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14 October, 2020 - 13:57 By Tony Quested

Cambridge quartet chosen for elite AI programme

Four Cambridge companies have been hand-picked for an elite UK programme designed to propel scaleups in the Artificial Intelligence sector to potential unicorn status accorded to private companies valued at more than $1 billion.

Cambridge hogs 12.5 per cent of the 32-strong cohort chosen by Tech Nation for its Applied AI Growth programme. It forms part of the Government's AI Sector Deal, supported by the Office for AI, to champion and support the UK’s leading AI scaleups through peer2peer learning.

The Cambridge quartet are Conundrum, RoboK, SATAVIA and techspert.io; one of the broader successes of this particular programme is that 44 per cent of joining founders are women – almost double the representation of female tech directors (23 per cent) in UK tech.

Also, 59 per cent of the chosen companies are based outside of London with the  South East, East of England and Scotland leading the way.

Tech Nation also reveals new data which shows that the UK is leading Europe and is third in the entire world for VC investment into AI in 2020 (behind only the US and China), while demand for AI skills continues to rise – up 111 per cent from 2017 to 2019.

Executives from the chosen Cambridge four say they are determined to make the most of the opportunity to leverage their participation.

Conundrum, based in Merlin Place, uses AI-driven technologies to address personal data management, quality control and optimisation. The company oversees a whole production process and assists factory engineers in decision making, helping to reduce waste and downtime, and prevent defects and unexpected shutdowns.

Konstantin Kiselev, CEO of Conundrum, says: “We are happy to be chosen for Applied AI 2.0, among so many outstanding businesses. Being recognised by Tech Nation is a solid stamp of approval, and a vote of confidence that helps Conundrum accelerate its business development and opens new opportunities for business in terms of new clients and new funding. We look forward to leveraging all the opportunities that lie ahead.” 

RoboK, based in Chesterton Road, is using new techniques in computer vision and deep learning to build optimised 3D sensing and perception software solutions for low-power computing platforms. 

It’s enabling cars and machines to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the implications of changes to their environment. They obtain 3D information efficiently from a combination of sensors (primarily cameras) and enable object detection, classification, localisation and depth estimation on low-power embedded systems. 

Hao Zheng, CEO of RoboK, says: “We’re looking forward to being part of a like-minded cohort and surrounded by support to accelerate the growth journey of RoboK.”  

SATAVIA, based at Castle Park, is helping to make flying smarter and greener. SATAVIA is regarded as the only solution delivering actionable insight in aviation which is able to combine and validate multiple environmental, weather, aircraft and maintenance datasets. 

Its technology is credited with making aircraft condition monitoring 20 per cent more accurate while delivering fuel savings and emission reductions.   
CEO Dr Adam Durant said: “Tech Nation has a fantastic global reputation for selecting and scaling high-calibre, cutting-edge companies. 

“Participation in the programme provides our growing team with world-leading mentorship, networking and visibility. We look forward to being part of, and contributing to this high-calibre community.” 

techspert.io, located in Burleigh Street, maps the world's expertise by using AI to match experts to business customer needs. Its platform provides an efficient and convenient interface for customers to engage in primary research and gain insight through calls and surveys with precisely matched experts, as well as efficiently handling payments to experts for their time. 

David Holden-White, the company’s co-founder and managing director, said: “We're really excited to be on board with Tech Nation. The growth of the alumni speaks for itself and we look forward to working with Tech Nation to boost our growth trajectory.” 

Tech Nation says that 34 per cent of deep tech UK companies are applying AI to the construction industry, while 28 per cent are using AI to solve healthcare challenges. 

The UK leads Europe in AI investment, having raised $1.48 billion in 2020 so far; that is way out in front of France ($538.83 million) and Germany ($400.25m). The UK is currently third in the world for VC investment in AI after the US ($17.94bn) and China ($9.55bn). 

Looking into sub-sectors, the majority of AI investment so far this year flows into Big Data ($872.42m), TMT ($712.96m), SaaS ($588.39m), and Fintech ($474.65m). AI investment in Mobility Tech has already surpassed 2019 levels by 240 per cent, whilst FinTech is already up by 120 per cent, SAAS by 36 per cent and Cyber Security by 10 per cent.

Demand for AI skills is continuing to rise in the UK, with an increase of 111 per cent between 2017 and 2019. A quarter of all data scientist roles advertised in 2019 required AI as a skill; this was the highest proportion seen amongst digital tech roles in 2019.

AI is already a strategic strength to the UK economy, with 1,344 AI companies and a number of well-known and established AI unicorns, including Cambridge’s Darktrace, Benevolent AI and Graphcore.

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