The South West is one of the UK’s richest regions in terms of tech innovation, with latest counts putting the area’s digital tech turnover at more than £2.4bn.
There are now 13,465 tech firms operating in the region, collectively employing some 78,000 people – each with a productivity equivalent to £87,000.
But who are the people behind this boom? BLM today reveals the innovators, pioneers and visionaries injecting momentum into the South West’s tech scene.
This list in no particular order.
ADAM SHARPE – CARDSTREAM
Taunton-based Cardstream is a global payments platform, supporting all worldwide currencies and major credit cards, and operating with 100-plus reseller partners and 18,000-plus merchants in more than 120 countries.
The firm is headed by CEO Sharpe, and says ideas like ethical business practice and sustainable growth are key to its strategy.
ANDREW RALSTON – PURE PLANET
Ralston is the co-founder and CEO of Pure Planet, the UK’s first app-only energy supplier, which is using innovative tech and an alternative pricing model to disrupt the energy sector.
Pure Planet aims to ‘innovate and make a difference’, which trades in renewables at a better consumer price than traditional energy sources.
ARIF BUTT – SELECTSCIENCE
Founder, CEO and Publisher of SelectScience, Bath-based entrepreneur Butt is working to ‘improve communication in science globally and make the future healthier’.
SelectScience is an independent digital publisher that provides cutting-edge science technology and research news to a global audience of more than three million scientists to inform and accelerate their research.
DR BECKY SAGE – INTERACTIVE SCIENTIFIC
Sage heads iSci, which was founded in 2013 and is striving to create a future for business and social enterprise ‘where scientific innovation is collaborative, communicative and effective for 21st century needs’.
Her 15 years of excellence in science research, education and business have seen her named a Maserati 100 innovator and winner of the InFocus Women in Innovation award.
BRIAN ALLEN – ROVCO
Rovco has disrupted the subsea industry by delivering cutting-edge hydrographic services built on ground-breaking tech and expert personnel.
The Bristol-based firm has enjoyed rapid growth, and its innovative methods are bringing ML and 3D imagery into subsea inspections used in sectors such as offshore wind, wave and tidal, oil and gas, maritime security and civils.
CHRIS BONES – GOOD GROWTH
Chairman and co-founder of Good Growth Ltd, an e-commerce consultancy which transforms commercial and organisation strategies to help major brands deliver accelerated growth.
As Dean Emeritus at Exeter University’s Henley Business School, he has also published two books on digital strategy.
CLAIRE OWEN – LOOP SOFTWARE
Loop is a next-generation data-driven platform which enables property professionals to deliver trusted advice to their clients.
Founder Director Owen describes herself as ‘a property consultant and proptech founder who cares deeply about excellence in the industry’.
GARETH WILLIAMS – YELLOWDOG
YellowDog’s tech solutions help companies operating across the globe and in sectors ranging from finance and aerospace to CGI and life sciences, to accelerate and optimise complex data processes.
At its head is Williams, who is ‘spearheading the vision to build a world where people do more, create more, discover more; unleashed from limited computing power’.
HARRY DESTECROIX – UNIT DX & ZIYLO
Destecroix is co-founder and CEO of Bristol deep tech incubator Unit DX, home to the city’s most innovative science and engineering companies.
Unit DX empowers scientists as entrepreneurs, and its 32 member companies – working in biotech, synthetic biology, artifical intelligence and robotics to name a few – have collectively raised more than £28m in the past two years.
IRFON WATKINS – DOVU
Dovu is the cryptocurrency for the mobility industry, which is transforming the global monetisation of data in the transport sector.
The firm says it is trying to change human behaviour and offset CO2 through a smart reward-based system, winning financial backing from Jaguar Land Rover’s investment arm InMotion Ventures and the government-backed Creative England.
JACK FARMER – LETTUS GROW
LettUS Grow comprises of a diverse team of ‘caring, environmentally-conscious plant scientists, developers, creatives, engineers and business whizzes’ with sustainability ‘at their core’.
The multi-award-winning outfit is building the farms of the future by enabling indoor farms, of any size, to reach profitability and sustainability in a format which can be scaled globally.
JAMES RICHMOND – NEVAYA
The Gloucestershire-based founder and CEO of Nevaya, Richmond is ‘brave, bold and decisive to succeed’, and has driven his SaaS company to grow into more than 25 countries including the USA. Nevaya has grown due to its exclusively cloud-based guest entertainment for hospitality, and now services millions of hotel guests every year for significant brands.
JOEL GIBBARD & SAMANTA PAYNE – OPEN BIONICS
A multi-award-winning entrepreneur who founded the Open Hand Project to develop a low-cost and open-source robotic hand in 2013.
In 2014, Gibbard & Payne co-founded Open Bionics with the goal of making advanced prosthetics affordable and accessible to all.
JOHN JAMES – SEEDATA
Exeter-based Seedata was founded in 2010, and has earned a worldwide reputation as a software designer for the life sciences and healthcare sectors.
Its innovative Life QI product is now used by hospitals and other healthcare institutions in 33 different countries, including the US, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil, as well as widely in Europe and across the UK.
DR LISA MATTHEWS – SETSQUARED
Matthews is the Business Incubation Manager for SETsquared in Bristol and the co-founder and CEO of HellyHolly – a successful start-up in the AI chat industry.
The firm has engineered a productivity platform that manages the competing demands for all areas of life – work, social, home and family.
LOUISE PASTERFIELD – SPONGE
Plymouth-based Sponge is the brainchild of founder and MD Pasterfield, whose 2004 idea to create digital training solutions with creativity at their core has driven the company’s growth and subsequent acquisition in November 2019.
Sponge now forms part of a growing learning group, but continues to create bespoke training solutions which fulfil Pasterfield’s vision of helping people and businesses to ‘learn and grow’.
MARK LIPPETT – XMOS
Xmos delivers best-in-class voice capture to create an interface between human and technology that can ‘talk, empathise, relate and react’. Its tech is used in the Amazon Alexa, among other well-known devices.
The Bristol firm is led by Lippett, who describes his role as one which can ‘encourage innovation, enable profitable growth and look to the future’.
MARK ROBERTS – LIGHTFOOT
Lightfoot is ‘the Fitbit for cars’ according to its founder Roberts, who says it gives onboard computers a voice to provide real-time feedback on driving efficiency.
Funded initially through angel investments, but now with government backing too, Exeter-based Lightfoot says it has created a product which can both save lives and reduce environmental impact.
NIGEL TOON – GRAPHCORE
Graphcore’s lofty ambition for its cloud services is to help innovators build a future ‘where people live healthier, more informed, more creative lives, where technology enhances human potential and takes us into a new era of intelligence and progress’.
Toon’s firm has won more than £85m in funding since 2016, and says ‘we push boundaries so others can do the same’.
NIGEL WINSHIP – PEOPLE MATTER
Bournemouth’s People Matter is a fourth successful start-up for founder and CEO Winship, an experienced tech entrepreneur who describes himself as ‘a believer in people’.
The firm uses cutting edge tech and advances in psychology to allow people to accurately track how different events, relationships and circumstances can impact their wellbeing.
PAUL LAWRENCE – SALPO TECHNOLOGIES
A career spanning the NHS, healthcare, retail, media, leisure, business and financial services birthed the ‘consultative, entrepreneurial nature’ which has shaped Cheltenham-based Salpo.
The firm builds ‘smart, functional, beautiful software’ which delivers solutions for companies ranging from start-ups to FTSE 100 firms.
PAUL MULLEN – CUBIK INNOVATION
Mullen formed Cubik in 2012, and has grown it from a one-man band to a team of more than 20 technical and creative folk with a stunning client list – spanning everyone from local inventors to multinational corporates.
The Bristol firm designs and develops innovative electrical products for a broad range of industry sectors.
PETE STIRLING – STL TEH & UNIT DX
CEO of STL, which focuses on development of early-stage technology concepts, and a Co-Founder and advisory board member of the UnitDX tech incubator.
Based in Bristol, he is currently involved in funding a number of key cutting-edge tech start-ups across the West of England.
PETER BOUCHER – EXCALIBUR COMMUNICATIONS
Swindon-based Excalibur provides an end-to-end business consulting service that offers reliable insight and expertise in communications and technology to more than 5,500 customers.
CEO Boucher has spent more than 18 years working in multinational companies, and is now applying his dynamic, entrepreneurial, and commercial skills to benefit Excalibur.
RICHARD GODFREY – ROCKETMAKERS
Bath-based Rocketmakers is headed by software architect, investor, entrepreneur and innovator Godfrey – formerly of Microsoft and Deloitte – and focuses on helping innovative start-ups, scale-ups and corporates through new tech.
The firm’s passion is making new, innovative products by ‘taking the kernel of an idea, helping validate the business and technical opportunity, then making it all come to life’.
DR SALLY BASKER – EXETER SCIENCE PARK
Basker is a qualified engineer with senior-level research and innovation experience in aerospace, defence, energy and navigation.
Responsible for developing Exeter Science Park as a hub for innovative STEMM enterprises to deliver new jobs, enhanced productivity and economic growth.
DR SAMANTHA LAVENDER & ANDREW LAVENDER – PIXALYTICS
The founders of Plymouth-based Pixalytics, an independent space sector consultancy which has been specialising in Earth observation since 2012.
The firm – which says it is ‘passionate about science’ – combines cutting-edge scientific knowledge with satellite and airborne data to answer questions about the planet’s resources and behaviour.
SILAS ADEKUNLE – REACH ROBOTICS
A technology entrepreneur known for creating the world’s first intelligent gaming robot and has been named as Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe in both the Technology and Entrepreneurship categories in 2018.
He is the co-founder of Bristol-based Reach Robotics, and is building a company that enables robotics across Africa and another developing AI engines for service robots.
STAN BOLAND – FIVEAI
A company on a mission, FiveAI is developing the software to power shared, self-driving vehicle services across Europe.
Boland’s firm is working to establish transport systems that are quicker, greener, safer, more accessible and more productive for city streets across the continent.
STEVE CLIFFE – ULTRALEAP
Ultraleap – formed in 2019 through the fusion of Leap Motion and Ultrahaptics – has united the world’s most advanced hand-tracking with the only haptic tech to create the sensation of touch in mid-air.
The Bristol firm says: “The digital world of tomorrow is one you can reach out and interact with intuitively. No wearables. No controllers. Just your hands.”
STEPHEN FITZPATRICK – OVO ENERGY
Formed in Bristol in 2009 by Fitzpatrick, Ovo launched with the aim of making energy ‘cheaper, greener and simpler’.
Since then, it has enjoyed enormous operational growth and expanded its environmental ambitions, while a recent takeover of SSE elevated it to second place in the UK’s energy providers list – and catapulted Fitzpatrick’s individual wealth beyond £600m.
DR ZARA NANU – GAPSQUARE
An entrepreneur who ‘believes business can generate social impact as well as revenues and profits’, Nanu is CEO of Gapsquare, which applies science to the creation of productive, engaged, inclusive and diverse teams.
The firm revolutionises HR practises by combining data, psychology and economics to improve decision-making in recruitment and team structure.