Tech Nation boosts growth support for Oxfordshire and Bristol AI companies

Photo shows: Optellum has developed the world’s first AI-based Decision Support software
Tech Nation AI company Optellum

Five companies from Oxfordshire and two from Bristol are among 32 companies joining Tech Nation‘s AI (Artificial Intelligence) Growth Programme.

Tech Nation, set up on 2010 and 80 per cent funded by the government, is a successful UK network for ambitious entrepreneurs. Since launch the organisation has supported nearly 2,000 companies and its work has contributed more than £425 million to the UK economy. It has also revealed new data which shows that the UK leads Europe for AI investment.

The AI Growth Programme will support the UK’s leading AI scaleups through peer-to-peer learning and mentoring, addressing the particular scaling challenges for companies in the AI sector. The programme forms part of the Government’s AI Sector Deal, announced in 2019 to realise the social and economic benefits of AI and harness its potential to transform people’s lives for the better.

The five Oxfordshire companies are Archangel Imaging, Arctoris, Caristo, ILOF and Optellum, and the two Bristol companies are Okko Health and One Big Circle.

44 per cent of founders  joining the programme are female, and 59 per cent of the companies are based outside of London.

New data also shows that the UK is leading Europe and is third globally for VC investment into AI in 2020, while demand for AI skills continues to rise, up 111 per cent from 2017 to 2019.

Archangel Imaging, Didcot, uses AI at the edge and human-machine teaming to solve global problems like protecting people, animals and infrastructure. The company has  built AI-enabled cameras which operate in challenging environments and a human-machine teaming platform called Cerebella. Cerebella integrates smart cameras and other sensors to detect anomalies, allowing drone, robotic or human staff to respond in real time.

Jonathan Mist, Co-Founder at Archangel Imaging, said: “At Archangel Imaging, we believe in a future where humans and machines work closely together to solve the world’s most complex problems like protecting people, animals and infrastructure.”

Arctoris, Oxford, generates drug discovery data on demand for pharmaceutical corporations, biotech companies, and academic centres globally.  It provides remote access to a wide range of drug discovery experiments which they conduct on their robotic platform, enabling partners and clients to rapidly, accurately and cost-effectively perform research and advance drug discovery programmes, creating a convincing solution for fast, reliable and fully compliant research.

Thomas Fleming, Co-Founder and COO of Arctoris, said: “Arctoris is a high-growth tech/biotech company and the Applied AI programme will give us the opportunity to learn from other leading scaleups and enter a talented and creative community. We hope to take inspiration from unexpected sources, and further build on our networks in the UK and globally.”

Caristo, Oxford, is disrupting diagnosis and treatment of coronary heart disease. This bold claim is supported by a solid science platform, with a string of groundbreaking publications in top-tier scientific journals. Caristo’s vision is to be the predominant clinical AI provider in diagnostic imaging, with a plan to tackle major disease areas like diabetes and stroke.

ILOF, Oxford, is creating an AI-powered digital library of disease biomarkers – and helping to find Alzheimer’s cure, ILoF is enabling a new era of personalized medicine by using AI and photonics. They leverage machine learning to drastically reduce the cost and time of drug discovery, and provide screening and stratification tools in an affordable, fast and portable way.

Optellum, Oxford, helps clinicians identify, diagnose and track at-risk patients in the early, hence curable stages. Optellum developed the world’s first AI-based Decision Support platform to manage these patients, validated in studies led by lung cancer guidelines authors.

Martina Miskufova, CFOO of Optellum, said: “The collective expertise of the programme will help us accelerate Optellum’s commercialisation, giving lung cancer patients around the world the best chance to fight back.”

Okko Health from Bristol uses your smartphone to protect your sight, bringing real-time monitoring of eye health into the hands of patients and linking straight to eye care professionals. OKKO’s software allows patients to self-monitor their sight between in-person hospital visits, through interpreting interactions with a simple video game. It flags those people who may be having problems with their vision ahead of time, to promote early diagnosis, early treatment and to save sight.

One Big Circle, also from Bristol, is improving safety and operations in industrial environments. Initially developed in the UK rail sector, its intelligent video solution applies machine learning to understand environments to raise alerts and increase efficiency and safety.

UK leads Europe in AI investment

The UK leads Europe in AI investment, having raised $1.48bn in 2020 so far, in front of France ($538.83m) and Germany ($400.25m). The UK is currently third in the world for VC investment in AI after the US ($17.94bn) and China ($9.55bn)1.

Looking into sub-sectors, the majority of AI investment so far this year flows into Big Data ($872.42m), TMT (technology, media and telecoms), ($712.96m), SaaS (software as a service), ($588.39m), and Fintech ($474.65m). AI investment in Mobility Tech has already surpassed 2019 levels by 240 per cent, whilst Fintech is already up by 120 per cent, SAAS by 36% and Cyber Security by 10%.

Demand for AI skills is continuing to rise in the UK, with an increase of 111% between 2017 and 2019. A quarter of all Data Scientist roles advertised in 2019 required AI as a skill, this was the highest proportion seen amongst digital tech roles in 2019.

Harry Rhys Davies, AI Programme Lead, Tech Nation, said: “The UK must take every opportunity to nurture scalable, globally-competitive, homegrown AI companies that solve real problems and have far-reaching impacts on the productivity potential of the economy.”

“The Applied AI growth programme aims to do exactly this, taking 32 of the UK’s most exciting AI scaleups, and through peer-to-peer learning and mentoring removing many of the unique barriers to growth that companies in this sector face. Backed by leading VCs and led by an exceptionally talented group of founders, this cohort of companies is primed to make an impact.”

In order to join the programme, the 32 AI companies went through a competitive  judging process. The programme will support companies to scale up and become the AI unicorns of the future. AI is already a strategic strength to the UK economy, with 1,344 AI companies and a number of well-known and established AI unicorns, including Darktrace, Benevolent AI and Graphcore.

The programme received 179 applications from across the UK and judges included Sana Khareghani, Head of the UK Government Office for AI; Tabitha Goldstaub, Chair of UK Government AI Council; Nathan Benaich, General Partner, Air Street Capital and Dr Mike Short CBE, Chief Scientific Advisor, DIT. Wilson Sonsini and CBRE are partners for the Applied AI 2.0 programme. Their experience and knowledge working alongside scaling companies will provide insight on international expansion and property management throughout the programme.