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17 March, 2016 - 01:25 By Jamie Quested

Sepura wins Business of the Year award

warren east, paul watson, steve barber, kevin calder

Communications technology world-leader Sepura was last night crowned Business of the Year at a glittering Business Weekly Awards ceremony at Queens’ College, Cambridge.

Some 200 leading executives from the East of England, the UK and internationally saw COO Paul Watson lift a title Sepura has coveted for a number of years.

Sepura was the reigning International Trade Champion but a phenomenal year of growth nudged them up that extra notch to join a stunning hall of fame – companies that have graced a world stage over the 26 years of the competition.

Other major winners were Horizon Discovery (Cambridge Torchbearer); Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group (Engineering Excellence); Cambridge Commodities (International Trade); Darktrace (Disruptive Technology); PragmatIC (Startup of the Year); Healx (Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year);  Owlstone Medical (Life Science Innovation); ARM (Kate Gross Prize for Social Enterprise); Jelena Aleksic (Woman Entrepreneur of the Year).

Warren East, chief executive of engineering giant Rolls-Royce and formerly CEO at ARM, presented the prizes. He was a guest speaker along with Cambridge entrepreneur Sherry Coutu, founder of the Scale-up Institute. Sponsors of the Awards are Mills & Reeve, Barclays, UKTI, AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Cambridge Judge Business School, PwC, TTP, St Johns Innovation Centre and Bailey Fisher.

Kevin Calder of Mills & Reeve, explaining why Sepura won, said: “FY15 was Sepura’s third consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth and the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth in operating profits.

“This trend has continued into FY16, with adjusted operating profits up 170 per cent in the first six months. In the last year Sepura has invested some €17m on R & D and won its largest ever contract – a €35m deal to supply Saudi Arabia with c.100,000 radios. It has made transformational acquisitions; opened up the US market and increased its share price six fold over the last five years – by 25 per cent during 2015 alone.

“Offered the chance to relocate overseas it chose to build a new HQ in Cambridge. And in the process Sepura has transformed from a TETRA devices supplier to a geographically and technologically diverse critical communications solutions supplier with new turnkey products, massive global clients and the world at its feet.”

Horizon Discovery, the Cambridge Torchbearer winner, won Business of the Year last year and came close again this time. Announcing the Torchbearer success, David Gill of St John’s Innovation Centre said: “The first tranche of a triple play by Horizon testifies to their intention to change the game in matching personalised medicines to an individual’s DNA.

“We have just seen the first of the company’s game-changing initiatives, a new joint venture company called Avvinity formed to leverage technology invented by a Nobel Laureate that will fight killer cancers on a fresh front.

“Using vastly differentiated technology, Avvinity promises to discover and develop novel immuno-oncology therapeutics for solid tumours and leukaemias - and there is much more to come from the Horizon stable as it takes the search for personalised medicines to unparallelled heights.

Cambridge Commodities won a closely contested International Trade Award and UKTI’s Thinley Topden said: “Cambridge Commodities has experienced extraordinary and rapid growth of international sales, which resulted in the company being ranked 36th in the Sunday Times International Track 200 League. 

“It posted annual international sales growth from £300k in 2011 to surpass £7 million in 2015. Cambridge Commodities supplies nutritional ingredients to the sports, health food and pet nutrition sectors worldwide, has just moved into brand new, purpose-built premises to accommodate further expansion and is said to be on the cusp of a deal with a globally-acclaimed client that will open up more business in the US, Europe and Asia.”

Owlstone Medical headed off fierce competition to take the AstraZeneca/MedImmune Life Science Innovation Award. Jane Osbourn of MedImmune, said: “Owlstone’s newly-formed medical division has invented a breath test to provide much earlier diagnosis of cancer, asthma and other diseases and conditions. We were impressed by the potential of the technology to save the NHS millions, slash hospital admissions and – most importantly because of swifter diagnosis – to save lives.”

Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group won the Engineering Excellence Award. David Newble of TTP Labtech said: “Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group, with Rolls-Royce and Lockheed Martin, recently won a £369 million MoD contact to support the RAF C-130 Hercules transport fleet until 2022, underpinning 1,000 jobs. 

“It supports civil and military projects globally, supplying the most sophisticated field hospital in NATO and supporting 12 Air Forces around the world. The company reports a 68 per cent growth in export business.”

ARM won the Kate Gross Prize for Social Enterprise: Ann Fisher of Bailey Fisher explained: “Talking Book was developed in 2007 by Literacy Bridge to give people without literacy skills access to audio recordings of interviews, songs, and dramas that address life-saving health and agriculture advice. ARM supported the initiative by providing engineering expertise and introducing partners that helped to deploy the product.

“Survival rates of mothers giving birth, and their babies, is rising; so are crop yields. Launched in Ghana the venture is being rolled out to other parts of Africa and hopefully further afield in the not too distant future.”

Healx won the Judge Business School Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year accolade. Hanadi Jabado of Judge, said: “Healx, which was founded to match potential new cures to the world’s rarest diseases, has developed a novel treatment allocation method allowing prediction of drug response.
“It is based on genomic signature matching between an individual patient and a drug and has the potential to revolutionise personalised medicine to improve patient outcomes and eliminate costly drug wastage in hospitals and throughout the NHS. It has the potential to help millions of people worldwide in an area of vast unmet need.”

Her Judge Business School colleague, Sucheta Nadkarni, announced Jelena Aleksic of GeneAdviser as winner of the inaugural Woman entrepreneur of the Year Award. she said: ““This was an extremely close run affair but we decided on Jelena for a number of reasons, not least market validity and potential healthcare impact.

“Jelena founded and has grown GeneAdviser as an online marketplace for clinical genetic testing –making it easier for doctors to find and order lifesaving tests from accredited laboratories.

“In just one year, she has secured a flagship NHS lab as a customer, surveyed 1000+ clinicians and attracted interest from clinicians across Europe as well as leading life sciences investors. GeneAdviser addresses a great need for accessible genetic testing and will significantly impact the lives of potentially millions of patients globally with rare disease, cancer and neurological conditions.”

PragmatIC Printing was a worthy winner of the Startup of the Year Award, as Adrian Bennett of PwC explained: “PragmatIC is a world leader in ultra low cost flexible electronics, enabling the potential for trillions of smart objects that can sense and communicate with their environment. 

“Its technology enables integrated circuits thinner than a human hair to be easily embedded in any surface, introducing interactivity into a wide range of everyday items.

“At a fraction of the price of conventional silicon chips, PragmatIC’s products enable a vast range of new applications: from intelligent packaging of fast-moving consumer goods, to wireless traceability of documents for security and identification.”

Duncan McCunn of Barclays introduced the Disruptive Technology category and explained why Darktrace was such a worthy winner. He said: “Darktrace has invented digital antibodies that enable a machine to automatically fight off cyber attacks on a network’s immune system. 

“Up to now it has helped governments and corporations identify areas of their systems vulnerable to attack and alert them to raids. Now it has taken the enterprise immunity technology a vital stage further with a new product called Antigena that enables networks to self-defend.

“Darktrace hails Antigena as a key weapon in a new cyber world war where machines fight machines and sophisticated attackers are mobilised.”

• Pictured from left to right: Guest speaker Warren East (CEO, Rolls Royce), Paul Watson (COO, Sepura), Steve Barber (VP Group Strategy, Sepura) and Kevin Calder (Partner, Mills & Reeve). Image courtesy, Jessica Bernard.

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