Thames Valley Tech Awards 2019 Winners

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.”

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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.”

He added: “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.

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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.

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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.

Tech Start-Up – Sponsored by Centerprise International

Finalists:

  • Aker Systems
  • iCaaS – GDPR Management

And the winner is…

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.

 

Winners’ comments

 “We’re delighted to win. A lot of work has gone on in the last two years and particularly over the last six months. We are laser-focused on delivering for our customers. Our success is down to building a team of highly skilled, highly tuned individuals who work collaboratively, while at the same time creating a warm and friendly culture in our Aker family.

Adam Fawsitt, CEO, Aker Systems

Tech SME of the Year – Sponsored by Onecom

Finalists:

  • CREAT3D
  • Epoq IT
  • Nouveau Solutions

And the winner is… 

Epoq IT

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“It’s a privilege to win in such good company. As an SME we want to grow and be disruptive by being quicker than bigger managed services providers. We offer advanced solutions to smaller businesses that help them save money and we are deploying AI, which now handles about half of our call handling.”

Andrew Williams, head of innovation, and Richard Evans, account manager, Epoq IT

Emerging Tech Company – Sponsored by Barclays

Finalists:

  • CloudFactory
  • Evox Therapeutics
  • Oxford nanoSystems
  • QBox (Volume)
  • Strategic Imperatives
  • Zegami

And the winner is…

Qbox (Volume)

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“It’s incredible to win, especially when you see the companies in this category. We’re glad to be making headway. QBox targets chatbox developers working on conversations between humans and machines. We began by solving Volume customers’ challenges and this led to us starting QBox as part of Volume 18 months ago.”

Benoit Alvarez, CTO, QBox (Volume)

High Growth Tech Business – Sponsored by Grant Thornton

Finalists:

  • Aker Systems
  • Blue Array SEO
  • CIPHR
  • CloudFactory
  • Invenio Business Solutions
  • Southern Communications

And the winner is…

CloudFactory

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“We’re delighted to win. We’ve certainly been on a high growth trajectory. We’re a tech company on a social mission giving opportunities to talented people around the world. That’s what motivates us. AI and machine learning are increasingly important – there’s huge demand for what we do. We are also building a company that has a strong culture and invests in people so we can deliver a high quality of service.”

Mark Sears, CEO, and Elijah Elkins, global talent acquisition manager, CloudFactory

Innovative Tech Company — Sponsored by Penningtons Manches Cooper

Finalists:

  • Artesian Solutions
  • CV-Library
  • HR Wallingford
  • Oxford nonoSystems
  • Ultima
  • Zegami

And the winner is… 

HR Wallingford

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“We’re absolutely overwhelmed to win. A lot of hard work has gone into our ARC-Boat and we are starting to see the rewards. We’re excited for the future. Our boat is a platform that allows clients’ instrumentation to look at things like water flow and the seabed, and which removes the risk of operators having to be close to the water. Our international sales are growing in the US, Europe and Asia.”

Stephen Richardson, group manager, equipment technology and innovation, and Simon Tiedeman, equipment sales manager, HR Wallingford

Tech Inward Investment – Sponsored by Lambert Smith Hampton

Finalists:

  • CloudFactory
  • Egnyte
  • Intelex Technologies

And 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.

 

Winners’ comments

“We decided to locate in Reading two years ago. We started in Nepal and went to Kenya and the US. We then split operations down the middle by setting up in Reading, which has everything we need for our headquarters. We draw talent from a wide radius – from London to Bristol and expect to increase our headcount in Reading by 40-50 people in the next 24 to 36 months.”

Mark Sears, CEO, and Elijah Elkins, global talent acquisition manager, CloudFactory

Science & Technology Award – Sponsored by Blake Morgan

Finalists:

  • Open Cosmos
  • Oxford nanoSystems
  • PassivSystems
  • Reading Scientific Services (rssl)
  • Zegami

And the winner is…

Oxford nanoSystems

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“We are really thrilled and surprised to have won an award which had so many impressive finalists. The Thames Valley area is such a hub for innovative and interesting STEM companies. Climate change is at the forefront of people’s minds and this is one of the driving forces behind us developing nanoFLUX coating technology, which can significantly increase heat transfer. Persistence is a very large part of creating successful technology. You need to have an open mind to be able to see different applications for a given product even if things don’t always look like they are going to work.”

Dr Alex Reip, CEO, Oxford nanoSystems

International Tech Company – Sponsored by Boyes Turner

Finalists:

  • CloudFactory
  • ESP Global Services
  • Invenio Business Solutions
  • Reading Scientific Services (rssl)

And the winner is…

Invenio Business Solutions

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“This award is a great testimony to the hard work that the team has put in. Invenio is all about the passion of our employees and achieving our mission. We are all focused and dedicated on improving customer satisfaction. We have a very employee-centric approach with a non-hierarchical management and we’ve been able to preserve this culture as the organisation grows.”

Arun Bala, CEO, Invenio Business Solutions

Communications Company of the Year – Sponsored by LDC

Finalists:

  • Cognito iQ
  • Fli-Fi
  • Onecom
  • Southern Communications

And the winner is…

Onecom

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“It’s a fantastic feeling to win. Onecom offers a unique service that treats each customer individually by offering a full portfolio of telecoms products and solutions. We work closely with customers to understand their business needs rather than trying to push them down one route. We’ve gone through a lot of change internally and have a new management structure. Our focus now is on a massive growth path in the next few years.”

Emma Ward, head of partner marketing, Onecom

Tech Employer of the Year – Sponsored by Austin Fraser

Finalists:

  • digitalML
  • Imaginera
  • Lifecycle Software
  • NewOrbit
  • Reading Scientific Services (rssl)
  • VoCoVo

And the winner is…

NewOrbit

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“This is the first time we’ve entered the TVTAs and we’re delighted to win. We solve problems for big corporations that they can’t solve themselves. Our employees are problem solvers working in a high-energy environment and we do a lot to help their development. However, my belief is that people need to follow their career paths and although we want them to stay we don’t mind if they go – we’ll always welcome them back at our social events or return to us.”

Sean Worthington, CEO, NewOrbit

Tech Leadership Team – Sponsored by Goringe Accountants

Finalists:

  • Apps in the Sky
  • CV-Library
  • ESP
  • Oxford nanoSystems
  • Reading Scientific Services (rssl)
  • Southern Communications

And the winner is…

Southern Communications

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“We were up for four TVTAs and this is the one I wanted most. The award represents our ethos and the strength of our team. Our business is about our people and our vision. The key to meeting our vision is to keep our focus, not get diverted from that and to keep driving at it. We’re a people business so we allow our people to develop. As a leader I’ll never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”

Paul Bradford, CEO, Southern Communications

Thames Valley Tech Company – Sponsored by BDO

Finalists:

  • CloudFactory
  • ESP
  • EValue
  • HR Wallingford
  • Invenio Business Solutions
  • Reading Scientific Services (rssl)
  • Southern Communications
  • Zegami

And the winner is…

ESP Global Services

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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.

 

Winners’ comments

“Absolutely over the moon to win. Darren Richardson, who set up the business with Mike Harling 27 years ago, but sadly passed away last year from cancer. It devastated the company. This award is a real testament to Darren’s drive, ambition and achievements. He would be smiling knowing we have won. We see ESP as a family and have been fortunate in creating a family of 422 people in Reading and across the globe.”

Andy Jenner, CEO, ESP Global Services