The second annual Thames Valley Tech Awards honoured the region’s top technology businesses in a dozen categories.
Around 370 finalists and guests attended the awards held in the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre at Reading’s Madejski Stadium.
Reading-based ESP Global Services was a finalist in three categories, including winning the prestigious title of Thames Valley Tech Company for 2019. Another Reading company, CloudFactory, scooped two awards.
Finalists ranged across the technology sector from start-ups to well established ‘veterans’. They included software developers, telecoms providers, hardware suppliers and manufacturers, cloud solutions companies, science-based businesses, people working in artificial intelligence and others working in the field of space technology.
The awards sponsors and supporters were Austin Fraser, Barclays, BDO, Blake Morgan, Boyes Turner, Centerprise, Goringe Accountants, Grant Thornton, Howbery Business Park, iO associates, Jargon PR, Lambert Smith Hampton, LDC, Onecom and Penningtons Manches Cooper.
Peter Laurie, head of client relations at awards organiser The Business Magazine and chair of the judging panel, said: “For our second year, we had many, many excellent entries.”
He added: “I’d like to thank the judges, who visited a number of the shortlisted companies and diligently assessed the strengths and potential of the contenders.”
The judges found the quality of finalists was higher than ever. Laurie said: “We have been truly impressed with the companies who have entered this year’s awards.The finalists are shining examples of the diversity of technology in the Thames Valley and the brilliant businesses that have started up here and grown, many to become global leaders.”
Laurie emphasised the importance of the Thames Valley as a technology hub that attracts leading players like Microsoft, Oracle and Vodafone.
The awards were hosted by Kate Bellingham, well known from BBC’s Tomorrow’s World, as well as for her passion for encouraging women to take up careers in STEM roles.
She introduced the evening’s guest speaker, the technologist, broadcaster and journalist David McLelland, who spoke about his technology and media career. He also offered his personal view on disruptive new technologies that will be changing our lives. These included using AR and VR to treat aphantasia, where people can’t visualise imagery, and a sleep robot to treat insomnia. “I’m the most positive person about the power of technology to improve the human spirit – technology for good,” he said.
Over £2,200 was raised on the evening for Launchpad, a charity that prevents homelessness, provides information and support for individuals, couples and families who don’t have a stable place to live or are at risk of losing their home.
The winner … Aker Systems
Judges’ comments: Showing huge growth and impressive financial results through the development of a unique tailored security solution, specifically for Government and private sector verticals, which has become a great success.
Tech SME of the Year
The winner … Epoq IT
Judges’ comments: An evidently growing niche provider, with some very forward-thinking technology. The tools they have developed thus far are going to put them in a strong future position. Being able to quantify the results in a meaningful way means that very real savings can be achieved for their customers.
Emerging Tech Company
The winner … Qbox (Volume)
Judges’ comments: We were impressed by the use of AI within chatbots to improve the responses delivered to customers and hence the experience. The business has secured some good contracts and is now starting to scale up.
High Growth Tech Business
The winner … CloudFactory
Judges’ comments: An extraordinary growth story. The winner has achieved 19 consecutive quarters of growth and has doubled turnover in the past three years – all achieved organically. With a head office in Reading, 350 full-time employees in four countries and providing meaningful work for over 12,000 people globally, a well-deserved winner.
Innovative Tech Company
The winner … HR Wallingford
Judges’ comments: We were impressed by the culture of innovation demonstrated by the winner. Although a long-established organisation, it has a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. With the ARC-Boat, this company is striving to overcome safety and environmental challenges as well as improving cost effectiveness and efficiency.
Tech Inward Investment
The winner is… CloudFactory
Judges’ comments: Stand-out winners in this category, having located their headquarters to Reading to provide a strategic global anchor to support their clients internationally. A great example of how the Thames Valley is truly the UK’s technology and science business hub.
Science & Technology Award
The winner … Oxford nanoSystems
Judges’ comments: The winner’s NanoFlux technology provides a completely new, scientific alternative for manufacturers to improve the efficiency of heat transfer surfaces. What stood out was their bringing together of scientific knowledge and technical knowhow to create an essential product – new or retrofit – that can respond to the carbon neutral challenge 2030/50.
International Tech Company
The winner … Invenio Business Solutions
Judges’ comments: Over the past two years, it has doubled revenues to £42m and increased staff numbers to 800 in the UK and India. It has extended its reach into the public sector market in the Middle East, while achieving significant new client wins in the UK and North America where it plans further growth.
Communications Company of the Year
The winner … Onecom
Judges’ comments: The winner occupies a unique position in the business telecommunications market, offering a truly converged solution with the market’s leading operators and equipment manufacturers. Led by their CEO, the management team has a clear vision and ambition for the business and a credible plan to deliver it.
Tech Employer of the Year
The winner … NewOrbit
Judges’ comments: With a motto of ‘Don't quit the company, quit your job’, this winner is proud to have built a genuinely inclusive environment which develops and nurtures diversity and enables each employee to be the best they can be, all the while being a strong supporter of local tech community and charitable initiatives,
Tech Leadership Team
The winner … Southern Communications
Judges’ comments: This team fulfilled all the criteria and then some. At each stage of their growth they have had a clear vision and made it happen. They continually look to bring new members into their team that can help them achieve their next challenge. The team is truly inspirational and a leader in their field.
Thames Valley Tech Company
The winner … ESP Global Services
Judges’ comments: This organisation utilises its own bespoke solutions and off-the-shelf software to provide a client-focused service. Its global operations set-up is impressive, in particular its regional operations centres, and its focus on employee wellbeing, refreshing. The combination of a client-centric approach along with a strong global performance makes this company a worthy winner.