South Coast: Tech Awards: top performers in a tough year

The South Coast Tech Awards has recognised the outstanding efforts of the region’s technology businesses during a year of uncertainty and upheaval.

Innovative Physics was named the overall South Coast Tech Company and picked up the Technology Award. CanSense was also a double winner.

The second annual awards event was held virtually. A strong line-up of entries came from software developers, telecoms providers, hardware suppliers and manufacturers, as well as cloud solutions companies, science-based businesses, people working in artificial intelligence, and others working in the field of space technology.

“Tech has been a sector that has grown significantly in the Solent and South Coast regions and now plays a major role in the local economy,” the award’s host, technology presenter and computer scientist Spencer Kelly, told the virtual audience.

He added: “Who knew, when I closed last year’s South Coast Tech Awards and said ‘we’ll be back next year’, it would be under these circumstances?”

Spencer presents the BBC show Click, which celebrated its 20th anniversary programme just before the Covid-19 lockdown. “I now present Click from my sofa. We film and edit our programme from various kitchens and bedrooms around the country,” he said.

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The headline sponsors of the South Coast Tech Awards were software and technology recruitment specialists Spectrum IT. The other event sponsors were BDB Pitmans, Blake Morgan, EY, Onecom, Smith & Williamson and Southampton Science Park.

A lively comments board ran during the awards for finalists and guests. Online networking before and after the awards ceremony gave guests and sponsors the opportunity to link up.

Peter Laurie, head of client relations at awards organiser The Business Magazine, said: “Thanks to all attendees at this first virtual South Coast Technology Awards for making it such a success and congratulations to all our winners. Technology in the south is moving at such a fast pace and recognising these businesses is so important. Choosing finalists and winners in the eight categories was, as always, a huge challenge for the judges who we must thank for all their efforts. Our thanks also go to our sponsors for their enthusiasm and support in helping the virtual Tech Awards take place this year: Spectrum IT, BDB Pitmans, Southampton Science Park, Blake Morgan, Onecom, Smith & Williamson and EY.”

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Charity fundraising during the event was for locally-based WetWheels. The charity provides opportunities for disabled people, in particular those with profound and complex disabilities, to access the sea in a safe, stimulating and rewarding way on board custom-built, fully accessible powerboats. Last year, more than 1,000 people enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to drive boats on and around the Solent.

South Coast Tech Awards 2020 Winners

Tech Start-up – Sponsored by Blake Morgan

Winner:

CanSense

Tech-startup

Winners’ comments:

“It’s just lovely to be shortlisted across three awards, but to win and then win twice is just fantastic. It’s great and we are very proud. We’re passionate about everything we do, and the patients we are focused on. It feels less like work and more like our purpose.

“Being recognised in this way is very important to the team. Winning acknowledges that, as a team, we are doing our small part in the fight against cancer. We are starting our journey as a company and so, of course, we are looking for further funding: to enable people to take a simple blood test to determine whether or not they have bowel cancer. Early detection is critical – it provides much better patient outcomes.

“This award drives us on. CanSense is committed to changing the landscape of bowel cancer detection. Recognition makes us more resolute and focused on delivering this to the NHS – saving lives and saving the NHS money. Thanks to the sponsors for putting on this event, which means so much to an early-stage company.”

Adam Bryant, CEO, CanSense

Highly commended:

BOON

Tech-startup-H-Comm

Judges’ comments:

It was brilliant to see so many promising start-up tech businesses. A good second place for BOON, who are really impressive and young entrepreneurs producing an innovative service for the online retail sector. The winner really stood out for us. We were so impressed by the amazing, scientific and technology-led work the winner is doing to fight bowel cancer.

Other finalists:

  • Aspire4Business Academy
  • Eazi Security
  • iTrack Global

This category is for the most exciting tech start-ups in the region. Companies must be no more than two-years-old.


High Growth Tech Business – Sponsored by Southampton Science Park

Winner:

Blue Frontier

High-growth

Winners’ comments:

“The whole team at Blue Frontier is delighted to have won the High Growth Tech Business award. This success reflects the continued dedication of our entire team and everyone’s commitment to the future of the company, as well as our clients.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to The Business Magazine, Southampton Science Park, the awards host Spencer Kelly, and also to our clients for their continuing support, and to our incredible team for their skill and dedication.”

James Fry, Managing director, Blue Frontier

Judges’ comments:

Business growth and jobs growth is so important to the region right now. We had a very high calibre of entries and had a hard time picking the winner from the three finalists. Blue Frontier is a digital services company showing strong growth in a wide range of areas, including revenue, profits, staff numbers, customer numbers and range of services. It demonstrated a robust strategy to continue its growth journey, diversifying into product development and continuing to develop its existing portfolio of accredited services. We were also impressed by its staff retention and the development of its management team from within the company, and its attitude to corporate social responsibility.

Other finalists:

  • Fresh Relevance
  • Vuzion

This award is open to any company, based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map), that has grown significantly over the past 2 years. Growth could be organic or through acquisition.

Judges will consider the reasons for growth so far, and the ability of the company to continue its growth trajectory in future years. Companies will need to show evidence of strong management and a robust business plan.


Tech Employer – Sponsored by Spectrum IT

Winner:

Onecom

Winners’ comments:

“We know that Onecom is a great place to work, and we’re not shy of saying so – but it’s wonderful to have that recognised by others. We’re very proud to have received this award and to have received such positive feedback from the judges.

“Our People Plan is the foundation of everything we do at Onecom, and is designed to empower staff, encourage open communication and to serve as a reminder that we are here to work hard, but it’s important to have fun while we do it. This drives everything from recruitment to employee rewards to staff development. We are pleased that the judges recognised the value we place on the development and wellbeing of our people, and how this approach feeds into our relationships with customers and, ultimately, drives Onecom’s commercial success.

“Our people are the heart of our business. We simply couldn’t do it without them, so we make it our mission to listen to them, reward them and help them reach their full potential.

This award means a great deal to us because it feels personal – as well as being a measure of our achievements as a business, it recognises the part of every person in making it a great place to work.”

Darren Ridge, CEO, Onecom

Judges’ comments:

We were really impressed with the finalists in this category and the winner really stood out from a competitive field. They have invested in a significant and broad range of employee initiatives to drive continuous development, employee satisfaction and to really focus on staff retention. This was backed up by data, employee testimonials and ideas that originated from the employees themselves. There was some real innovation in their initiatives. They have a strong reward-based culture, along with mental health and wellbeing support.

Other finalists:

  • Actisense
  • Critical Software

This award is open to any company based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map).

Judges are looking for the outstanding tech employers – those IT, telecoms or science-based businesses that have proved themselves great places to work, and where the employees are valued and empowered.

Testimonials from employees and evidence of a workplace culture that attracts and retains staff are welcome.


Innovative Tech Company – Sponsored by Onecom

Winner:

CanSense

Winners’ comments:

“Being recognised in this way is very important to the team. Winning acknowledges that, as a team, we are doing our small part in the fight against cancer. We are starting our journey as a company and so, of course, we are looking for further funding: to enable people to take a simple blood test to determine whether or not they have bowel cancer. Early detection is critical – it provides much better patient outcomes.

“This award drives us on. CanSense is committed to changing the landscape of bowel cancer detection. Recognition makes us more resolute and focused on delivering this to the NHS – saving lives and saving the NHS money. Thanks to the sponsors for putting on this event, which means so much to an early-stage company.”

Adam Bryant, CEO, CanSense

Judges’ comments:

Our winner stood out for us, not just as a technology innovation in its own right, but also one which has the potential to make a life-saving difference in the world. Anything that saves lives with technology should be recognised.

Other finalists:

  • BOON
  • Jisp
  • Threat Status

This award is open to any company based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map), that has produced an outstanding tech innovation (or series of innovations) in the past 12-18 months. Judges will take into account the success of the innovation (either product, system or service) and its impact on consumers, clients or the general business environment. 

The innovation will most likely have come to market, but judges will also accept nominations from companies in an R&D phase.


Tech Leadership Team – Sponsored by EY

Winner:

Inflowmatix

Winners’ comments:

“The whole team at Inflowmatix was delighted to have won. Our team is what really makes our roles as leaders in Inflowmatix stand out, as we place great store in team before self at all times. We have always adopted an agile philosophy in all we do, not just our tech work, we also encourage our team to experiment and ‘fail-fast’, to help drive innovation across our business.

“We are a very flat and transparent team and company. We only have few examples of truly ‘private’ and ‘confidential’ information streams. Most of what we do, we do in full view of the whole company. We believe this is a key factor in our success as a business and in winning this award.

“Winning the award is really a reward to the whole of the Inflowmatix team and not just the leadership team. As I said last night to the team (employees, contract team members and our board), ‘Thanks to everyone in the team that makes leading this company a pleasure and a rewarding achievement’. We can be proud to be part of a vibrant and powerful south coast tech community and this award will assist in promoting the region, as well as our company within the region.”

Mike Williams, CEO, Inflowmatix

Judges’ comments:

We had four very lively and interesting conversations with the finalists. They all demonstrated why they were strong candidates. Our winning leadership team has clearly brought innovation and new technology applications to a sector that is used to traditional methods. The team showed commitment to leadership and a culture that is clearly having a beneficial impact on the business. They have embraced the challenge of Covid-19 and used the situation to help them develop better relationships with their customers.

Other finalists:

  • Actisense
  • Vissensa
  • Vuzion

Judges are looking for outstanding leadership teams, based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map), that are driving their tech companies to greater heights. The management team will be innovative, game-changing and agile, and will have a focus on building the brand and the financials.


Technology Award – Sponsored by Smith & Williamson

Winner:

Innovative Physics

Technology

Winners’ comments:

“The past year has been extremely busy for Innovative Physics. We have developed our customer relationships further, which has led to additional contracts being awarded to us in Japan. We are exporting to South Korea and have a number of projects developing in China, all of these within the civil nuclear and decommissioning sectors. We have also been continuing work on our cancer detection system and are now beginning to enter new sectors, such as agritech. Based on this, we are looking to grow the company further, recruiting two or three software developers by the end of the year.

“These awards mean a lot to us. To have the backing of The Business Magazine, and the sponsors and judges has been tremendous. To have the recognition for the work we have done and the achievements and success we have had this year is fantastic. These awards also help us build our reputation and rapport with customers within the industries we work in. For our employees, it also gives them recognition for the dedicated, hard work that they do day-to-day for the company, which creates a sense of a job well done.”

Victoria Anderson Matthew, Business development officer, Innovative Physics

Judges’ comments:

We met our winner when judging last year’s awards and noted the change since then. They have done incredibly well in the last 12 months by developing what they are offering and how they are doing it. They have really strong innovation, a clear focus on where their market is and impressive client contracts. The team really impressed us, from last year to this year.

Other finalists:

  • CanSense
  • Skore Labs
  • Threat Status

Open to any sized business based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map) that can demonstrate significant improvements in the development of new technology or the use of technology in a new process. This may include data analytics, robotics or Artificial Intelligence.


Marine Tech Company – Sponsored by Blake Morgan

Winner:

Actisense

Marine-Tech

Winners’ comments:

“My reaction to winning was that we have been working for many years to have the very best products for our customers. So, it was fantastic to get recognition of this from an independent review panel, especially against such worthy competition, and I’d like to thank the judges and organisers for this accolade. Our success factors are simply the hard work and dedication of the team to achieve the goal of producing the best marine data products on the market.

“For the business and employees, the award shows that their hard work is paying off. We’ve been active in the marine technology sector for 23 years now, and we are amazed by the constant innovation by the sector as a whole. We are spurred on to create ever-more creative solutions for our sector’s biggest electronics challenges. We are all completely humbled and grateful for this award.”

Phil Whitehurst, CEO, Actisense

Judges’ comments:

We were very keen to judge this category as it is a key sector for the south. Our winner has a proven track record and is an impressive south coast employer, who provides an industry-leading niche solution for the worlds marine sector. Its intelligent marine electronic products use digital signal processing software and hardware that utilises smart sensors and underwater acoustics. They have exciting plans to bring their technology to other markets.

This award is open to any company based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map), that has produced software, hardware or any tech solution that has benefited the marine sector in the past 5 years. Judges will look for innovation and ground-breaking technology, but also take account of commercial success.


South Coast Tech Company – Sponsored by BDB Pitmans

Winner:

Innovative Physics

South-Coast-Tech

Winners’ comments:

“We were extremely surprised and very pleased to have won this second award. To have won one would have been lovely, but to have won two is truly fantastic and has boosted morale within the company, especially in the current times.

“The past year has been extremely busy for Innovative Physics. We have developed our customer relationships further, which has led to additional contracts being awarded to us in Japan. We are exporting to South Korea and have a number of projects developing in China, all of these within the civil nuclear and decommissioning sectors. We have also been continuing work on our cancer detection system and are now beginning to enter new sectors, such as agritech. Based on this, we are looking to grow the company further, recruiting two or three software developers by the end of the year.

“These awards mean a lot to us. To have the backing of The Business Magazine, and the sponsors and judges has been tremendous. To have the recognition for the work we have done and the achievements and success we have had this year is fantastic. These awards also help us build our reputation and rapport with customers within the industries we work in. For our employees, it also gives them recognition for the dedicated, hard work that they do day-to-day for the company, which creates a sense of a job well done.”

Victoria Anderson Matthew, Business development officer, Innovative Physics

Judges’ comments:

This highly acclaimed research and development company has gone from strength to strength over the past year, infiltrating new markets and developing innovative, bespoke solutions for the medical, agritech and security sectors. Highlights include the development of an artificial intelligence-based diagnostic tool, as well as crop production optimisation technology.

Other finalists:

  • Aspire4Business Academy
  • Innovative Physics
  • Onecom
  • Threat Status

This award is open to any company, based in the Solent & South Coast region (see map), of any size or turnover.

Judges will take into account the achievements of the company over the past 12-18 months – whether in the area of innovation, sales and profitability, product development and/or contribution to the sector – and will assess the winners of other categories to decide the overall ‘South Coast Tech Company’.