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Southern Tech 150 listing award winners impress judges with innovation and talent

By Tim Wickham
28 April 2022
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The people behind a powerful range of leading-edge technologies gathered at Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, on 27 April for an informal awards and networking evening.

They were there to recognise and applaud standout performers in the Southern Tech 150 listing of the South East’s top privately-owned technology companies (by turnover).

The annual listing is sponsored by Morgan Lovell, RSM UK and Spectrum IT Recruitment and compiled by The Business Magazine.

View the full list of companies on the Southern Tech 150 >>

The Award sponsors (from left): Petra O’Shea (Morgan Lovell), Simon MacDonald, (RSM UK), Emma Wareham of RSM UK and Lauren James (Spectrum IT)
The Award sponsors (from left): Petra O’Shea (Morgan Lovell), Simon MacDonald, (RSM UK), Emma Wareham of RSM UK and Lauren James (Spectrum IT)

Richard Thompson, Managing Director of The Business Magazine, said: “There are so many great success stories in our Southern Tech listing. And the last year has been one of great stories of resilience, too.

“The South East’s vibrant technology sector encompasses everything from software developers, hardware suppliers, bioscience companies, cloud service providers, telecoms businesses and tech-focused manufacturers.”

Guest speaker Nathan Vautier, CEO of Reading-based Bullitt Group, a world-leading manufacturer of rugged mobile phones for use in extreme environments, described how innovation is key to a smaller company.

He urged business leaders to look inside their companies for innovation that they might not yet be aware of – Bullitt had already been testing anti-bacterial phones and realised it had an opportunity to launch a new product to take advantage of demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company grew by 50% in 2020/21.

Vautier added that taking learnings from the last couple of years, it is the responsibility of technology companies and Bullitt's future goals that we all must ensure more stable production and supply for our customers and work towards carbon-neutral production

The evening then moved onto the awards. And the winners are…

Business Leader of the Year sponsored by Morgan Lovell

Winner: Stephanie Kelly, IRIS Software

“Inclusivity around employee care and engagement is fundamentally important in providing a supportive, respectful and engaging environment for all our staff – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but we also know that it leads to positive business outcomes. It’s critical that we continue to invest in our people and ensure they have the skills, knowledge and support to meet the challenges not only of today but of the future too. Probably the biggest challenge for us during the Covid-19 pandemic was keeping spirits high. We increased our communications with employees, celebrating successes, putting on fun virtual activities, running coaching and support sessions, investing in training for managers and employees, and training mental health first aiders to support those that were struggling.” Stephanie Kelly, Chief People Officer

Judges’ comments: Stephanie's goal of ‘aiming high’, ‘missions and visions’ and complete inclusivity around care and engagement, not only within the company but also in the wider community, made her and her role in HR and technology a standout business leader.

Black Ox Managing Director Richard Thompson accepts the award on behalf of winner Stephanie Kelly from Petra O’Shea from sponsor Morgan Lovell
Black Ox Managing Director Richard Thompson accepts the award on behalf of winner Stephanie Kelly from Petra O’Shea from sponsor Morgan Lovell

Finalists:

• Aaron Featherstone – aap3

• Alex Tatham – Westcoast

• Nathan Vautier – Bullitt Group

Best Use of Technology – sponsored by Morgan Lovell

Winner: Reaction Engines

“SABRE-derived technologies provide a step-change in performance, efficiency and sustainability across multiple industries. From capturing and reusing waste heat in energy production processes to decarbonising aviation through innovative thermal management solutions, our technology is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in engineering. Our team of dedicated engineers are passionate about developing truly transformative technologies that promote sustainability and underpin Net Zero targets.” Marc Arstall, Chief Technology Officer for Applied Technologies

Judges’ comments: Reaction Engine’s focus on technology has been a game-changer for organisations, where they simply cannot advance their business goals without the use of this company’s product. Furthermore, their focus on low carbon and how they can convert waste heat to generate more power brought their focus on sustainable technology solutions to the fore.

Marc Arstall, Chief Technology Officer for Applied Technologies at Reaction Engines (left), with Nigel Wild from sponsor Morgan Lovell
Marc Arstall, Chief Technology Officer for Applied Technologies at Reaction Engines (left), with Nigel Wild from sponsor Morgan Lovell

Finalists:

• Airsys

• Bullitt Group

• Centerprise International

• Technetix

Employer of the Year – sponsored by Spectrum IT Recruitment

Winner: Ancoris

“Developing talent with a diversity of junior and senior people is important in fostering the next generation. We put time into mentoring employees but not in a prescriptive way, for example, by providing opportunities to work with senior colleagues. We have employee-led values as our culture has to come from inside out rather than top down. We have embraced anonymised employee surveys that the management team take very seriously and we have made material changes in our planning as a result. The surveys help us see if we are going in the right direction to be a genuinely happy and productive workplace.” John Flower, Head of Software Development, and AJ Sung, Software Engineer

Judges’ comments: Our winner invests in developing young talent. Company values are employee-led to ensure everyone agrees with and believes in them, and they are big on trust. With a focus on mental health, they offer employee assistance programmes, with managers sharing their own mental health stories to let others know they are not alone. 100% of staff recommend working there.

Finalists:

• Cobweb Solutions

• mdgroup

• Redwood Technologies

• Xtrac

Innovation Award – sponsored by RSM UK

Winner: Bullitt Group

“We had already tested an anti-bacterial phone in 2019, so when the Covid-19 pandemic came we conducted further tests to ensure the screen and seals could withstand chemicals, such as alcohol and bleach, and also rubbing at a certain pressure. We did this in about 40% of the normal time to launch the phone. We have also recently partnered with Motorola on the launch of its new rugged phone, which was a huge accolade for us. We now have a multi-year licence with the company, with huge opportunities in the Latin American and US market, where its brand is strong.” Nathan Vautier, CEO

Judges’ comments: The winner has consistently led their chosen market globally with award-winning innovative products, using industry-leading technology. We were impressed at how the company continued to drive innovation in their field during a difficult period, and their approach to adapting and launching new products to fit the requirements of its customer base, achieving impressive results in the process.

Nathan Vautier, CEO of Bullitt Group (left), with Simon MacDonald from sponsor RSM UK
Nathan Vautier, CEO of Bullitt Group (left), with Simon MacDonald from sponsor RSM UK

Finalists:

• HR Wallingford

• Reaction Engines

• Redbrain

• Redwood Technologies

Winners (from left): Nathan Vautier (Bullitt Group), AJ Sung and John Flower (Ancoris) and Marc Arstall (Reaction Engines), Stephanie Kelly wasn’t present