ON T H E P U L S E O F T H E C I T Y ’ S BU S I NE S S C OMMUN I T Y
MEET THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANIES MAKING THE WORLD SMARTER
STEM STARS How local schools are rebooting computing
GREEN LIVING Explore the city’s eco communities
PITCH PERFECT Cambridge start-ups share their stories
04 NEWS & EVENTS
News, events and happenings in the Cambridge business community
07 WHERE NEXT FOR THE IOT?
We speak to Cambridge companies at the cutting edge of the internet of things 13 ASK NOT WHAT THE IOT CAN DO FOR YOU TTP’s Steve Baker looks at some of the industrial IoT’s most successful applications 15 A SMART STRATEGY Appleyard Lee’s Parminder Lally looks at IoT innovation and intellectual property 16 THE BIG THREE Prepped founder Simon Crosbie talks meal kits and management styles 19 PITCH PERFECT Orca Scan’s founder gives Catalyst the elevator pitch for his barcode scanning app 21 REBOOTING COMPUTING How can we best prepare kids for our digital world? Local schools have their say 28 ECO COMMUNITIES It’s not easy being green, but local housing developments are leading by example 32 CATALYST GIFT GUIDE Blitz your Christmas list at these innovative independent retailers 34 OUT & ABOUT A new Thai restaurant, a virtual film festival and more on the local scene this month
When you hear the phrase “internet of things”, what comes to mind? Your Amazon Alexa, or your Fitbit perhaps? Maybe your brain goes straight to some of the more gimmicky gadgets that this technology has birthed – my favourite example being a pair of connected flip-flops that alerted the wearer to the brand’s footwear sales. What a great example of a product that’s the answer to a question nobody asked! Setting aside the smart salt shakers, IoT hairbrushes and other bafflingly pointless connected devices the consumer market has seen, where things get really interesting is on an industrial level , within the so-called IIoT, as TTP’s Steve Baker explains in this issue. From Rolls Royce to Rentokil , big companies are harnessing the power of the IIoT and saving money, manpower and logistical headaches by taking the guesswork out of their operations – find out more on page 13. Of course, the capabilities that the IoT is built on – sensors, software and AI – are the bread and butter of the Cambridge Cluster, so it’s no surprise that our city has plenty of companies doing exciting things in the space, as Matthew Gooding discovers in his feature about what’s next for the IoT. Device Pilot, Camnexus and other Cambridge firms look at how IoT is impacting our lives today and consider what the future might hold for the market on page 7. In the hot seat for this month’s Pitch Perfect is Orca Scan, a company that helps businesses track everything from medicine to machinery, instantly, accurately and affordably, with their barcode scanner app. Born of an all-night father-son coding session, Orca Scan is now used by 25% of the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies, including Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Nasa. Find out how they got there on page 19. Another story of start-up success this issue comes from meal kit company Prepped: turn to page 16 to read about founder Simon Crosbie’s career so far, and the people who helped him on his way. Elsewhere in the issue, Cambridge schools consider how best to prepare young people for today’s digital world on page 21, and we take a tour of some of the area’s most sustainable new communities on page 28. Enjoy the issue and keep an eye out for number 9, out in December.
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CONTRIBUTORS Steve Baker, Simon Crosbie, Matthew Gooding, Parminder Lally
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ISSUE 01 I 8
The latest developments in the world of Cambridge business, innovation, meet-ups and networking
Is your working from home set-up less than ideal? Perhaps you’re fed up of spending your days hunched over a kitchen table, or the continual interruptions are taking their toll. Either way, we can’t think of a more luxurious new office base than the University Arms hotel, which has launched a new Work From Hotel initiative, complete with gym access and ‘creative hour cocktails’. Room hire is available between 8am and 6pm in the hotel’s superior rooms. These have been
transformed into sleek private offices, offering views across Parker’s Piece, a comfortable workstation and a Nespresso machine. You’ll also get use of the hotel’s gym included, parking at £15 per day and the talents of the Parker’s Tavern chefs at your beck and call, come lunchtime or elevenses. The staff are also happy to wheel the cocktail trolley up to you and mix a drink at your door, should the creative juices need a little extra help flowing. Priced at £129 per day. universityarms.com
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COMMERCIALISING LIFE SCIENCES WEBINAR
We’ll Meet Again The city’s conference and events bureau, Meet Cambridge, has unveiled a support strategy to help its venues reopen their facilities following lockdown. The organisation has around 50 properties on its books, including hotels and the university’s colleges, and has offered to support them through this period by helping them host virtual tours, attaining Covid-secure accreditation and disseminating information from the latest government guidelines. While some venues remain closed, those now open for small business meetings include academic settings with designated and separate conference and meeting facilities, such as Jesus College, Murray Edwards College, Robinson College, Madingley Hall , The Møller Institute, The Pitt Building and Anglia Ruskin University. To find out more, enquire via Meet Cambridge. meet-cambridge.com
Europe Enterprise Network and Silicon Valley Bank team up this November for a webinar on commercialising life sciences, featuring Ascension Ventures and Amadeus Ventures. Taking place at 4pm on the 12th, the session covers venture capital investing, investor experience and banking for technology companies, providing an overview of the investor approach to healthcare companies and delving into investor mindsets and trends. Speakers include Silicon Valley Bank’s vice-president Flavia Popescu-Richardson, who manages a portfolio of early-stage and growth technology companies. She brings more than eight years’ experience of successfully investing, with a track record in portfolio management and end-to-end transaction management, including due diligence, valuation and structuring of deals. Also sharing his
expertise is David Buller, angel investor and investment partner at Ascension Ventures. Working with investors, syndicates, VCs, accelerators and start-ups across the Atlantic, David has experience from founder to funding to exit and integration. Joining them is Suzanna Chiu, head of Amadeus Ventures, who is an expert in venture capital and start-up innovation, with a background in investment banking and technology consulting. The event is free to attend and you can register your interest via Eventbrite. eventbrite.co.uk
AI AND THE CHANGING NATURE OF WORK
Developing Science & Innovation Parks Conference
What impact will AI have on our workplaces? That’s the topic up for discussion on 4 November at a Cambridge Network event led by Dr Stella Pachidi, lecturer in Information Systems at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School . With AI replacing human labour in multiple sectors, the workplace is changing – but how do managers oversee this, and how do they manage staff resistance to the introduction of technology in the workplace? The digitisation of work is here to stay – and it’s not without its challenges. Dr Pachidi is set to explore the things that managers should be aware of, from balancing the challenges of a technical implementation to managing resistance from users. She also shares a case study of her work observing the implementation of
Speakers including professor John French, director of development and sustainability at Cambridge Innovation Parks, are joining together for a conference focused on developing science and innovation parks on 12 November. Running from 9.30am to 2.30pm, this virtual event will host a panel of experts, with opportunities for networking and talks on topics including private sector-led development and investment and science and innovation as drivers of economic growth. The final talk of the day considers how the science parks of the future will be developed. Tickets are £45. built-environment-networking.com
AI-based technology into one company, the change management process and the effect on employees – a project that went very wrong. The session runs from 11am to 12pm and is free for Cambridge Network members, or £10 for non-members. cambridgenetwork.co.uk
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IOT WHERE NEXT FOR THE IOT?
WORDS MATTHEW GOODING
The internet of things is a much talked about concept, but how is it impacting our lives in 2020? Cambridge Catalyst speaks to some experts about their work with connected devices, and what the future holds for IoT
he internet of things (IoT) is a notoriously difficult concept to pin down, sometimes
“We would define it as stuff deployed into the real world, right now,” Pilgrim Beart, IoT veteran and CEO of Device Pilot, tells Cambridge Catalyst . “It might involve really simple devices, or really complex ones, but the thing that makes it IoT, obviously apart from it being connected to the internet, is that it’s deployed in a factory, in a kitchen or on the street.” However you define it, the business opportunity around IoT and connected devices is massive. According to a report by Verified Market Research released earlier this year, the IoT market was worth $212 billion in 2018, a valuation that is set to increase to about $1,319 billion over the next six years.
even for those who work on it. Type ‘definition of IoT’ into Google and you’ll get a plethora of results, ranging from the reductive (‘everything connected to the internet’) to the jargon-heavy (‘a system of interrelated, internet- connected objects that are able to collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention’). As with most things, the truth is perhaps somewhere in the middle and, broadly speaking, the term refers to connected devices that collect and use data from the environment around them to provide useful insights or make our lives easier.
Securing the IoT Haydn founded Secure Thingz after leaving Cambridge chip design giant Arm, where he spent ten years working first on its IoT chips, then on the security side of things. His company provides security for cyber- physical systems – machines that have connected digital and physical elements. “I’m one of the few people who understands embedded systems and security, which are not natural bedfellows,” he says. “Since day one, we’ve focused on that intersection at Secure Thingz. If security isn’t done properly around cyber-physical systems, it can have serious consequences. There was the first real victim of a cyber- physical attack recently, where a lady in Germany died, and we’ve seen things like water treatment plants being attacked and overdosed with chemicals. So, this is a huge problem, and it’s estimated it will soon be a $50bn a year problem.” The incident Haydn refers to saw an emergency patient at a hospital in Düsseldorf miss out on potentially life- saving treatment because the hospital
ABOVE Dr Jessica Ocampos, founder of tech transfer plat form, Camnexus
“IoT means everything and nothing,” says Haydn Povey, founder and CEO of Secure Thingz. “It’s more a set of capabilities than a thing in itself.” And these are capabilities that can be found in abundance in the Cambridge Cluster. The core components of IoT devices and systems, such as sensors, low-power batteries and, of course, software and artificial intelligence, are the building blocks on which the city has made its name. Here, we speak to some IoT pioneers about its growth and what the future holds. Since day one, we’ve focused on that intersection at Secure Thingz. If security isn’t done properly around cyber- physical systems, it can have serious consequences"
she was being driven to was shut down by a cyber-attack. The patient died from her injuries at a different hospital . Secure Thingz provides a suite of development tools for engineers building embedded systems, so they can incorporate security into their devices. It also offers other services, such as PKI encryption – a high- level encryption that can replace conventional passwords – while another product, Secure Deploy, fights the injection of bad code into a system to help stop attackers stealing intellectual property. It sells its tools to customers all over the world. “We work very closely with the chip companies to support their advanced features,” Haydn says. “Our plan is to continue to evolve that support to offer better security at the chip level .” Monitoring the IoT Connecting a load of devices to the internet is all well and good, but what happens if they break down? Device Pilot says it has the answer. Pilgrim founded the business in 2016, having previously enjoyed
People are connecting more and more devices to the internet. In the early days, they focus on building the devices and getting themworking and, after that, they start to scale" “Energy is a big vertical for us,”
success with another Cambridge IoT company, smart home systems provider Alert Me. He sold this to British Gas in 2015 and it now forms part of the Hive connected home system. Of his latest venture, he says: “People are connecting more and more devices to the internet. In the early days, they focus on building the devices and getting them working and, after that, they start to scale – it’s almost always the goal of these IoT projects to put thousands of devices out there. When you do that, you confront a completely different challenge. You’ve got all this stuff out there in the world and it doesn’t always work, and that’s where Device Pilot comes in.” Device Pilot’s system provides what the company calls ‘service monitoring’. Users can view the status of their devices and are alerted if a piece of equipment in the field isn’t functioning correctly, so they can take steps to remedy this. This saves them money and helps them provide a good service to customers. The company works across a number of sectors, and has enjoyed particular success in the field of energy.
Pilgrim says. “It makes sense because the use case for IoT is almost always efficiency, trying to reduce your bills or trying to reduce energy, carbon footprint or the amount of vehicle miles you’re wasting driving around servicing things that don’t need servicing. So, in energy, the connection between improving efficiency and saving money is obvious, because energy is money.” Expanding the IoT Uses of connected devices are myriad, and Cambridge start-up Camnexus is developing low-power sensor networks to help what its founder Jessica Ocampos describes as “key productive sectors”, such as farming or water utilities. A chemical engineer by background, Jessica founded the company after completing her PhD at Cambridge University. Drawing on her experience from working in industry, she identified a problem with installing and adopting new technologies. “I worked for some big multinational
businesses, and always wanted to use engineering solutions to
Saying you work on IoT is a bit like saying you work on the web. Everyone uses the web and, in the same way, pretty much every company uses a form of IoT"
ABOVE Pilgrim Bear t ’s Device Pilot provides ‘service
solve people’s problems,” she says. “But when you try to transfer a new technology, you often find the infrastructure to enable connectivity isn’t available locally, or that people are not trained to use it. When you’re in a lab, you come up with great solutions but forget that someone has to use them. I drew on this experience from my past life and brought it into Camnexus.” To get around this problem, Camnexus delivers a fully integrated IoT network, with sensors to collect
information, and a long-range connectivity solution that can deliver information from these sensors back to a cloud-based data management and analytics platform. Founded in 2017, the company has installed four pilot networks with the help of funding and support from government innovation agency Innovate UK and Cambridge University. “We are working with a water utility company in South America that’s using our system to monitor flooding
in its water distribution network,” Jessica says. “We also have three test networks in Brazil , working with the agricultural sector to support rice production, as well as the water agency there to monitor water quality, because there is a close relationship between water, food and energy sectors.” The Camnexus system also has the potential to solve problems closer to home. “Over the last year, we’ve been refining and reinforcing our mission. It’s made us realise the ‘digital gap’ is not a minimal one – it’s not just an issue for developing nations, but something we have to deal with in the UK, too,” explains Jessica. “We’re now aiming to do a pilot project with another energy company to help monitor consumption in real time and help local users to better use their energy. In this way, our technology can be used to deliver sustainability. It’s a green and a smart solution,” says Jessica. “It’s been a challenge, but I’ve enjoyed running the company so far, and it’s made me realise that if you’re in the right place, like Cambridge, and have the right people around you, you can make an impact.”
monitoring’ through IoT
ISSUE 08 10
Helping devices from different manufacturers talk to each is a major barrier to widespread adoption. Many attempts have been made to create communication standards for the IoT, with varying degrees of success, but no one has cracked it yet – particularly when it comes to ‘edge’ devices, aka the physical bits of kit which are out there in the world. Pilgrim agrees that standardisation across the architecture would be a good thing. “At the edge, when it comes to connectivity, in the cloud, and so on. There is a lot more standardisation than there used to be – and that’s really helpful ,” he explains. “But there’s still a long road ahead of us, particularly at the edge, where things are still a bit of a mess. “I think they will be messy for a long time because many different industries are involved, and they all have different requirements,” he continues. “So what might work well for a Linux class device, sitting on an Ethernet connection in a factory, might not work well for a battery-powered device sitting in the middle of a Texan field. It’s hard to do everything with one standard, which is why there are lots of standards. “As you get closer to the cloud, things get much more consolidated. We’re intrinsically cloud-based and can link with any source of data very easily because we don’t have to tangle with putting code on devices.”
He adds: “From the consumer side, I think IoT has and will continue to grow fast. Industrially, it has enjoyed similar growth, but it’s less visible. It has its challenges; the principal one being that IoT has become such an all-encompassing term that, in some ways, it’s meaningless. Saying you work on IoT is a bit like saying you work on the web. Everyone uses the web and, in the same way, pretty much every company uses a form of IoT. Our customers wouldn’t refer to themselves as IoT companies: they’re just people doing useful things in the world who happen to use IoT. “To the extent that IoT is a market, it is still at quite an early stage, Pilgrim concludes. “This can make it difficult for vendors and customers to find each other, but I think we’re seeing that starting to gradually settle out.” Whether a definitive description will ever be nailed down remains to be seen. For me, the most important consumer IoT systems are the ones that don’t exist yet. Smart lighting is one of the leading use cases at the moment"
The future of IoT The highly publicised use cases for IoT tend to focus on consumer products like smart home systems, as well as things like the Philips Hue lightbulb, which can change colour on command. While this is an opportunity for developers, Secure Thingz’s Haydn believes the consumer side is also one of the industry’s biggest challenges. “Industrial IoT makes a huge amount of sense, but I think people are still largely baffled by consumer IoT,” he points out. “I have a connected refrigerator, and it was fun for the first week, but now, I just open the door and put the milk in it. The explicit benefits for the consumer are not there right now.” He refers to research that shows 79% of consumers wouldn’t buy an IoT device because of security concerns. “Security is a big problem, as well as usability,” he says. “That means you need the right cloud back end: these things have to just work when you plug them in. “For me, the most important consumer IoT systems are the ones that don't exist yet,” he continues. “Smart lighting is one of the leading use cases at the moment, but it’s a bit nerdy – I’m a nerd, so I think I’m allowed to say that! “My eldest son was born prematurely, and my favourite example of a potential use case is the connected babygrow,” he adds. “You can already buy one and connect it to your phone, and that’s interesting. But what I really want is something that monitors saturation, breathing and movement, so that in the night, if the baby goes cold or stops breathing, the alarm clock goes off and all the lights between my room and the baby’s room come on. If IoT can evolve to that level of sophistication – and it’s easy for a consumer to set everything up – then consumer IoT makes complete sense,” concludes Haydn.
ABOVE Haydn Povey’s company, Secure Thingz , offers development tools to secure devices
We are offered countless connected gadgets, but where should we look to find the IoT’s real value? Steve Baker, consultant at TTP, offers a view
hat there are some runaway consumer IoT successes is undeniable. But for every Alexa,
LEFT Companies in sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture are utilising IoT technology
Hue or Nest, there is a cloud-connected pet feeder that leaves cats to go hungry when the servers are down, a ‘digital frying pan’ and ‘companion app’ that want to tell you how to fry an egg, and a ‘smart tap’ that responds to, “Alexa, run the tap” but can’t hear you cry, “Alexa, turn off the tap!” over the sound of running water. They seem to exist because they can, and not because they’re actually useful. However, the biggest impact of the IoT is being felt not by consumers, but by industry. The industrial IoT (IIoT) may not have the headline-grabbing appeal of the consumer IoT, but it does set accountants’ pulses racing. Why? Properly deployed, the IIoT enables companies to reduce costs, manage risks and expand the reach of their business. Let’s look at a few examples. Mayflower – a subsidiary of the energy company SSE – reduced Hampshire County Council’s energy consumption by 20 GWh each year. How? By installing modern street lighting with IoT-enabled controllers that provide individual switching and dimming for each lamp in the county. All businesses face risk, but few understand and quantify those risks as acutely as insurance companies. Charge too little for a risk and they lose money, charge too much and they lose customers. The IoT-enabled ‘insurance black box’, now familiar to all young drivers, enables insurers to accurately gauge the risk a customer presents by monitoring how they drive and this, in turn, allows the company to offer the most competitive premium. Rolls Royce has for some years now offered jet engines on ‘pay
Properly deployed, the industrial IOT enables companies to reduce costs, manage risks and expand the reach of their business"
as you go’ terms. Customers don’t pay for an engine, nor do they even lease an engine, but rather they pay for the hours the engine flies. These engines are bristling with sensors and communication technology, forming a ‘digital twin’, so that even in flight they can schedule maintenance work. This guarantees the airline highest service availability, but for Rolls Royce it secures access to the engine’s service revenues, which could be worth twice as much as the engine itself over its full operating life. Use of IoT technologies has tripled Rolls Royce’s potential revenue for each engine it manufactures. And then there’s Rentokil, which
What’s more, they eliminate the risk of non-compliance with the inspection regime and, better still, free staff from routine trap inspection to concentrate on the needs of their customers. This is a great example of the IIoT in action: reduced cost, reduced risk and better customer engagement. We will see many more applications of IIoT in sectors such as manufacturing, transport and logistics, and agriculture. With the power of the IIoT in hand, a business need never lament, “If only we knew…” Where’s the equipment we need for this job? When will the environmental conditions be ideal for this task? What’s the stock level on our customers’ premises? Will the goods arrive in perfect condition? What can IoT do for you? It can start by answering these questions and many more like them.
engaged TTP to help it develop a ‘connected’ mouse trap. In the
commercial sector, hundreds of traps require daily inspection at, say, a food production plant. Connected traps enable efficient, automated inspection.
Parminder Lally, senior associate at law firm Appleyard Lees, looks at IoT innovation and intellectual property
t the turn of the century, the first internet-connected refrigerator was launched, with a rather
Your new IoT device or sensor may be protectable using patents if you can demonstrate that it is novel and inventive. Although adding internet- connectivity to an existing device is unlikely to be considered inventive, other developments may be patentable. For example, solutions that improve reliability outdoors in different weather conditions or enable more accurate or reliable readings to be obtained by adjusting the position of a sensor within a device may be patentable. Another area of IoT innovation is in the communication protocols between the IoT device and a remote computer or server. IoT devices need to transmit the data they collect to a remote server for processing, but they also need to receive information such as control commands and firmware updates from the remote server. Typically, IoT devices are resource-constrained, meaning they usually have limited memory and processing power. Techniques to address these constraints, for example by controlling when data is transmitted to and from the IoT devices, may be patentable. The transfer of data and a lack of resources to run antivirus programs means IoT devices can be vulnerable to malicious attacks. These
hefty price tag. The manufacturers of the fridge had a good idea, but the world was not ready for it: only 25%of UK households had internet access in 2000 and many of those that did had a dial-up connection. Twenty years on, 96%of UK households are connected to the internet via a cable and/or mobile network, and our work and personal lives mean we’re almost constantly online. The market for smart devices and the internet of things (IoT) is now established and growing, which means there is also lots of competition. It’s more important than ever to protect innovation occurring in this field, but do you know whether you can protect your smart innovation? One part of the IoT ecosystem is the end-user devices that many of us now own, such as a smart doorbell, a heating system you can control remotely with your phone or even a fridge that tells you to buy more milk. Of course, these devices are not only found in homes – IoT devices and sensors are used for monitoring and control in agriculture, for automation in factories, for improving tracking in global logistics and so on.
attacks could impact other devices connected to the same network, which is a huge privacy and security problem. Solutions that improve the security of IoT devices and the communication networks are therefore important, and these may also be patentable. The final key part of the IoT revolution is the analysis of the data collected by the devices. The data from one IoT device may be processed in isolation, but it is more likely that the data collected by multiple IoT devices (eg from a few, to tens of thousands) are processed together, possibly using AI, to make predictions or perform real- time control. These software-based analysis techniques may be patentable too. There’s a common misconception that software cannot be patented, but in fact software innovations are regularly patented by start-ups and multinationals alike! The IoT sector will continue to grow with the deployment of 5G, and so will competition. We can help you to spot your patentable inventions and protect them, to help you fend-off copycats and retain your market share. appleyardleesgreenshoots.com/start-up
96% of UK households are connected to the internet, and our work and personal lives mean we’re almost constantly online. The market for smart devices and the internet of things (IOT) is now established and growing"
y first proper job was working for a small Cambridge manufacturing company, System Cases – now trading under the name Sorta-Case – that produced toolboxes and fixings for the construction sector. I’d started there after my A-levels, becoming a partner in the business several years later. Though I learned a lot very quickly, and got to travel extensively, I worked out that ultimately it wasn’t what I wanted to do. What I did want to do was make TV content. This was slightly more challenging, especially as I had no experience, qualifications or required skills! Together with a friend, who thankfully had some of the skills needed, I set up a production company, developed a number of documentary ideas and touted them to the terrestrial Simon Crosbie, founder of commuter- focused meal kit service, Prepped, tells Catalyst about the three professionals who were integral to his business success
not just by the working environment, but by the calibre of people I was working with. I felt pushed every day and I was learning how things really worked within a successful business – and the job was fun! After four and a half years, I was approached by the integrated creative directors to consider leaving and setting up our own agency, Mohawk. It was something I felt ready for. It was the end of 2006 and what could stop us? Little did we know what 2008 would bring for all of us. But we survived the bleak days of the financial crash and built a thriving agency, with offices in the UK and Asia, working with global clients such as Deloitte, The Guardian and JP Morgan. The idea behind Prepped was conceived on my daily commute from Cambridge to London and, ultimately, it was based on getting myself a nice dinner on the way home. Prepped offers restaurant- inspired meal kits, using locally and ethically sourced seasonal ingredients that are prepared for people to pull together at home in less than 30 minutes. During my 12 years of travelling back and forth to London, like many of my fellow commuters, I would be tasked with getting dinner on the way home. I was never a great fan of this job, as it delayed me getting home after a long day and layered on frustration and fatigue. Prepped was conceived to ensure I could get a nice dinner and get home in time! We had a great start, launching at the beginning of 2020 and obtaining planning permission for fitting out spaces at Cambridge and Audley End train stations – then along came everyone’s game changer, Covid-19. Like many businesses, we’ve had to pivot and adapt to new realities that bring challenges and opportunities. These are three people who have helped me along the way...
TV channels. We managed to get some funding and make some pilots, which was not only great fun, but really testing in terms of learning on the job. But this was the early 2000s and market conditions meant TV stations were pulling funding and sticking with the tried and tested. Eventually, that brought our company to an end. At this point, I felt I needed to go and get a job in a large organisation to start filling in the gaps of how things get done. After a few bill-
paying moves, I got a job at a large advertising agency called J Walter Thompson, working as an account
manager with a telecoms client. I was blown away,
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MARTIN JEFFERYS, FOUNDER, SORTA-CASE
Martin was my first proper boss, and what I didn’t appreciate at the time was the opportunity to grasp a basic understanding of business at such a young age. He encouraged me to make decisions with conviction and, importantly, allowed me to make mistakes. He had a saying that has always stuck with me. It’s something I’ve imparted with colleagues since: “We all make mistakes, but it’s what
we do about them that’s important.” This typified Martin’s view towards people in a professional environment and is something I’ve used when building teams – a person’s attitude is a key attribute of building success. I know it sounds obvious, but it isn’t always considered. If you have people with the right ‘can-do’ attitude, then you can help and support them to fill any of the knowledge or experience gaps they might have.
MARK HARRISON, BRAND PARTNER, DRYNKS
Mark was my line manager at J Walter Thompson and I absolutely loved working with him. In fact, everyone loved working with him – especially the clients we serviced. He had a very simple approach to our purpose with clients. He always maintained: “Anything is possible, and it’s our job to show you what possible looks like.” In reality, this equated to the creation
of a positive working environment where everyone felt empowered to make things happen and, ultimately, work didn’t feel like work. I even derived my own mantra from my time working with Mark. It’s something I’ve incorporated into the working environments I’ve created, which is “I’m possible”. It’s an attitude that fosters and drives momentum.
KEN MUIR, PARTNER, MOHAWK
I’ve worked with Ken for over 15 years. We’ve been through numerous highs and lows together. Over that time, our united approach has been key and ensures everyone is pulling in the same direction. As a result, we’ve been able to enjoy the highs and get through the lows. This has always been driven by Ken’s passion for creating an inclusive working environment with
open channels of communication. No matter what role people have played within the organisation, he’s ensured everyone has a clear line of sight of the company’s objectives and, therefore, an understanding of their role’s importance in achieving collective success. Over the years, this has created a strong team dynamic and a great sense of belonging.
This series of articles is inspired by ideaSpace’s B3 events, where you can hear from a successful entrepreneur and the three professionals who were instrumental in helping their business to flourish. The events also include networking, with pizza and beer to finish. Visit ideaspace.cam.ac.uk for details on upcoming events.
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John Doherty, founder and CEO at barcode scanner app Orca Scan, gives us his business pitch
What’s your pitch? We help companies track anything, anywhere – instantly, accurately and affordably. Whether it’s medicines, machine parts or medical devices; if it matters to your business, we’ll help keep you on top of howmany you’ve got, where they are, how long they’ve been in store and whether you need to restock. We remove the need for expensive barcode scanners or typing data into spreadsheets: just download the free Orca Scan mobile app and use the camera on your phone. It’s that simple. How old is the company and how did it start? It started with an all-night coding session with my teenage son in 2016. He had a summer job where he would travel the UK scanning barcodes on thousands of solar panels to allow energy companies to understand which panels were in use in which location. He came home one evening with a barcode scanner and asked if there was a way to keep the button pressed so he could walk the field and continuously scan. I was building mobile prototypes for Cambridge University at the time, so we burned the midnight – and early-morning – oil to create a mobile app that would replace the hardware. He took it to work and his team loved it. He came home that night with a few feature requests and we’ve continued to improve the product based on user feedback since that day. What’s your role and background? I confess to being one of the original geeks. I’ve been obsessed with programming since the age of 11, when
I started by typing games from a magazine into a ZX Spectrum. That obsession evolved into a career as a software engineer. I’ve since spent the past 20 years writing enterprise software for companies such as RR Donnelley, ADP and Cambridge University. Today I am the co-founder and CEO of Orca Scan and fortunate enough to be working with a cracking team of techies who really care about the challenges faced by our users. What makes the company unique? Where some companies might obsess about their competitors, we obsess about our users. We try to really understand the problem they’re trying to solve and, where possible, visit them on-site to experience the problem first-hand. There is something strangely powerful about engineers observing a manual/tedious task. Feeling their pain builds customer empathy and that empathy makes it into the product. What makes us unique is that Orca Scan feels very much like an open-source project. We started with a very simple prototype and have evolved it based on user feedback – the net result is a product our customers built. Biggest achievement so far? Orca Scan is used by 25%of the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies, including Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Nasa and GE. But our
proudest moment to date was helping organisations around the world respond to the Covid-19 outbreak by tracking everything from personal protective equipment to medical devices.
ABOVE John Doher ty is the founder and CEO of Orca Scan
Biggest challenges? As Orca evolves and the system
becomes more powerful, it’s important we maintain the simplicity and user experience that has brought us to where we are today. As it turns out, keeping things simple is incredibly complex. Which individuals or companies are your biggest inspirations? I find Apple’s design and user experience phenomenal. It makes products that are brilliantly intuitive, requiring very little user interaction. I remember watching my two- year-old son pick up an iPad for the first time, navigate to a game and launch it – all without been able to read a single word on the screen. That’s incredible usability. Where do you want to be in five years? We want to transform supply chains by eliminating the need for pen and paper, the duplication of data entry and the emailing of spreadsheets. We’re building a system that will make organisations around the world much more efficient by having full visibility of their entire supply chain at a single glance. Find out more about at orcascan.com
We try to really understand the problem our users are trying to solve and, where possible, visit them on-site to experience the problem first-hand"
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WORDS NICOLA FOLEY
From classrooms to coding camps to the Raspberry Pi, we discover how Cambridge is engaging kids in computing
s digital technologies continue to transform almost every aspect of our lives,
education in computing grapples to keep up. Despite a shake-up of the curriculum and significant government investment, education in the broad subject – covering computer science, digital literacy and information technology (IT), remains “patchy and fragile” at best in the UK, according to a 2019 report by the Royal Society. This presents myriad problems. Not only do pupils need a solid education in computing to keep up with the pace of technological change, and go on to be well-informed, safe and successful citizens in a computer- driven society – we need young people with computing expertise and enthusiasm to fill the pipeline with the next generation of tech talent.
IMAGES From robotics to coding a Raspberry Pi, learning about computing is an important part of children’s education
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Cambridge cracks the code You don’t have to look far to see how many career opportunities computer science can open up, given our area’s volume of highly successful tech companies, and – encouragingly – there are impressive efforts in all directions when it comes to engaging kids in the subject. The most famous example is the Raspberry Pi: the game-changing microcomputer born right here in Cambridge. With a tiny price tag to match its tiny proportions, the humble Pi became a global phenomenon, selling tens of millions of units and sparking a revolution in computer programming. The product was conceived by Eben Upton, who was at the time director of studies in computer science at St John’s College. Faced with a dearth of undergraduate students, the Pi was designed with a goal of rekindling an interest in computer science and putting digital making in the hands of as many people as possible, thereby ultimately creating a pipeline filled with more (and better) university applicants. It’s been a runaway success on all counts, used not just in classrooms and bedrooms the world over, but finding applications in libraries, laboratories and within industry – but its most positive impact, according to the company itself – has been to “encourage more people to experiment with computers once again”. Another local organisation doing its level best to nurture the next generation of digital creators is Fire Tech, where courses on offer span techy topics ranging from coding languages to artificial intelligence, virtual reality and vlogging. Over at King’s Ely, meanwhile, students are regularly encouraged to look under Computational thinking skills such as logic, abstraction and evaluation, and their associated approaches, are key life skills for the 21st century"
can discover. “Every student uses technology, so it is vital that they have a good understanding of how it works,” explains the junior school’s head of computing and digital innovation, Dan Everest. “We take computers apart to look at their physical components, as well as the software systems they use – a popular unit is when we look at the technology within smart watches.” It’s characteristic of the school’s hands-on, practical approach to computing, which also sees teachers cover digital safety via initiatives including ‘digital picnics’, at which parents and children can learn about the importance of staying safe online. Impressively, the school also hosted the first-ever regional Childnet Digital Leaders event: a youth leadership training programme empowering young people to educate their peers about online safety.
the bonnets of their computers and devices to see what they
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Best in class Other Cambridgeshire schools aren’t slacking either, with St Mary’s offering a notably glowing example of doing computer science right. The journey starts for reception- age students, who are taught basic concepts of computational thinking by learning about sequences of instructions and the need to ensure that they are precise, accurate and in the correct order. From there, it’s on to playing with Bee-Bots (small wheeled robots resembling bees), pressing colourful buttons to navigate them along a route towards a destination, and
gaining collaborative and problem- solving skills along the way. In year 1 and year 2, the pupils are introduced to ScratchJr – a piece of software that offers sequences of command functions to create animations and trigger on-screen events – before developing simple computer games and the basics of Crumble programming in years 3 and 4. By the time the students reach years 5 and 6, they’re able to build upon their coding skills and utilise a range of coding languages and user interfaces including Logo, HTML, Python and C. This comprehensive approach yields benefits far beyond nurturing
computer-savvy students, says Andrew Severy, the school’s computer science co-ordinator. “Computational thinking skills such as logic, abstraction and evaluation, and their associated approaches, such as exploration, perseverance and collaboration, are key life skills for our girls to learn in the 21st century – and they are all immensely
IMAGES Pupils at King’s Ely having funwith tech, and Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton
transferable to other curriculum areas,” he enthuses. “Students
quickly discover these parallels and apply them to great advantage in their work, not just in the more obviously connected disciplines of maths and science, but in English, history, art, music and many other areas, both at school and in the wider world.” He continues: “By fostering all of their talent and enthusiasm at an early age and providing stimulating opportunities for the development of these essential 21st-century skills,
Every student uses technology, so it is vital that they have a good understanding of how it works"
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we are extremely optimistic about the future for our girls in technologically based careers.” This innovative approach seems to be paying off: St Mary’s pupils have been regular winners at the RoboCup Junior national championships in recent years, and at the peak of lockdown, eight of the school’s year 6 students participated in the International CoSpace Online Robotics Challenge 2020 alongside over 600 students from 25 different countries, with one pupil going on to finish in third Place in the iCool Challenge 2020 CoSpace Rescue U12 category – an incredible achievement in an international-level competition. King’s Ely students have seen successes, too, namely at Microsoft DigiGirlz event in Cambridge. Designed to encourage year 8 girls to think about job opportunities in the computing industry, the school took home the prestigious CEO’s Choice Award at this year’s event.
are on offer at GCSE and A-level, but it engages students much younger, beginning in year 7 with training in coding and video creation and continuing into year 9 with games creation, 3D modelling and programming. The end result? “Young adults that are able to express themselves across a variety of digital technologies, who are able to create and utilise digital systems to solve real-world issues, and who are able to apply computational thinking to logical problems,” proudly proclaims the school’s website. Dan Everest agrees that computer science offers highly valuable skills to each and every student, suggesting: “It encourages students to think logically and analytically, it encourages them not only to seek out problems, but to develop solutions in a systematic way. “Not all children will become coders, but every child needs to know the basics of coding and how to work a computer,” he continues. “Our computing lessons deliver a rounded, inclusive curriculum for all. It’s for everyone and it genuinely prepares children for their digital lives.”
ABOVE St Mary’s pupils have been regular winners at the RoboCup Junior national championships, and have also had international success
It encourages students to think logically and analytically, it encourages them not only
to seek out problems, but to develop solutions in a systematic way"
Preparing for a digital world Of course, most kids won’t be
robotics champs or Silicon Fen tech entrepreneurs, but they still need to be equipped with the “skills and understanding to play an active role in today’s digital world”, says The Leys, another Cambridge school that makes a priority out of computing. ICT and computer science courses
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