Great debt owed to Cambridge Consultants
A true Cambridge great was rewarded for decades of innovation brilliance at Business Weekly’s celebration awards dinner on March 20.
Cambridge Consultants arguably founded the Cambridge technology cluster in 1960 when Tim Eiloart –studying at Trinity College –amassed £400 to start an enterprise to “put the brains of Cambridge University at the disposal of the problems of British industry.”
His grand design often descended into near-chaos as the fledgling ‘hothouse’ struggled to add substance to the hype. Despite crises of cash and confidence, Cambridge Consultants survived and ultimately thrived. When it launched its latest spin-out – Aveillant – last October, Cambridge Consultants was preserving a lasting and lucrative legacy. The hi-tech radar company, whose technology averts danger to aircraft from wind farm turbines, was the 19th major spin-out from the business since it founded.
Cambridge Consultants’ enterprise has created more than a billion pounds worth of value, over 3,000 jobs – and a lot of millionaires. Spin-offs from the spin-outs reinforce the company’s credentials as a power base for UK growth and GDP through innovation.
Five of the spin-outs have gone on to be listed on the London Stock Exchange and several have been sold in multi-million pound deals. Among the earliest businesses nudged out of the nest were consulting group PA (1970), which in turn gave birth to Scientific Generics (and onwards and upwards to Sagentia), TTP, Symbionics, Plextek and Ubinetics.
An entire inkjet printing cluster was born with the 1978 spin-out of Domino (1978). Cambridge Consultants then spun-out VC funder Prelude Trust which, in a neat piece of symmetry, was acquired by Aveillant co-investor DFJ Esprit in 2008.
Hi-tech inkjet printhead specialist Xaar, which is enjoying a wonderful spurt of growth in Cambridge, spun out in 1990. Then came Cambridge Mass Spectrometry, Transversal, AECL, Signal Processors, Cambridge Physical Sciences, Elmjet (another inkjet play), Data Conversion Systems and Vivid – which was subsequently bought by Vectura.
Pelikon, involved in pSEL technology, spun out with cash backing from Advent in 2001 and was snapped up by American parent, Multi-Fineline Electronix (MFLEX). Digital printing business Inca Digital was a 2000 spin-out and within five years was sold to Dainippon Screen for €43.8 million. Alphamosaic, a semiconductor company, was also sold within five years of spin out from the Science Park stable – bought by Broadcom for $123 million. Web and mobile integration specialist, Roundpoint, was another 2001 spin out and is still going strong on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wireless lighting company Cyan Technology was founded in 2002 and joined the throng of stockmarket listed Cambridge Consultants spin-outs. Arguably the most valuable of all the spinouts has been CSR – known as Cambridge Silicon Radio when it was founded in 1998 by James Collier, Phil O’Donovan and Glenn Collinson. It floated in London in 2004 and is now in the FTSE 250 and rated the 15th largest fabless semiconductor company with a market cap of £317.3m.
Collier and Collinson have gone on to create the new darling of the Cambridge wireless space – Neul – which picked up the Wireless Business of the Year at tonight’s Business Weekly Awards event.
Aveillant spun out with millions in its war chest and another multi-million pound funding planned inside nine months. Aveillant has already won its first customer and is set to free a logjam in wind farm development that threatens the UK’s ambition to hit carbon footprint targets. The company is set to employ 50 people in double-quick time from an incubator on the Cambridge Consultants site at the Science Park.Dominic Moore of Mountgrange, presenting the award to Cambridge Consultants, said: “Once in a while a company displays such a staggering array of all-round capabilities it defies pigeon-holing in any one category. Business Weekly and the judges were moved to create a suitable Award that may never be presented again – the recipient is that special “At the Oscars it would no doubt be branded a Lifetime Achievement Award but this particular business is just starting out on a fresh era of global growth. We have called the Award, ‘Cambridge Greats’ and in this context there was only one contender. And the winner is...”
Moore added: “Without Cambridge Consultants arguably there would be no Cambridge Technology Cluster. It has been both mother and father of invention since 1960. But it doesn’t stand still: It recently spun out Aveillant, which was a strong contender for the Startup and CleanTech Awards.
“It is a leading wireless player, having been integral to a new wireless heart bypass technology as well as the local whitespace consortium. Its technologies are impacting on sectors such as MedTech, the military & homeland security and consumer products. At the same time it achieved strong growth from Cambridge last year and has embarked on an exciting risk strategy designed to double revenues inside four years from a Cambridge base but with growth in the US and China.
“Cambridge owes them a greater debt than one special Award can repay but we wanted Cambridge Consultants to be acknowledged as the great company it remains.”
Business Weekly’s Awards were sponsored by Anglian Water, Birketts, Barclays Corporate, PWC, TTP Group. CfEL, Granta Park, Cambridge Research Park.• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Guest speaker Dr Aled Jones (left) with Richard Traherne (centre) and Patrick Pordage of Cambridge Consultants. Photograph by Alan Bennett, Media Imaging Solutions: http://www.mediaimagingsolutions.com