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South Coast Tech Awards showcase shining examples of region’s top tech talent

By Tim Wickham
24 June 2022
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The 2022 South Coast Tech Awards have revealed the top tech businesses in a region rapidly gaining global recognition for its growing expertise in the tech sector.

Hosted by The Business Magazine with headline sponsor Spectrum IT Recruitment, the gala evening was held at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl.

The event sponsors were Business Innovation South Expo, EY, Giganet, Gresham House Ventures, Smith & Williamson and Southampton Science Park., and was supported by Verlingue, Houston and Solent University.

Welcoming over 170 finalists, sponsors and guests, Richard Thompson, Managing Director at The Business Magazine, highlighted the calibre of entries to the awards: “We have been truly impressed with the tech companies who have entered this year’s awards. They are shining examples of the diversity of tech in the South Coast.”

Entries came from software developers, telecom providers, hardware suppliers and manufacturers, cloud solutions companies and science-based businesses, along with people working in artificial intelligence and space technology. The finalists ranged from start-ups and scale-ups to very well-established ‘veterans’.

Thompson commented: “A few years ago, tech was never a sector that you could say was synonymous with Southampton and the South Coast. But that has all changed.”

Host for the evening, comedian, podcaster, playwright and BBC Radio 4 regular Lucy Porter had the audience in stitches from the start and maintained a steady stream of one-liners throughout the evening as she introduced each award category.

Donations on the night by guests to SpecialEffect, a charity that helps transform the lives of physically disabled people through the innovative use of technology, raised £4,840. And a further £2,250 was pledged in an auction of hospitality packages for Southampton FC games kindly donated by Spectrum IT.

And the winners are:

High Growth Tech Company of the Year

Winner: Giganet

Dr Robin Chave (far right), CEO of Southampton Science Park, presents Giganet with the High Growth Tech Company of the Year award

"Our growth rate has been strong – we went from 24 staff in March 2021 to 180 today and have opened two new offices, plus a training centre. We are investing in our staff and their training as well as in building our own infrastructure. The Covid-19 period has been both a challenge and an opportunity for us. We thought business solutions sales might suffer, but with a combined Sales & Marketing effort we didn't let it didn't affect sales – everyone still needs internet. In March 2020, we decided to go ahead with the launch of our home broadband service as planned, as so many people were working from home. We've seen a huge boost in both our business and residential sales." Ruth Martin, Marketing Manager, Giganet

Judges’ comments: “A high-growth business that has proactively reacted to the increased need for the infrastructure to be put in with funding, growth in employee base and increasing contract base. A really strong entry with impressive growth figures.”

Finalists:

• CV-Library

• Matrix IT

• Vuzion UK

Cyber Security Solution Provider of the Year

Winner: Cobweb Solutions

Rebecca Combes (far right), from Smith & Williamson, presents the award for Cyber Security Solution Provider of the Year to Cobweb Solutions

"Innovation is part of our core values – the IT world is one where change is constant so you have to keep innovating to stay ahead of the bad guys. The Covid-19 lockdown saw a massive transition to hybrid and home working, where our customers went from controlled office environments to remote working with employees using their own devices that we needed to help control and protect. We expanded our portfolio of services to protect customers. Ultimately, we are a people business and it is their knowledge, expertise, passion and obsession for serving our customers that makes the difference." Michael Frisby, Managing Director, Cobweb Solutions

Judges’ comments:A visionary tech business investing in the future, often ahead of industry developments. They have launched many global ‘firsts’ over the years. This business has a strong focus on its people and significant spend on staff training, ensuring excellent quality of service and impressive customer satisfaction.”

Finalists:

• Beyond Encryption

• Eazi Security

• Tailor Made Technologies

Emerging Tech Company of the Year

Winner: Lifelight developed by Xim

Rowan Grobler of Gresham House Ventures presents the award to Emerging Tech Company of the Year to Lifelight developed by Xim

"We first saw the technology for measuring blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate about seven years ago and that was a lightbulb moment for us as we thought we could use it with smartphones to turn them into health monitors. We collected lots of data, including from 8,500 patients in Portsmouth, and now have a regulated medical device for the UK market and are approaching the US Federal Drug Administration. It's a scalable solution with a potential global market of five billion smartphones waiting to be turned into health monitors." Laurence Pearce, CEO and founder, Lifelight developed by Xim

Judges’ comments: “A fantastic idea to decentralise vital signs identification to be applied as a filter to making first opinions. With the ability to be applied to online doctor consultations, this provides a scalable solution to the medical sector that is disruptive. The opportunity is vast for this company.”

Finalists:

• Beyond Encryption

• Innovative Physics

Sustainable Tech Company of the Year

Winner: Utilita

Dave Hales (far right) from EY presents the award for Sustainable Tech Company of the Year to Utilita

"We focus on low-income households where our technology helps them save money. Our view is that the greenest energy is the energy we don't use. Our app shows the energy you use and how you can use less. Providing information that customers need has been the driver for us as we transform Utilita from an energy retailer to a technology company. We have grown from 75 staff three-and-a-half years ago to 250 today." Ian Burgess, Chief Technology Officer

Judges’ comments: “Good demonstration of the company's ability to change behaviour and drive environmental change, which is positive to the business and the environment. They developed an app which has enabled users to make better decisions and save money.”

Finalists:

• Absolar

• Circular Computing

Innovative Tech Company of the Year

Winner: Airsys

Lara Bull (far right) from Business Innovation South Expo presents the award to Airsys for Innovative Tech Company of the Year

"The technology has been available but not applied in the way have used it in wireless-based, body-worn video to support remote and lone workers. We saw the opportunity, developed the technology and took it to market at double-speed – about three to four months from concept to taking it to end customers. Initially, our target audience was existing customers but the technology is so broadly applicable that we are taking it beyond our usual customer base." Neil Boxer, Managing Director, Airsys

Judges’ comments: “During the qualifying period, they sped up the development of their body-worn unified comms product to respond to the increasing rates of incidents against lone workers, building technologies and services into one product, so long term there is a cost benefit for the client and a sustainability benefit for everyone.”

Finalists:

• Absolar

• AccelerComm

• Alcis Holdings

• Innovative Physics

• Utilita

Tech SME of the Year

Winner: Matrix IT

Ruth Martin from Giganet presents the award for Tech SME of the Year to Matrix IT

"We have seen exponential growth, working as a team to provide solid IT solutions that fulfil our customers' needs. In the last 12 months, we have grown from a team of 25 to 40. We have also focused a lot on taking on apprentices and now have five in technical, operations and sales roles. They are the future of the company – learning a trade and helping to grow our business." Matt Faulkner, Chief Technical Officer, Matrix IT

Judges’ comments: “The business has grown and evolved in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and a challenge to the underlying fundamentals of the business. Revenue growth is impressive and the leadership team has responded to the changing landscape of the IT industry. They have also taken on apprentices.”

Finalists:

• Cobweb Solutions

• CV-Library

• Innovative Physics

• LMS Group

• Zylpha

Tech Employer of the Year

Winner: Giganet

Operations Manager Lauren James of Spectrum IT presents the award for Tech Employer of the Year to Giganet

"During the period, we made a substantial investment in our new training centre, mainly to train new-build staff who put our broadband infrastructure in the ground because there aren’t enough engineers available to hire. We also appointed a head of learning as well as offering employee training and development across all of our departments." Ruth Martin, Marketing Manager, Giganet

Judges’ comments: “A strong submission that set out clearly the innovation and how the company pushed the boundaries during the pandemic.”

Finalists:

• Beyond Encryption

• CV-Library

• Foster & Forge

• Silver Lining Convergence

Tech Start-Up of the Year

Winner: Lifelight developed by Xim

Jane Holt of Southampton Science Park presents the award to Lifelight developed by Xim for Tech Start-Up of the Year

"We have grown the business to about 20 staff and to date have raised around $9 million primarily through grants and loans from the government. Our vital signs measurement device is a ‘software as a service’ and we work mainly through partnerships. The next stage is to look for institutional investors and seek US FDA approval for our product. In five to 10 years I anticipate that we will have offices in the US and South East Asia – there are so many opportunities for the science behind what we do." Laurence Pearce, CEO and founder, Lifelight developed by Xim

Judges’ comments: “Impressive technology and proven benefits. Clearly evidenced to us and with scalable solutions. We can’t wait to see what this company does next.”

Finalists:

• Absolar

• Labl.it

• OTB Vendors

• UCR Group

Marine/Port Tech Company of the Year

Winner: Eazi Security

Ray Clark, Sales Director at Black Ox Media, presents the Marine/Port Tech Company of the Year
to Eazi Security

"Cyber security is increasingly important in the maritime industry with International Maritime Organisation legislation requiring all vessels to have cyber security awareness. Businesses are starting to see the financial impact of cyber security risks. We understand their exposure and provide solutions to mitigate the risks to our international customer base." Aaron Featherstone, Director of Engineering & Service Operations, Eazi Security

Judges’ comments: “Providing game-changing cyber support to the maritime industry, helping the International Maritime Organisation to define what ‘cyber aware’ accreditation is for the industry and then going on to help their clients identify, audit and protect themselves against, hacking, cyber terrorism and ransomware. They demonstrated strong international business operations and have grown their organisation considerably in the past 18 months.”

Finalists:

• AccelerComm

• Actisense

Science & Technology Company of the Year

Winner: Absolar

Rebecca Combes, from Smith & Williamson, presents the award to Absolar for Science & Technology Company of the Year

"We use LiDAR technology to scan buildings to see if they are suitable for solar panels so you don't have to physically go and see them. The company is a spin-out from the University of Southampton, where our founder developed the product. LiDAR is becoming better known and more accessible so more people are using it. We are scaling up the business and now have a team of nine people." Akash Yadav, Project Coordinator, Absolar

Judges’ comments: “A young tech business with a sustainable business model, a sound strategy and significant opportunity for short and long-term growth. This business has been able to identify and deal with recent challenges in a structured way. Their innovative technology addresses many environmental, economic and social issues, such as reducing carbon footprint and fuel poverty.”

Finalists:

• Actisense

• Innovative Physics

• Maverick Aviation

Tech Leadership Team of the Year

Winner: Beyond Encryption

Rowan Grobler (far right) of Gresham House Ventures presents the award for Tech Leadership Team of the Year to Beyond Encryption

"We are a relatively small team punching above our weight in an industry dominated by massive businesses. It means we need to be multi-disciplined. We have amazing people with extraordinary skills who work collaboratively, where mentoring and great communications are important. The business is growing rapidly – a 'J' curve with volumes up 10-fold in the last few months, which has been extraordinary for us." Paul Holland, CEO, Beyond Encryption

Judges’ comments: “The company has demonstrated how it has evolved with a leadership team to create an environment where skills are transferred and managed to form an effective management team. New branding and new values all aligned with excellent customer satisfaction scores.”

Finalists are:

• LMS Group

• Utilita

Digital Transformation of the Year

Winner: Blue Apple Theatre

Managing Director of Black Ox Media, Richard Thompson, presents the award for Digital Transformation of the Year to Blue Apple Theatre

"We use music and drama to enrich the lives of adults with learning difficulties. During the Covid-19 lockdown, we organised performances with our members in their own homes in front of a green screen that we knitted together in real time and broadcast on YouTube. It was fantastic. Online is now standard, which means we could operate all over the world. Currently, we are preparing a new take on Macbeth which will be performed in Winchester." Blue Apple Theatre

Judges’ comments: “Many businesses needed to change fundamentally during the period under review and this business did so, evidently changing the lives of those who use it. It has demonstrated its ability to evolve under the changing circumstances the past year has brought and in doing so delivered much pleasure too.”

Finalists:

• Labl.it

• Tailor Made Technologies

• Utilita