi Ventures, as well as existing backers 5AM Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Sofinnova Partners and founding investor Epidarex Capital.

Biopharma business Acacia Pharma Group executed a €25 million debt for equity swap with Cosmo.

Synthetic biology startup bit.bio – formerly Elpis Biomed – raised $41.5 million growth capital backed by iconic US life science investors. It was a sensational result for the Cambridge University spin-out headed by Dr Mark Kotter and has already accelerated the company’s goal to transition biology into engineering.

US big-hitters Rick Klausner, Bob Nelsen and Jim Tananbaum teamed up with bit.bio to uncover the “operating system of life” and accelerate the company’s drive towards industrial-scale manufacturing of all human cells.

Avacta Group set out to rapidly accelerate its cancer therapies technology through a proposed £45m fundraising. 

Another Cambridge technology company slipped into foreign hands towards the end of June. No sum was disclosed for the swoop by Siemens for Cambridge chip tech business UltraSoC.


UltraSoC CEO Rupert Baines

July started with Cambridge drug discovery pioneer Mission Therapeutics raising $15m equity investment led by Pfizer Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wall Street quoted Pfizer Inc.

Synaptics in the US made a $407m swoop for Cambridge semiconductor and software technology company DisplayLink, although the original euphoria over the deal has since been dampened by threats of major redundancies.

Sosei Group Corporation raised $200m growth capital through an international offering.

The month ended with F-star Therapeutics clinching its NASDAQ IPO by merging with US-quoted Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals in Massachusetts.

Come August and Cambridge industrial software trailblazer AVEVA agreed to pay $5bn for Californian company OSIsoft.

Biofidelity Ltd, a cancer diagnostics company, completed a $12 million Series A financing to fast-track its technology to a $15 billion global market. The round was led by BlueYard Capital and backed by experienced investors including Longwall Ventures and Agilent Technologies, a global leader in life sciences and diagnostics.

New York investment firm Biospring Partners pumped $10m growth capital into Cambridge life science innovator Abzena.

At the start of September, flexible electronics trailblazer PragmatIC took its funding to date to £50m with an additional £13m raise to fast-track global scale-up.

Genomic sequencing supernova Illumina paid $8bn in cash and stock to acquire California healthcare business GRAIL and spark a new era of cancer detection technology.

NVIDIA’s $40bn swoop for Arm was officially confirmed with promises of a combined, bleeding edge AI centre for Cambridge to boost Cambridge jobs, skills training in this crucial segment and global AI collaborations.

Cycle Pharmaceuticals, a rare disease medicines specialist, agreed a $35m debt finance package with Deutsche Bank AG.

Immune Regulation, anchored in Boston US but with a local hub in Stevenage, raised a $53.4m Series B round led by Morningside Ventures to accelerate development of first-in-class immune resetting therapies.

Cambridge Science Park server architecture specialist Bamboo Systems closed a $7 million funding round to take its Arm-based technology proposition to greater global heights in an $80 billion global market.


Three of the Nu Quantum co-founders: Mete Atatüre, Carmen Palacios-Berraquero and Matt Applegate

October arrived with fundraising success for Nu Quantum, while Japanese money bolstered a $5.4m raise for extreme data company GeoSpock.

Abcam raised $180m through a US IPO while CellCentric racked up a further $33m raise to broaden cancer trials. Eagle Genomics closed $9m in new scale-up funding while NASDAQ-listed Altair acquired Cambridge software firm Ellexus for an undisclosed sum.

And so into an almost inevitable start to November as another US heavyweight snapped up Cambridge life science technology; PerkinElmer agreed a cash deal worth $383m for gene editing frontrunner Horizon Discovery. Plus ca change!

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