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ARU offers ?35k to promising start-ups

ARU offers £35k to Cambridgeshire startups


Lester Lloyd-Reason, Professor of International Enterprise Strategy at Anglia Ruskin

Up to £35,000 is being made available to Cambridgeshire-based startups through Anglia Ruskin University following the launch of its Enterprise Fellowship scheme.

While the money is likely to be split between a number of applicants, the chance exists for a single venture to take the entire money on offer according to the University.

It is the second year of the scheme run by Anglia Ruskin’s Centre for Enterprise Development and Research (CEDAR), which last year shared £50k between three businesses.

Made possible by the generosity of a private benefactor and supported by the Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia says the Enterprise Fellowship is open to anyone in the county with a bright business idea who is looking for financial backing.

In addition to a share of the £35k, successful applicants will receive mentoring support, specialist training and development, legal support and advice, and access to the StartupLab, the new business incubation centre at Anglia Ruskin.

Lester Lloyd-Reason, Professor of International Enterprise Strategy at Anglia Ruskin, said the hope was that the scheme would help more local entrepreneurs convert their ideas into real businesses.

He said: Last year’s scheme was a great success and we saw four excellent business ideas receive funding and support. Someone could bid for the whole £35,000, but it is more likely we would look to split the money between two or three budding entrepreneurs.

The first phase of the application process closes at on Saturday 30 June, by which time applicants must have submitted one page about their idea and another page about themselves. The successful applicants will then get the chance to expand on their ideas in front of the judges, and those who proceed to phase three will formally pitch to the panel in the grand final.

To submit an application, or for further details, please contact Dale Coss on 0845 196 2344 or email The scheme is open to anyone living or working in Cambridgeshire, except staff and undergraduate students at Anglia Ruskin.

New CEO to drive forward Population Genetit Technologies

New CEO to drive forward PGT’s multiple genome mapping technology


PGT’s new CEO, Alan Schafer

Alan Schafer, part of the team that sold two-year old Cambridge-based Hexagen to Incyte for over $5m in 1998, has returned to the world of early-stage life sciences as the new CEO of Population Genetic Technologies (PGT), the MRC-LMB spin out.

Taking the place vacated in 2010 by Mel Kronick and with £3.6m from October’s Series B fundraising, Schafer will look to focus areas for the application of what the company says is now a validated technology and begin building industry and academic collaborations.

Schafer, who started two weeks ago, says he’s looking forward to returning to the startup environment where the pace of things is more speed-boat than oil tanker.

Recently an idea came up and we said, ‘right, we’ll get together this afternoon and do it for tomorrow’, said Schafer. Things can just happen like that when you’re working with a small team of people, you can sit in the room and make things happen.

Kronick oversaw PGT’s Series A funding round of £3.8m in February 2008 and a further undisclosed figure in 2009. A fellow American, Schafer now steps in with his overall goal of taking the technology through to the point that it has an impact on human health, it’s important to say this, said Schafer.

PGT’s technology can use a gene sequencing machine to map hundreds of genomes at once, making studies of large populations that highlight rare genetic variants cheaper and a realistic option for small research laboratories, not just the wealthy few. By expanding the number of labs that can perform these experiments, the chances of new treatments, including personalised medicines, grows substantially.

We have validated our technology platforms and built important collaborations with world class clinical research groups and now look forward to the next phase in our development with Alan at the helm, said Sam Eletr, a co-founder and chairman of PGT. Our aim is to provide an efficient route for population-scale genetic analysis and biomarker discovery for application in medicine and agriculture.

Schafer says this means not just providing partners with the technology, but delivering a full solution that can help help pick out some of the most important variants and biomarkers to work on.

As well as experience at the Wellcome Trust as director of Science Funding and at GlaxoSmithKline where he was global VP of Technology Development, Schafer has spent a substantial amount of time as a consultant to the venture capital industry, which may hold PGT in good stead in the future.

The company also has a very strong heritage. It was formed in 2004 from work at the MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, including that of another of its co-founders is Nobel Laureate, Sydney Brenner.

MRC-LMB staff have not only been awarded nine Nobel Prizes shared between 13 scientists, but has been instrumental in many of Cambridge’s most successful biotech companies including Domantis, Cambridge Antibody Technology, Ribotargets, Protein Design Labs, Celltech, Heptares and Biogen.

Schafer currently holds the position of Adjunct Professor of Innovation at the Imperial College London Business School. Over the last year he played a major role in leading the development of the Translation, Technology Transfer and Innovation strategy of the Francis Crick Institute.

Between 2007 and 2010 Schafer worked at the Wellcome Trust in several roles including director of Science Funding. Before that he was global VP of Technology Development at GlaxoSmithKline.

New Consortium Launched to Exploit Graphene and Nano Carbon

New consortium launches to advance graphene and nano-carbon technology


Professor Alan Windle of the University of Cambridge addressed the consortium launch dinner, highlighting the disruptive potential of carbon in electrical and electronic devices of the future.

The future path of graphene is not one it can walk alone say experts, in many areas the groundbreaking material will need to be integrated with other advanced technologies if it is to realise its potential.

Yesterday one step forward was taken to advance collaboration across two of the most high technology materials sectors when the NCEM-1 (First Nano-Carbon Enhanced Materials) consortium launched in Cambridge, UK.

The consortium brings together potential users from defence, electronics, structural materials, metal refining and power generation industries with a shared interest in understanding the challenges and opportunities which nano-carbon disruptive technologies bring. It will run for 12 months during which it will visit Scotland, Germany and Belgium.

Consortium members came from seven different countries including Chile and the USA, academic institutions Cambridge University and Trinity College Dublin and companies such as Nokia, Thales, ST Microelectronics, Codelco, Oxford Instruments, Bosch, National Grid, International Copper Association and Nexans.

According to Dr Bojan Boskovic who leads the consortium, delegates were interested in three main areas of application: next generation semi-conductors and electronics, smart structural materials, and improved thermal and electrical conductors.

NCEM-1 joins a stable of other consortia run by the Centre for Business Innovation, including Microfluidics, Open Innovation and Inclusive Design, all of which have close links with the University of Cambridge.

For further information contact

RedGate Expands into Singapore

Red Gate expands into Singapore


Red Gate celebrates 12 years

Red Gate Software is expanding into the Far East with a new Singapore office opening later in the year.

With 250 staff at its headquarters in Cambridge and 22 at a second office in Pasadena, California, the opening of a Singapore sales-and-support office is designed to offer the software tools developer’s customers 24-hour support.

Red Gate has seen major growth since its foundation in 1999, staff numbers have almost doubled in the last three years alone and the company’s tools are used by over half a million developers and database administrators worldwide.

Much of it is to do with organic growth, but it is also showing an increasing appetite for diversifying its expertise through small projects and acquisitions, such as the acquisition of Cerebrata which has boosted its cloud offering, Cocoa Controls, providing it with greater expertise in Apple-based iOS development, or the Nomad for Visual Studio work, which it says is the first platform for building cross-platform mobile apps.

Simon Galbraith, co-founder and co-CEO, Red Gate Software, said, its vision of the future wasn’t just about expansion however, but fixing things in the UK.

We’re committed to the future, which is why we’re not only opening our office in Singapore, but helping train the software programmers of the future through our involvement in the Computing at School initiative, said Galbraith. Across the UK we need to get children coding so that UK software companies such as ourselves can continue to thrive and grow in the future.

The announcement was made this morning as the Duke of York visited the Red Gate offices – though no longer the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment at UKTI, a post he held for nearly a decade, the Duke continues to work on international trade and according to his office is keen to support entrepreneurs and SMEs who are looking to grow their businesses in the UK or to reach international markets.

At Red Gate we’re trying extremely hard to make complex technology simple and intuitive to use by our customers across the globe and it is a real boost for our staff to have the whole company’s efforts recognised by His Royal Highness’s visit, said Galbraith.

Hauser heads dominant Cambridge contingent in 2012 Royal Society Fellowship Awards

Hauser heads dominant Cambridge contingent in 2012 Royal Society fellowships


Dr Hermann Hauser: ‘An inspiration and role-model for generations of entrepreneurs’, according to the Royal Society

Though Cambridge-led innovation may have featured rather weakly in this year’s Queen’s Awards, the Royal Society gave the UK’s top technology centre its dues by electing nine of 44 new Fellows from the city.

The most high profile was Dr Hermann Hauser, the entrepreneur turned VC who co-founded Acorn Computers, the company that delivered the BBC Micro and ARM among others.

Another scientist turned entrepreneur was Dr Jeremy Burroughes whose advances in the science and engineering of semiconducting polymers was taken to full commercial exploitation at Cambridge Display Technology, the company sold to Sumitomo for $285m in 2007 where Dr Burroughes is chief technology officer.

The link between Doctors Hauser and Burroughes and the seven other newly elected Fellows is of course Cambridge University, though in the case of Professor Gordon Dougan the role is honorary professor, the day job takes place at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute where his outstanding contribution to the understanding of infectious diseases was rewarded.

Only one Cambridge woman made the selection, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Margaret Robinson, for her work on intracellular membrane traffic.

The other five Fellows are Professor Shankar Balasubramanian, Professor David Klenerman, Professor Tony Kouzarides, Professor Mark Warner, and Professor Daniel Wolpert.

ARM in Smarthphone JV

ARM in Smarthphone JV

Source : RNS

 ARM Holdings PLC (ARM.LN), the U.K. semiconductor firm, Tuesday said it planned to create a joint venture with Gemalto N.V. and Giesecke & Devrient to develop a secure environment for smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Cambridge, England-based Arm said it would own 40% of the joint venture, with Amsterdam-based Gemalto N.V. and Germany’s Giesecke & Devrient owning 30% each. All of the companies will contribute assets, including cash, people, patents and intellectual property, with Arm contributing working capital and staff. The U.K. company said the cash it will contribute wouldn’t be significant in terms of its overall balance sheet, but didn’t elaborate.

Arm competes with chip giant Intel Corp. (INTC) in the market for semiconductors to power computers and smartphones. Gemalto provides security software and services for different devices and Giesecke & Devrient makes SIM cards.

Although Intel dominates the overall chip market, smartphones and other handheld devices typically use Arm-based chips, mainly because those chips tend to draw less power and allow longer battery life in phones. In recent months, though, Intel has been aggressively trying to move into the handheld market, recently signing a distribution agreement with Google Inc. (GOOG) for its Android smartphone-operating system.

Cambridge and Silicon Valley Cooperate on new touchscreen

 Cambridge and Silicon Valley join to launch flexible touchscreen technology worldwide


For now a fully flexible mobile device is not on the cards, but grand new features could be with the Cambridge-born FLT technology, courtesy of Atmel.

A new world-leading flexible touchscreen technology based on reel-to-reel inkjet printing techniques developed in Cambridge has been launched by Silicon Valley firm, Atmel.

After years of work, the fine line technology (FLT) honed by Conductive Inkjet Technology (CIT) and licensed to Atmel by CIT’s parent company Carclo under an exclusive $10m, 10 year deal, has now seen its worldwide release.

According to Carclo, Atmel is currently engaged on multiple product programmes with a broad range of customers while volume production of touch sensors from both the CIT pilot line and Atmel’s own full scale production line is expected to commence in the second half of this year.

Atmel says the technology is thinner and lighter than current touch screen technology on the high street and that by allowing edgeless and curved devices, it will enable an entirely new era of capacitive touchscreen designs.

With Samsung’s confirmation that its own touchscreen technology will also hit the market at some point this year and Nanoco’s rapidly advancing work, it looks like 2012 could be the year flexible display technologies finally come of age and move beyond being just a cool conference demo. However, with the commercial launch of XSense it’s Atmel who has struck first blood.

There are numerous potential applications and markets for the technology – indeed XSense is being launched across the electronics industry – and while mobile phones and tablets could see many new functions with FLT’s ability to provide touch capabilities beyond the edge of what has traditionally been the main screen for instance, it will still take a major leap forward for a fully flexible mobile phone as the rest of the device including the processors and battery, are still rigid.

Mobile device manufacturers may still be drawn to the technology however, both by the extra functionality and perhaps more crucially, its lower power consumption.

CIT was formed in 2002 as a 50/50 joint venture between Yorkshire-based Carclo and Xennia, the inkjet firm spun out of Domino Printing Sciences, the hugely successful Cambridge Consultants’ spin-out. In 2008, Carclo became the single owner of CIT and began working with Atmel on touch sensor devices the following year.

Atmel’s satisfaction with the partnership work led the company to sign a further contract at the end of 2010 giving it 10 years of exclusivity on the CIT technology in return for significant up-front payments and demanding volume and revenue targets.

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Yammer swoops on Amadeus backed OneDrum


Yammer swoops for Amadeus-backed, oneDrum



Contract Suspension Bloodies Sagentia

Contract suspension bloodies Sagentia


Sagentia has warned that revenues for 2012 will drop below the previous year’s levels following suspension of what it called a large project with a North American start-up in the medical sector, wiping nearly 10 per cent off the company’s share price in morning trading. However, the company said it would not hold back from seeking merger and acquisition opportunities.

In an AGM trading statement, the technology consultancy said the suspension meant that revenues for the first half of 2012 would fall below the previous six months, despite the underlying business’ continued growth.

The group said actions have been taken to mitigate the suspension which it said have been effective in enhancing operating margins and that while revenue will be lower than last year, profit is anticipated to be in line with the board’s expectations. However, it wasn’t enough to stop the market from taking 8.5 pence off the share price which fell 9.8 per cent to 78.5p.

Sagentia has undertaken a thorough strategic restructure over the last couple of years, concentrating on its fee-earning work and putting an end to spin-out activities.

Following two years of declining revenues in 2009 and 2010, the company said it had turned a corner with 2011’s numbers back up. This a new setback, though only a temporary one Sagentia will hope, a result of what it called a deterioration in the macro-economic environment in the second half of the year.

Sagentia added that its balance sheet remained strong that it would continue to look for potential merger and acquisition opportunities.

Sphere Fluidics Receives Royal Society Funding

The UK’s Royal Society Enterprise Fund has led an investment syndicate backing Cambridge-based company, Sphere Fluidics, a Cambridge University spin-out that is working on miniature droplet technology which will allow for the rapid identification, analysis and separation of single cells and molecules.

Sphere Fluidics’ picodroplet technology enables researchers to carry out large numbers of simultaneous reactions contained within small aqueous droplets a fraction of a millimetre in size. When the droplets are merged with others containing, for example, a specific chemical reagent, they effectively act as miniature reaction chambers that can be exposed to a unique set of experimental conditions.

The picodroplet technology was developed by Chris Abell and Wilhelm Huck of the Department of Chemistry. The technology has potential uses across a wide variety of fields, including analysis and isolation of cell types, biomarker discovery in small volumes, and molecular labelling and separation using proprietary catalysts and conditions.

The platform is an alternative to existing techniques, offering greater control and automation, and improved efficiency.

The company was spun out from the University of Cambridge in March 2010, with initial funding from the University’s Discovery Fund. Frank Craig, CEO of Sphere Fluidics, said, “This investment, along with the recent signing of research collaboration with a major pharmaceutical firm, is an excellent validation of the potential of Sphere and its unique discovery technology platform.”

Peter Williams, Treasurer and Vice-President of The Royal Society, said, “Sphere Fluidics has enormous commercial potential across a range of markets and we look forward to supporting the company in its development.”

3rd Microfluidics Consortium Launches

3rd Microfluidics Consortium Launches in Cambridge

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<p>Organisations from six countries including Sony, Philips, EV Group and Halma came together in Cambridge to launch the 3rd annual cycle of the Microfluidics Consortium.</p>
<p>The consortium has the mission to grow the market for microfluidics enabled solutions to grand challenges such as point of care diagnostics, high throughput screening and novel chemical synthesis.</p>
<p>The consortium which is organised by the Centre for Business Innovation {CfBI) heard from speakers representing: NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence); NHS Commissioning Alliance; Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Department of Chemistry, Institute of Biotechnology and Sphere Fluidics.</p>
<p>In working sessions (see photo) it addressed standards for microfluidic devices as well as focus for its upcoming meetings in Europe and the USA.</p>
<p>Its next meeting will be hosted by Johnson and Johnson at their Personalized Medicine centre of excellence in Belgium.</p>
<p>Dr Peter Hewkin who manages the consortium tells us We are delighted with the way that the influence of the Microfluidics Consortium has grown and excited by the opportunity which it provides to push against the current fragmentation in the diagnostics and screening industries. This in turn will drive down the costs of important healthcare solutions</p>
<p>For further information contact or <a href=http://visit%20http//>visit</a> or <a href=></a></p>
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Novel Applications of Printing Consortium Launches in Cambridge

Novel Applications of Printing Consortium Launches in Cambridge


The first Novel Applications of Printing Consortium launched on March 10th 2011 in Cambridge. This consortium brings together global players from retail, food, drink and beyond with technology providers from the Cambridge Cluster.

Members of the consortium will work together over the coming year to find shared interests in many aspects of print technology – both analogue and digital – from novel print decoration to printed electronics.

Debbie Thorp and Mike Willis who lead the consortium tell us “By bringing together a range of stakeholders from across Europe and from different industry sectors, we want to create a learning environment and discuss the challenges of implementing new print technology.”

Meeting themes are decided by the consortium members and guest speakers are invited to enrich the programme at each event. The first meeting included speakers from Dai Nippon Screen, Skalene and the University of Cambridge.

This consortium is managed by the Centre for Business Innovation (CfBI) which also runs consortia for “Microfluidics”, “Open Innovation” and “Inclusive Design”. Peter Hewkin , CEO of CfBI said “Responding to market demand to drive forward novel applications of printing, we are delighted to expand the CfBI offering  which brings together the best companies in Europe in the spirit of ‘collaborative advantage’ to ‘do more with less’”.

Photo shows Julian White of Skalene addressing the First Novel Applications of Printing Consortium

Plastic Logic in deal with Rusnano

Plastic Logic in Deal with RUSNANO

RUSNANO aims to encourage the growth of Russian nanotech industry by co-investing in projects likely to make a significant economic or social contribution, and is developing partnerships with the world’s leading nanotechnology centres.

Plastic Logic said the investment underscored the company’s global leadership in the emerging plastic electronics industry.

The company will keep is R&D centre in Cambridge and its first factory in Germany, plus corporate HQ in California.

Plastic Logic, founded a decade ago, has been developing technology originating from Cambridge University in the research labs of Prof Sir Richard Friend, and backed from the start by Hermann Hauser.

The core technology is about creating plastic as opposed to silicon chips, making microprocessors a lot cheaper.

Recently the company announced that it was abandoning production of its electronic reader, which used the chips, but indicated that it would come up with a more advanced version.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Georgy Kolpachev, RUSNANO managing director, said: “The production facility for the next generation of plastic displays will become the first step to establish the new branch of an electronics industry in Russia.

“By the time of the launch, the Russian facility will be the world’s most advanced fabrication plant in the plastic electronics industry.”

Richard Archuleta, CEO of Plastic Logic, said: “This investment will enable us to dramatically expand operations in support of volume production of our next-generation products, and to continue to advance our technology platform to deliver our broader long-term vision.”

He added that PL had looked at multiple countries for its expansion efforts, but Russia came up with the best deal, offering access to “an enormous talent pool of scientists and engineers, and proximity to our European centres in Cambridge and Dresden.

“We have been very impressed with the caliber of the RUSNANO organization and, most importantly, its commitment to undertake the significant investment required to build a world-class volume production centre capable of producing hundreds of thousands of units a month.”

New Vice Chancellor for University of Cambridge

New Vice-Chancellor for Cambridge


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<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>On October 1st Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz  became the 345th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, succeeding Professor Dame Alison Richard.</span></p>
<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>He was formally admitted to the position this morning at a ceremony, known as a Congregation, in the Senate House.</span></p>
<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>The new Vice-Chancellor was previously Chief Executive of the UK’s Medical Research Council from 2007, and from 2001 to 2007 was at Imperial College London, where he served as Principal of the Faculty of Medicine and later as Deputy Rector.</span></p>
<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>In his inaugural speech to the University following his admission, entitled ‘Shared Values and Visions’, the new Vice-Chancellor said: I am excited about the challenges and yet awed by the responsibility of this position. I am indeed privileged to rejoin the Cambridge community from which I gained so much earlier in my career.</span></p>
<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>The challenge to the new Vice-Chancellor is clear. It is to lead the University in a competitive and difficult economic environment, to secure our financial base despite short-term fluctuations, develop an infrastructure commensurate with an internationally leading university, and ensure the best possible environment to recruit and retain academic staff of the highest quality.</span></p>
<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>He first came to Cambridge in 1987 as a Wellcome Trust Senior Lecturer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, then a year later joined the University as a lecturer in medicine and a Fellow of Wolfson College. He moved back to his birthplace, Cardiff, in 2001 where he served ten years as Professor of Medicine at the University of Wales College of Medicine.</span></p>
<p><span style=font-size: 14px;>Professor Borysiewicz was knighted in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List for his contribution to medical education and research into developing vaccines, including work towards a vaccine therapy for cervical cancer.</span></p>
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Non-tech rules at ?30k Big Pitch startup competition

Non-tech rules at £30k Big Pitch startup competition


Big Pitch 2012 winners: (L-R) Paula Albiñana of CB Ale, Original Truffles’ Laszlo Csiba and James and Eddie Shevlin from Hammer and Tongs Productions

With the fat beats of the Chemical Brothers’ ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl‘ fading out, veteran startup doyen, Walter Herriot, looked like he’d taken a substance or two himself as he bounced on to the stage with greater animation than normal for the introduction of Anglia Ruskin University’s Big PitchFinal.

Stopping just short of doing the running man across the floor, Herriot helped build a lively atmosphere out front while the pressure mounted backstage, but not just for the finalists.

The competition is now in its second year and part of a wider push by Anglia to build a nationally recognised startup culture: the Big Pitch needed to justify the £30k on offer by showing last year’s strong performance was not just a flash in the pan.

On numbers it has been up to the task with 64 video entries, well above the previous year. Thirty two were shortlisted compared to 20 in 2011, half of them chosen by popular vote on a web site that attracted almost 17,000 visits and over 4,400 votes.

The 32 shortlisted ideas were whittled down to the seven that pitched last night in pursuit of a cut of the prize money, this year split into £15k, £10k and £5k awards for first, second and first.

Unlike last year when four of the seven finalists were web-based ventures including all three eventual winners, this year only a Skype-based language web site (LiveTalk) came close to being a ‘digital’ business, which will surely be welcomed by non-tech entrepreneurs and Herriot who has consistently spoken of the need to ‘democratise’ startup competitions.

LiveTalk didn’t place in the top three however, those were taken (in descending order) by The Original Truffles Company, CB Ale and Hammer and Tongs.

The charismatic Laszlo Csiba was the one pitch with more bounce than Herriot. His business is based on his own passion for truffles – I know how to make the customer happy – as well as a source for a range of truffle based products from his home country, Hungary.

With the UK increasingly opening up to new and more sophisticated foods, by tilting at everyday consumers, Csiba seems to have identified a market opportunity and is already selling in Cambridge on weekends. The judges suggested he develop a well thought out marketing strategy on an already strong brand, but it was the force of personality, a deep understanding of his product and a natural sales patter that surely clinched it.

I have experience in catering, ordering, preparing and serving food, but most importantly, I know how to make the customer happy, said Csbia, who convincingly outlined how he would help people slow down and enjoy the good things in life, such as his truffle products.

Csiba says he plans to use the money to upgrade his distribution equipment and partner with a soil and water engineer on an East Anglian truffle production project.

Second placed Paula Albiñana also has an existing product, a low-alcohol beer aimed at women that sells in pubs in Cambridge.

Another strong pitch, the story behind Albiñana’s CB1 beer sounds like something straight out of Hollywood. Albiñana’s grandmother came to the UK in 1940, fell in love with a brewer and produced a beer to impress him. Unfortunately he died and she returned to Spain. The grandmother’s dream came back to life however when Albiñana came across her diary however, found the recipe and recreated it.

Again, and ability to sell and passion stood out for the judges with Paddy Bishop in particular suggesting that the product stands a strong chance of success as long as it is able to transition from a beer on tap to a bottled product.

Third placed Hammer and Tongs delivered something quite different to the warm attractive offerings of the first two winners. There was nothing cuddly here, no big doe-eyed web icons, Hammer and Tongs Productions is a social enterprise that works with ex-offenders through music, drama and film making.

The inevitable question was where’s the money going to come from? One answer is government, another is philanthropy, but something more sustainable in the same vein of Ipswich’s Red Rose Chain was suggested.

Hammer and Tongs is looking to distribute films such as ‘The Crack’ and new documentaries. The money will also help with this summer’s planned production of Charles Dickens’ tale, Oliver.

It’s difficult to imagine Hammer and Tongs or any of the other winning companies starring at any of the other Cambridge startup competitions. We’ll see whether it’s a permanent trend next year as The Big Pitch confirmed it will be running in 2013.


Cambridge Biotechnology Proves Worth with ?356.8M Acquisition

Cambridge Biotechnology proves worth with £356.8m acquisition


Babraham Research Campus, R&D home of CBT, then Proximagen and now Upsher-Smith

A 93-year old US pharmaceutical company is to spend up to £356.8 million on acquiring a fully functioning drug discovery division by acquiring Proximagen, a move that provides the latest instalment in the story of what was previously Cambridge Biotechnology Ltd (CBT).

Set up in 2001 and backed by biotech entrepreneurs Dr Andy Richards and Sir Chris Evans’s Merlin Biosciences amongst others, CBT raised £10m before it was acquired by Biovitrum in 2005, which then offloaded it to Proximagen. Upsher-Smith will become its third owner in as many years.

The Minnesota firm aims to become a leader in the central nervous system (CNS) space, treating diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and is not just after Proximagen’s product pipeline, but an R&D engine it can couple to its own product development and commercialisation expertise to create a vertically integrated pharmaceutical, a company that goes from early drug discovery right through to market.

Upsher-Smith’s existing product portfolio is centred on women’s health, dermatology and cardiology, which helped generate $451m (£290m) in revenues and $151m (£97m) in pretax profit in its last financial year.

However, it wants to expand its CNS drug discovery work where it already has one treatment in Phase III clinical trials. Proximagen has 15 drug candidates its pushing through the development process, nine of which originate from what was CBT including the group’s most advanced candidate, a treatment for obesity and diabetes which has completed Phase IIb clinical trials.

The acquisition will be welcomed by many in the UK biotech industry and the Cambridge cluster, not least of all Proximagen CEO, Kenneth Mulvany: This deal demonstrates that the UK biotechnology sector can, with supportive investors, bring together scientific excellence, business acumen and generate significant retunes for shareholders.

Staff are also believed to be excited about the deal, not only will many hold shares, but Uphser-Smith is regarded as a good company to work for.

With no drugs yet commercialised, Proximagen financial situation is fairly typical for a biotech – its revenues are low and its annual loss in the millions. Less typically though, Proximagen is cash rich, having only spent a fraction of the £50m it raised in 2009 when it acquired CBT and Minster Pharma.

Upsher-Smith though will initially pay £223m potentially going to £356.8m for Proximagen. The company says it intends to retain the Cambridge and London operations, integrating them to form a robust research and development platform for future growth.

That R&D platform has been entirely based at the Babraham Research Campus since last year when Proximagen consolidated its entire research operation into one space and the site accounts for over three quarters of all Proximagen staff.

Here’s how it got there. CBT was founded by a combination of researchers from a Pfizer Global R&D drug discovery team in what had previously been the Parke-Davis Neuroscience Research Centre in Cambridge as well as key academic collaborators.

Following an early stage investment, the company raised further seed funding in 2002 from the Cambridge Gateway Fund, Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, Avlar Bioventures and Merlin Biosciences.

Soon after Avlar was replaced by Northern Venture Managers in a £6 million Series A funding round, the last equity round before its 2005 acquisition by Sweden’s Biovitrum for an undisclosed amount. CBT continued as an autonomous drug discovery firm within Biovitrum working on pain, inflammation and obesity.

In 2009 however, Biovitrum’s own difficulties led it to restructure the business including bringing an end to its small molecule work – CBT would either be divested or closed. Months later Proximagen, a King’s College London spin-out, which had just raised £50m on the stock market, came in with its undisclosed offer as it looked to widen the breadth of its CNS offering and bought CBT, subsequently bringing it in closer to the Proximagen family than it had been at Biovitrum.

ARM spin out sold for ?10.6m

ARM spin-out sold for £10.6m


Cognovo, the Cambridge wireless technology company founded by the team that built TTPCom and sold it to Motorola over £100m, has been acquired by quoted Swiss firm, u-blox for $16.5m (£10.6m).

Cognovo specialises in ‘software defined modems,’ an approach that treats the various wireless standards as ‘apps’ running on an operating system, potentially saving OEMs a great deal of time and money on chip development.

Cognovo was founded in 2009. The foundation of the technology is Ardbeg Vector Signal Processor technology, spun out from ARM, which also contributed investment and representation on the company’s board.

u-blox said that Cognovo’s 30 strong team and business would be integrated into its organisation.

“This is a very exciting acquisition for u-blox as it positions us as an agile and cost-effective supplier of high-speed wireless modem products based on our own chip IP. This allows us to meet market demand for connected systems that require positioning, connectivity and application specific functionality on a single integrated circuit,” said Thomas Seiler, u-blox CEO in the press statement.

“This new foundation broadens our serviceable market, and will increase our margins in the automotive, consumer and industrial sectors. Our first 4G product is planned for 2013.”

Executive chairman of Cognovo is Tony Milbourn, latterly founder and  CEO at TTPCom, while CEO is Gordon Aspin, formerly COO at TTPCom.

ANT loses CEO

ANT loses CEO



Former ANT CEO, Simon Woodward

Simon Woodward has left ANT plc after more than 15 years spent as CEO, during which time the company he helped grow the company into an international brand, listed on the London Stock Exchange.

No reasons have been given for Woodward’s departure, which is immediate with ANT finance director, Pauline Ingram, stepping in as interim CEO. However, with non-executive directors stepping in to support the management team and undertake executive duties until a new CEO is appointed, it appears the decision was fairly sudden.

ANT began life in 1993 producing ethernet cards for the Acorn Archimedes. It added related client software including web browsers, FTP and email, what was known then as the internet suite.

Simon Woodward’s arrival coincided with a repositioning of the company away from hardware and onto software – the UK home-grown computer industry had begun to fade and the Acorn market evaporate – which eventually focused on TV.

Following an angel investment and three VC rounds, Woodward took the company public in 2005, raising £11.2m with a market capitalisation of £30m and it now provides embedded software solutions and services for the TV industry, similar to the ‘red button’ services seen on UK digital televisions.

However, it has since failed to fully realise its potential. Market cap is just over £4m and it is yet to generate a pretax profit. Revenues have only increased from around £2.5m in 2005 to £4.5m in 2011 with staff numbers stable at between 40 and 50 people. Following today’s announcement the ANT’s share price dropped 1.4 per cent, down 0.25p to 18 pence a share.

Incubation Experts Sought as Government Throws Open Empty Buidings to Startups

Incubation experts sought as government throws open empty buildings to startups

Blenheim Court is one of 20 buildings that will offer low cost flexible space to startups

The government has revealed 20 government buildings standing empty which will be made available for entrepreneurs in the early stages of growing their businesses.

The government says it is working with landlords to offer the space at a low cost. The intention is to open up the properties on flexible, short-term arrangements.

The closest building to Cambridge lies within the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough local enterprise partnership (GCGP LEP) at Peterborough’s Blenheim Court.

However, the challenge now is to find incubation and business start-up organisations which can help new and existing small businesses to manage and allocate these spaces, presumably groups such as ideaSpace Enterprise Accelerator and Future Business.

The 20 buildings represent over 200,000 sq ft of space and are spread across 18 locations including London, Colchester, Rugby, Leeds, Runcorn, Birmingham, Oxford and Bristol. According to the announcement, the UK government has exited over 900 properties since May 2010.

They are generally buildings where it is not possible to sell or exit the lease immediately once the space has been vacated.

Anyone interested in managing the spaces can register their interest at The process will be open until 29 June 2012.

Oxford scientist to study solar energy harvest

Oxford scientist to study solar energy harvest



Feliciano Giustino

Research into how solar cells inspired by natural photosynthesis harvest the Sun’s energy has been given a boost.

Dr Feliciano Giustino of Oxford University’s Department of Materials has received a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award worth around £900,000 to explore how ‘biomimetic’ solar cells – those that mimic natural systems – turn light into electricity at the atomic scale. 

Amongst the many photovoltaic technologies currently being developed biomimetic solar cells are especially appealing as they offer the promise of converting sunlight into energy without relying on scarce, often toxic, materials.

The Leverhulme Trust awards only a handful of Research Leadership grants once every few years, and Higher Education Institutions are only allowed to nominate one candidate across all disciplines. Dr Giustino will use the grant from the Leverhulme Trust to build computer models of biomimetic photovoltaic devices as part of a project nicknamed ‘ELYSIA’, after the photosynthetic sea slug elysia chlorotica.

Dr Giustino said: ‘I would like to use the Leverhulme award in order to fill the gap between the fundamental science and the technological applications of bio-inspired photovoltaics. Given its far-reaching societal implications, solar energy research calls for a multifaceted approach where we ask ourselves two questions at once: what are the fundamental mechanisms of biomimetic light harvesting, and how can we use them to harness energy.’

Feliciano Giustino is a University Lecturer in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford and the Co-Director of the Materials Modelling Laboratory, and a Governing Body Fellow of Wolfson College. He holds a PhD in Physics from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and before moving to Oxford in 2008 he was a researcher in the Department of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley. His work focuses on the development and use of computational methods based on quantum mechanics for modelling the structural, electronic, and optical properties of solar energy materials at the atomic scale.

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the first Viscount Leverhulme. It is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £60m every year.

Oxford Spin-out promises inexpensive vaccines for cancer and viral infections


Source: ISIS Innovations

A spin-out from the University of Oxford, Oxford Vacmedix, will commercialise a new technology with the potential to reduce the cost of vaccine development significantly and increase the effectiveness of vaccines in providing immunity against both infectious diseases and cancer.  The technology makes use of techniques that have already produced effective vaccines under laboratory conditions.

The key to the technology lies in manufacturing new ‘overlapping peptide’ vaccines using a natural expression system. A team from the University of Oxford, Department of Oncology and the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine led by Dr Shisong Jiang is responsible for the promising technology.  Describing the advantages of their work, Dr. Jiang said: “The present way of making overlapping peptides is to chemically synthesize all the peptides. The use of the peptide synthesizer, and the limited quantity of peptides produced in this way, made the overlapping peptides very expensive to produce.”

“In contrast, our new method of making overlapping peptides in a bacterial system will allow us to obtain the recombinant protein and then the overlapping peptides endlessly. It is a great improvement compared with the previous method.”

“There are two clear advantages to this approach to developing new vaccines. Firstly, we expect that this technique will allow us to design an effective vaccine much more quickly than using standard vaccine development methods. Secondly, these vaccines can be made using recombinant techniques, potentially a thousand times cheaper than the current solid-phase synthesis processes used to manufacture similar vaccines.”

OVM has already crossed international boundaries to access a wider range of commercialisation opportunities.  As a key part of its business plan, OVM UK has formed a joint venture in Hong Kong with Chinese investors.  This collaboration will enable the majority of the early stage validation of the Oxford technology to be undertaken at the newly established science and technology centre, Changzhou Bioincubation Centre, Xinbei District, Changzhou, supported by Chinese private investment and government funding.  The spin-out holds the exclusive licence to the intellectual property currently owned and managed by Isis Innovation Ltd, the University of Oxford’s research commercialisation company.  The support from Changzhou City government includes laboratory space in a new science business incubation centre managed by Isis and additional funding for key workers.

The joint venture, Oxford Vacmedix HK, will take an exclusive licence to four disease indications, for greater China from Oxford Vacmedix UK and the initial focus of the technology development will be on these.  Oxford Vacmedix HK will be eligible to access up to 2 million RMB in funding from Changzhou Government.

Tom Hockaday, MD of Isis Innovation, said: “We saw the potential of Dr. Jiang’s work and supported it using funds managed by Isis to develop the research to the point of being industrially relevant.  As the vaccine technology receives the international recognition it deserves, having an Isis base in China has been vital in facilitating the joint venture. Oxford Vacmedix is now best placed to enter markets where a cost effective solution will mean accessibility to those who are most vulnerable.”

Oxford Vacmedix will use the investment to prepare the technology for application initially in two infectious diseases, tuberculosis and HPV, followed by other infectious diseases and as a cancer vaccine against Survivin, a protein implicated in cancer.  The company will prepare a technical dossier and drug master file, aiming to establish partnerships or licenses for further development of these vaccines in China.

The CEO and investor, Dr Hong Hoi Ting, who will be leading the business and technology validation said: “We are extremely excited about the opportunity to commercially develop this Oxford technology in a region where its potential impact on healthcare is huge.  This business allows us to continue building links between Oxford and China, taking advantage of the best of both and to realise the commercial potential in the technology.”

Another partner in the Oxford Vacmedix joint venture is RTC Innovation, a Birmingham based firm that commercialises early stage technology, specialising in international partnerships. Dr Jian Cao, the Director of RTC Innovation said: “From the onset we have been keen to work with Isis to promote the importance of recombinant overlapping peptide technology. Now, as the company is spun out, we are very happy to be a partner and look forward to developing this technology into vaccines.

Boost for Innovative SMEs

Boost for Innovative SMEs

The Isis SME Smart IP Scheme (SSIP)

The Isis SME Smart IP Scheme (SSIPS) offers SMEs greater flexibility and reduced business risk when accessing Intellectual Property (IP) originating from Oxford University by offering a phased programme to access and utilise IP projects, with the support of IP management expertise and resources from Isis – including proactive assistance to access financial support for SME’s developing new products and technologies.

SMEs will now benefit from an additional option for selected Isis IP projects allowing them to enter into a two-stage licence that recognises separate development and exploitation activities.

In the first stage, SMEs can enter into the development licence with Isis to apply their R&D resources and development expertise to turn a scientific technology into a new product design and specification.

Once the new product specification exists, the second stage gives the SME three options:
1. to make and market the product internally,
2. to out-license the designs and IP to a suitable manufacturing and marketing company, or
3. to pass the designs to Isis for them to identify and engage the marketing organisation.

Key to SSIPS is that in each of these scenarios the SME that has invested in the development of the product will earn a share of future revenues. Isis manages the Intellectual Property, and with more than 850 patent families in its portfolio has ample experience to do this in a cost effective manner.

Furthermore, Isis will work with SMEs to encourage, and where possible facilitate, access to the many support initiatives available to SMEs which they may not have the expertise or resources to benefit from. Examples of such support are the technology competitions from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) including their Smart awards and Innovation Vouchers, impact awards from the research councils, R&D tax credits, the new Patent Box and more.

Dr Will Barton, Head of Manufacturing at the Technology Strategy Board, said, “The TSB recognises that small and medium-sized enterprises with high growth potential will be a major source of the UK’s future economic growth. We are committed to supporting innovation in this sector, and are delighted that Isis is making it even easier for SME’s to get a head start through more attractive access to Oxford University’s IP, and through the assistance they are giving to help SME’s access our grants and the new government tax benefits like patent box and enhanced R&D Tax Credits.”

Isis Innovation already has a very good track record in working with SMEs. In particular for the physical sciences, the majority of licence agreements are with spin-outs and SMEs, and so this initiative is a natural development from that experience.

“Simon Crompton, Managing Director of Wirth Research, said, “As an existing licensee of technology from Oxford University, through Isis, we appreciate that the results of original research give a competitive edge for industry. This scheme is an excellent way of de-risking the investment for businesses, making it more attractive for SMEs to engage with Oxford.”

Tom Hockaday, Managing Director of Isis Innovation, added, “SSIPS combines Isis IP and technology transfer expertise with SMEs development strengths to bring innovative technologies to market. SMEs are vital to the health of the local and national economy – we believe that this initiative, which makes good use of Isis’ experience and networks, will make a real impact and will be beneficial for all involved.”

For Further Information:

Dr Jon Carr
Senior Technology Transfer Manager, Isis Innovation Ltd.
T: 01865 280907

Dr Chandra Ramanujan
Business Relationships Manager, Isis Innovation Ltd
T: 01865 614434

Summit Awarded up to ?4.0 Million from the Wellcome Trust to Support Clinical Development of Selective C. difficile Antibiotic

Summit Awarded up to £4.0 Million from the Wellcome Trust to Support Clinical Development of Selective C. difficile Antibiotic

22nd of October, 2012

Oxford, UK, 22 October 2012 – Summit (AIM: SUMM), a UK drug discovery company, is pleased to announce that it has extended its partnership with the Wellcome Trust through a translational research award worth up to £4.0 million ($6.5 million) to support the development of SMT 19969 to clinical proof of concept studies. SMT 19969 is a novel, oral small molecule being developed as a specific antibiotic for the treatment of infections caused by C. difficile.

“Summit is delighted to extend its partnership with the Wellcome Trust to support the development of one of our core programmes,” commented Glyn Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of Summit. “This Wellcome Trust award endorses the potential of SMT 19969, our promising antibiotic for the treatment of serious infections caused by C. difficile bacteria, and will provide non-dilutive funding to de-risk its development as it advances through important clinical milestones.”

“C. difficile infection represent a serious healthcare threat and this £4.0 million translational award underlines the Wellcome Trust’s commitment to supporting the development of new and effective antibiotic treatments,” commented Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust. “We are pleased to be extending our successful partnership with Summit and look forward to testing in the clinic the potential of the SMT 19969 drug.”

Under the terms of the award, Summit will be eligible for up to £4.0 million in staged, success-based payments. Summit will immediately receive £1.26 million that will support a Phase 1 clinical trial in healthy volunteers and additional non-clinical studies designed to enhance the clinical data package. The Phase 1 trial is expected to commence by the end of 2012 with results expected in H1 2013. A successful outcome would trigger a further three payments from the Wellcome Trust with these contributing significantly towards undertaking a Phase 2 proof of concept trial in patients.

The award is being made as part of the Wellcome Trust’s Translation Award programme. This represents the second funding award the Wellcome Trust has made to support Summit’s C. difficile antibiotic programme and follows an award made under the Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative in 2009. A new funding agreement has been signed under which the Wellcome Trust share in net revenues generated by commercialisation of the programme.