Bristol, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire celebrate tech success as winners of the 2021 Sparkies are revealed

Huboo Warehouse

The digital and tech awards for the West have been revealed. The 2021 SPARKies celebrate the best startups, designs, hardware and people. The SPARKies are organised by TechSPARK.

TechSPARK is the not-for-profit network dedicated to connecting, educating, and strengthening the digi-tech cluster in the West. Now in its ninth year, the awards showcase the very best in people, products and companies that make up the tech sector in the region.

All entrants to The SPARKies  must be based within Somerset, Wiltshire, Devon or South Gloucester, including Bristol, Bath and Swindon. If the organisation is headquartered elsewhere, but has a regional office which qualifies, it may still enter the awards. However, the activities detailed in the entry must have been led from the qualifying office.


Best Scale up

Companies with over 10 people or a turnover of £1million that are also showing great growth.

Winner: Huboo Fulfilment

Huboo is a unique software-driven e-commerce fulfilment platform. Earlier this month it revealed that it had closed a £60 million Series B financing led by  Abu Dhabi based Mubadala Capital. This new investment adds to the £14 million Series A funding raised last year and will help fuel Huboo’s expansion into continental Europe. Founded in 2017 by Martin Bysh and Paul Dodd, the company has expanded its operations from one warehouse in Bristol to operating four fulfilment centres across the UK. It has recently opened a site in the Netherlands and plans to roll out its operations across multiple other European markets over the next 12 months.

Also shortlisted:

  • Neighbourly
  • Virti
  • Unity5 Ltd
  • Signable

Best Digital Design

This award recognises the best web and software designs and experiences created by individuals or companies in the South West since January 2020. This could include anything from a brilliant e-commerce website, or a clever piece of software design.

Winner: Unfold

Designers, developers and strategists based in the heart of Bristol. It helps ambitious start-ups and scale-ups accelerate their business by simplifying their user experience and creating market-leading digital products. Unfold won the  awarded for the work completed for door to door luggage delivery clients Sherpr. Unfold built a custom web app, admin portal and marketing site for Sherpr in just 10 weeks. This completely transformed their business. As well as automating all of the time-intensive back office tasks, Unfold also created an editable CMS through which they could update and manage their products without constant developer support. As well as immediate savings in overheads, Sherpr were also able to process far more clients with their new reliable and automated booking system.Following the work, Sherpr achieved their first ever 6-figure month and hit an annual run-rate of £1.2m.

Also shortlisted:

  • Fiasco Design
  • Gravitywell

Data Data Data 

An award for the projects that are pushing the limits of what we can do with data. This can include both commercial or public good projects.

Winner: Cognisess

Cognisess provides a market-leading software platform that helps businesses identify, nurture and retain the workforce talent they need to remain competitive. Driven by a predictive analytics engine, Cognisess people assessment, measurement and reporting tools are used by HR and recruitment professionals to make better informed, data-led people resourcing decisions. The company says it’s recognised as an innovator in the rapidly evolving science of AI and predictive HR analytics and are regarded as an expert and thought-leader in human capital management (HCM).

Also shortlisted:

  • Moneyhub
  • Heleastel
  • Dashboard
  • Brijj

Best Mentor/ Advisor

This award recognises the individual or organisation, that has truly gone over and above to advise and support a tech company or individual to achieve success in the South West digital and tech sector.

Winner: Greville Commins

Greville Commins formed Varoom in 2007 to help accelerate start-up businesses, improve their chances of a successful product launch or gaining investment. Using technical know-how, marketing and business development, leadership and mentoring skills to directly help start-ups excel. Greville has more than 25 years experience in technology marketing, leading the introduction of new technologies, creation of business partnerships and alliances, and launch of new products to the market.

Also shortlisted:

  • Kimberley Brooke
  • Ashley Coles
  • John Courtney

Best use of Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality

This award recognises the best way virtual or augmented reality, 360 video or merged media has been utilised within a product or application. It could have the highest impact, or be the most spellbinding product.

Winner: Virti

Virti was founded by a Bristol orthopaedic surgeon with a passion for gaming and in July  raised £7.2 million in Series A funding for his business. Virti, which has offices in New York and Bristol, is developing virtual reality technology for trainee medics to safely learn and hone their skills.

Also shortlisted:

  • Rocketmakers
  • Condense Reality
  • Augmented Reality Creations Ltd


One for the under 25s. This award will go to the individual, whether an employee of a tech company, post grad or entrepreneur, that has already demonstrated true commitment and initiative within the tech and digital community and whom the judges believe will go far in this industry.

Winner: Hannah Dockings

Hannah is a research engineer in Artificial Intelligence – KTP Associate at Flexys Solutions & University of West England

Also shortlisted:

  • Charles Acres
  • Izzie Hensby
  • Alice Evans

The Hardware Award

This award looks for a piece of new hardware or new application of existing hardware that solves problems in new ways. This can include standalone hardware, components or devices.

Winner: Helastel

Helastel specialises in software development, IT consultancy, data management solutions and IT infrastructure services for private and public sector organisations. It’s also developing an AI & machine learning platform called Intelastel. The company has grown more. than 120 per cent in the last two years.

Also shortlisted:

  • Smartbox Assistive Technology
  • Marble
  • Helastel
  • GroundWaves

Leader of the Year

This is an award for those in our community who have consistently demonstrated a significant entrepreneurial spirit and has shown commitment, enthusiasm, success and achievement.

Winner: Sam Seaton (MoneyHub) and Alexander Young (Virti)

Sam Seaton has been the CEO at Moneyhub for more than five years. Moneyhub operates in one of the most exciting and fast moving areas of the Fintech space. Open banking is a huge opportunity to help customers make better financial decisions and increase their ability to save and optimise spending. The whole spectrum of enterprises that interact with a persons financial wellbeing have an incredible opportunity to make a difference.

Alexander Young is the founder and CEO of Virti. Virti uses research into cognitive decision-making under pressure and an immersive video platform combined with augmented reality to help professionals prepare for real-life high-pressure environments including surgery, sports, emergency response and military training.

Also shortlisted:

  • Professor John Terry (Neronstics)
  • Harry Cobbold (MadebyUnfold)

Best Cyber Company

For the company doing the most exciting things in cyber security in the west.

Winner: KETS Quantum Security

KETS aims to solve real world security problems using the unique advantages of quantum technologies. Its unique chip-based solutions, based on technology developed over a decade at the University of Bristol, provide ultra-low size, weight and power without compromising performance.

Also shortlisted:

  • Immersive Labs
  • Chorus
  • Gridlock

Most Innovative use of Tech

For the company, person, or project using tech in the most innovative way!

Winner: Neuronostics Ltd

Neuronostics was established in 2018 to develop clinical decision support tools and at home monitoring devices for people with suspected neurological conditions. Its first product – #BioEP – is a patented biomarker of the susceptibility to seizures in the human brain, informed by clinical EEG recordings.

Funded by Innovate UK, and in partnership with the University of Birmingham, it is developing a prototype clinical decision support tool, powered by #BioEP. It is validating the efficacy of #BioEP as a diagnostic and prognostic marker of epilepsy in partnership with 15 NHS Trusts and 4 global neurology centres.

Also shortlisted:

  • SwiftDetect by Microgeentics
  • KETS Quantum Security
  • Service Robotics Ltd
  • Moneyhub
  • Kubla

The Good Award

For the best use of technology for doing good – this covers green tech, sustainable tech and hardware for assisted living.

Winner: Neighbourly

Neighbourly is an award-winning giving platform that helps businesses make a positive impact in their communities by donating volunteer time, money and surplus products, all in one place. In March the company announced it had raised £3 million in Series A investment to accelerate the growth and impact of the Neighbourlyplatform.

Since launching the platform in 2014, the tech for good company has worked with corporate partners like Aldi, M&S, Lidl, Danone, M&G Investments, Cadent and RSA Insurance, to support more than 16,000 local good causes across the UK and Ireland that help an average of 350 people each per week.

As the UK market leader in community investment and engagement, the Neighbourly platform has helped disburse £13 million in microgrants, deliver 70,000 hours of employee volunteering time, redistribute 50 million meals and save 80,000 tonnes of CO2.

Also shortlisted:

  • Neuronostics Ltd
  • Aico l HomeLINK
  • Smartbox Assistive Technology
  • Service Robotics

The Totally Killing It Award

This award recognises the company that the judges believe really made the most of the last 12 months, increasing turnover, expanding, making an impact and capitalising on their successes, both in the region and where relevant, further afield.

Winner: iO Academy

iO Academy is an immersive 16 week program designed to kickstart careers in software development. It’s for beginners who has recently started coding, a college leaver from a computing science subject looking to get some practical experience, a graduate from a non-computing science subject, or a professional seeking a career change. No previous experience is required and the course teaches everything a student needs to land their first job as a junior software developer. It is delivered by developers working in the industry, and every graduate has been hired within 90 days of completing the course.

iO Academy was created in 2015 to solve the developer shortage that iO – its parent company – was experiencing. Like many tech companies across the UK, iO found that there was more developer positions than suitable candidates in the region. Rather than poach developers from other companies, we decided to grow their own. The academy has subsequently solved the recruitment problem not only at iO but for other companies in the region as well, delivering two cohorts of graduates a year into the industry – in June and December.

Also shortlisted:

  • Rocketmakers
  • Accelerate Agenda
  • Paranimo
  • Virti

Best Startup

This award recognises the achievements of any tech or digital business started up within the last 3 years that has achieved significant success and that the judges believe will be ‘one to watch’ in the future.

Winner: Lumenate

Lumenate is a start-up on a mission to make impactful subconscious exploration more accessible than ever before. From interviewing people at Burning Man about what freedom means to them, to months of EEG brain scans developing and optimising its method of inducing altered-states using light and sound, its journey has been anything but ordinary. Lumenate helps participants explore their subconscious thoughts and gain valuable insights.

Also shortlisted:

  • Spherics
  • Greener
  • Condense Reality

Best Place to Work in Tech

This award goes to the company that the judges believe has gone the extra mile, above and beyond, for someone who works for them, or for all those that work for them. This should be nominated by employees, ex-employees and non-share holders only.

Winner: Rocketmakers & Seccl

Rocketmakers makes new, innovative products. Taking the kernel of an idea, helping validate the business and technical opportunity. And others think the company’s pretty special. It has received a Queens Award for Enterprise in Innovation.

Seccl is rebuilding the infrastructure of investments and advice, according to its website. It says it’s a custodian and investment technology provider. Its software and APIs empower advisers and DFMs to run their own platform, and help fintechs get to market fast.

Also shortlisted:

  • Lumio
  • Helastel
  • Atomic Smash

The Community Award

For the individual or company doing the most to support the whole tech community in the West

Winner: Future Space

Future Space provides flexible workspaces and purpose-built laboratories designed to develop new technology.

Also shortlisted:

  • Digilocal
  • Digital Wonderlab (Jo Wren)
  • Wonderlab
  • Cognisess

Lifetime Achievement Award

This award celebrates the person who has had a clear impact and demonstrable long-term contribution to strengthening the tech cluster in the South West.

Winner: Steve Cliffe

Former CEO of Ultraleap, Serial Entrepreneur, NED and Business Advisor.

The People’s Choice Award

You told us who you think the best tech company in the South West is and the ultimate winner was chosen by the SPARKies audience last night!

Winner: Neighbourly

A second award for Neighbourly. See above for what they do.

Also shortlisted:

  • Huboo
  • Service Robotics