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10 July, 2018 - 10:34 By Tony Quested

Tech titans moving to flagship Cambridge HQ building

Microcomputer icon Raspberry Pi and thrusting young games company Automaton have signed up take space at the flagship Maurice Wilkes Building at St John’s Innovation Park, Cambridge.

They join cyber defence technology firm Darktrace, leading accountant and business adviser PwC and European-leading IP firm Mewburn Ellis in the flagship offices.

The mix of expertise across the companies now signed up for Wilkes almost constitutes its own mini-cluster within the UK’s bleeding edge science & technology heartland.

Raspberry Pi, inspired by Broadcom’s Eben Upton in Cambridge, is the best selling computer ever produced in the UK. Sales reached 19 million  in March of this year.

Automaton is led by former Jagex stars James Thompson and Mark Gerhard who also runs PlayFusion; Automaton and PlayFusion are currently co-tenanted at the Vitrum Building at St John’s Innovation Park.

The Wilkes Building was officially opened at the end of June in a celebration hosted by landlord St John’s College and developer Turnstone Estates. The speculatively developed building comprises 65,653 sq ft of Grade A office and R & D space. The scheme was fully committed prior to completion.

Rob Sadler, head of office at Savills Cambridge, said: “Providing high quality office space, the Maurice Wilkes Building is undoubtedly best in class when it comes to business accommodation in Cambridge. It is therefore unsurprising that we attracted extensive interest from prospective tenants prior to completion.”

The Raspberry Pi mini-computer is very Cambridge: It was created to inspire new generations of young engineering talent. Several generations of Raspberry Pi’s have been released. All models feature a Broadcom system on a chip with an integrated Arm compatible central processing unit and on-chip graphics processing unit. Prices range from $5 to $35.

The first generation was released in February 2012 and has been refined with incredible success ever since to become even more portable and powerful.

The organisation behind the Raspberry Pi consists of two arms. The first two models were developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. 

After the Pi Model B was released, the Foundation set up Raspberry Pi Trading, with Eben Upton as CEO, to develop the third model, the B+. 

Raspberry Pi Trading is responsible for developing the technology while the Foundation is an educational charity to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries.

Automaton is the latest exciting iteration of a stable of world-leading Cambridge games developers. Founded in 2015, it is a young, dynamic and fast-paced team led by breakaway veteran talent from historic MMOs and AAA titles on numerous platforms. 

Since incorporation it has pioneered a revolutionary approach to MMO design and development. As an innovation-focused studio, it also works on a few smaller projects to experiment with new technologies. Its primary focus is pushing the boundaries of massively multiplayer online experiences. 

James Thompson has been a successful entrepreneur and computer scientist from a young age, making his first million dollars aged 17 with his AI software for players of the MMORPG RuneScape. 

Before starting Automaton, he worked closely with the executive team at Jagex from 2011-2015 as principal engineer on multiple projects, and simultaneously graduated with a 1st in computer science from the University of Cambridge.

Mark Gerhard is an industry veteran who brings a wealth of executive experience to the team as chairman. He is founder and CEO of AI, robotics and games company PlayFusion, which is pioneering mixed-reality entertainment; vice-chairman of multi-award winning non-profit trade association TIGA, which represents the UK’s games industry; and former CEO and CTO of Jagex, which he led to become the UK’s largest independent games studio until 2015.

In 2017 Automaton raised $10 million with Cambridge Venture Partners leading the investment.

Its first MMO is due for release this year – ‘Mavericks Proving Grounds’ – supports 1000 concurrent players in an ultra-high fidelity world. It is set in a huge, photoreal and highly dynamic environment, with strong character progression, social hubs, intelligent mission systems and global-scale player-driven narrative. Automaton partnered with Improbable to bring SpatialOS technology to the new game.

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