Cambridge Catalyst Issue 07 Web





News, events and happenings in the Cambridge business community


Discover how our city’s brightest minds got called up to help in the Covid-19 crisis

For many, business ground to a halt during peak lockdown, but for a group of Cambridge companies, the race was on to solve a problem of national importance – which had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. I’m talking, of course, about the UK government’s Ventilator Challenge, which called upon some of Cambridge’s brightest minds to collaborate on the creation of a ventilator for the NHS. For a medical device project of this nature, you’d usually be looking at a timescale of around three to five years, but this one had a deadline of just weeks. Find out how this (seemingly) mission impossible panned out with the inside story from TTP, one of the consultancies that worked on the project, in this issue. From AstraZeneca’s much-publicised work on the vaccine to a lesser- told story of three Cambridge housemates that created an online portal to circulate helpful coronavirus information to the public, read about how our city’s tech and science community stepped up in the fight against coronavirus from page 9. More than anything, what I’ve come across during the course of putting this issue together are stories of resilience, of staggering adaptability and, in some cases, unexpected silver linings, in what has been a seismic few months in the Cambridge Cluster. In some sectors, the pandemic has accelerated innovation, as Parminder Lally recounts in her article, Green Shoots, on page 17. In others, such as education, it’s necessitated huge steps forward in terms of technology understanding and integration, as we discover from speaking to local teachers on page 21. One thing’s for sure: this extraordinary crisis has changed the way we live and work, likely forever. The concept of the traditional office – and its inherent value – have been thrown into question as homeworking and social distancing have become the norm, so where does that leave shared workspaces and hubs, of which Cambridge has many? Mantle Business Centre’s CEO makes some predictions on page 27, while Allia Future Business Centre’s team consider why the office is more than just a space for desks on page 19. From social enterprise Form the Future’s transition to a digital world to Cambridge Network’s CEO on the remarkable resilience of the Cambridge Cluster, the pages ahead share how the businesses of Cambridge have been weathering this ongoing storm, and are looking ahead to a drastically different –but bright – future. I hope you enjoy the issue and keep an eye out for number 8, out at the end of October.


TTP tells all about its role in the government’s Ventilator Challenge. 14 RESILIENCE & ADAPTABILITY Cambridge Network CEO John Gourd

explains the keys to the Cluster’s success.


Patent attorneys Appleyard Lees on how the pandemic has accelerated innovation.


Allia Future Business Centre takes a look at the role of the office in a post-pandemic world.


L ockdown prompted huge leaps for tech in education, but local schools had a head start.


Cambridge social venture Form the Future on weathering the pandemic.


Mantle Business Centre’s CEO reflects on an extraordinary few months and shares future plans.


Lockdown got you craving a house move? Check out these incredible new homes.


Inspiration for where to spend that precious annual leave. Up this month: Salthouse Hotel.



EDITORIAL EDITOR IN CHIEF Nicola Foley 01223 499459 nicolafoley@bright-publ EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Frances McNaughton 01223 499469 francesmcnaughton@bright-publ CHIEF SUB EDITOR Beth Fletcher SUB EDITOR El isha Young

CONTRIBUTORS Sally Bain, Matthew Gooding, John Gourd, Parminder Lally, Laura Nicholls

@cambscatalyst cambridgecatalyst

ADVERTISING GROUP AD MANAGER Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 samscott-smith@bright-publ AD SALES MANAGER Ed Grundy 01223 499463 edgrundy@bright-publ

DESIGN & PRODUCTION DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings DESIGN MANAGER Alan Gray EDITORIAL DESIGN Man-Wai Wong, Lucy Woolcomb AD PRODUCTION Man-Wai Wong catalystads@bright-publ

MANAGING DIRECTORS Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck 01223 499450



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ISSUE 01 I 7



The latest developments in the world of Cambridge business, innovation, start-ups and networking

Ideaspace turns 10! This summer saw Ideaspace, a hub for high-impact founders, celebrate ten years since its inception, during which time it’s served as home to over 1,000 members and supported more than 40 ventures. On the roll call are Cluster success stories including Simprints, Audio Analytic and Cambridge Intelligence, and membership continues to thrive, with the community supporting ever-more entrepreneurs in the city. Originally set up with funding from the Hauser-Raspe Foundation, Ideaspace was the first community of its kind in Cambridge, drawing in founders keen to work alongside peers while they developed their companies. As part of its anniversary celebrations, it’s launched a ‘Focus on a Founder’ series, which showcases the achievements of the companies that started their story at Ideaspace.

Over half of the people living in Cambridge are craving a post-

lockdown career change, according to a study conducted by The National Lottery. It revealed 64% of the city’s population is considering an overhaul in their professional lives, with charity work, teaching and gardening topping the list of preferred new professions. A whopping 73% of those polled in Cambridge said they now believe life is ‘too short to be working in a job they hate’, with a total of 35% suggesting that lockdown had made them realise how important a good work-life balance is, and 33% claiming that, on reflection, time in lockdown had made them come to the conclusion that they are not appreciated.

A whopping 73% of those polled in Cambridge said they now believe life is 'too short to be working in a job they hate'"






IMAGE Tony Cooke, CEO at Cambridge Clinical Laboratories and co-founder of Recova-19

Workspace provider Fora has announced that it’s expanding its portfolio with 20,000 sq ft of offices at 20 Station Road. Joining companies such as Microsoft and Apple in the CB1 district, Fora will deliver six floors of workspace to meet the demands of the city’s business community. The space incorporates open desks, private offices, meeting rooms, event spaces, roof terraces and wellness areas, along with sleek design and top-end tech.

Enrico Sanna, CEO and co- founder of Fora, said: “We have long considered Cambridge an ideal location for expansion outside of London, a market characterised by short supply and high demand from a growing business community. We are excited to bring the Fora experience to this market, as we anticipate the continued shift to tailored and adaptive workplaces, which Fora creates by working so closely with its resident companies.”

Recova-19 launches Local experts including Dr Tony Cooke (CEO at Cambridge Clinical Laboratories) and Andrew Halliday, an authority on health and wellness apps, have teamed up to take on one of the corporate world’s most pressing current challenges: how to get people back into the office safely. Together, they’ve launched new company Recova-19, having developed an accurate and affordable Covid-19 testing and software solution that allows businesses to bring employees back to the workplace with confidence. The programmes can identify asymptomatic spreaders and pre- symptomatic spreaders – both of which the current routine government testing is unable to do – and offers employers options including comprehensive testing for Covid-19 infection and immunity, symptom reporting through a wellness app, ongoing on-site monitoring, risk assessment tools, environmental testing and on-call healthcare professionals. Tony explains the rationale for the testing programme: “The nation needs everyone to be safely back at work and it is clear to us that diverse industry sectors have different needs, both with respect to the challenges faced in the working environment and the sustainable cost of testing at a level that helps protect staff. Concerns over obligations with regard to the health and safety of employees and uncertainty are also significant barriers to returning to workplaces, but with the level of testing and support we can provide, that’s no longer necessary.”

Corporate catering has changed – possibly forever – in a post Covid-19 world. Large platters and buffets in offices are most likely a thing of the past, so how do you treat your employees to a thank you feast in these socially distant times? Local catering company Little Piggy has a solution in the shape of its artisan, individual grazing boxes, which come packed with colours and flavours. The menu changes daily, but curly sandwiches are the last thing you’ll find, with recent boxes themed as Persian (with falafel , couscous salad, za’atar chicken skewers, homemade flatbread, hummus and baklava), and French – complete with a wedge of brie, baguette, bean salad, onion tarte tatin, pâté, garlic mushrooms and chocolate mousse. “We wanted our boxes to be impressive and functional , so that corporate client dining could take place within the office while Covid-19 restrictions have made events and meetings difficult to plan. Our style of food, borne of a love of feasting and grazing, is abundant and decadent and we wanted to provide this for a corporate setting,” explains Little Piggy’s Charlie McLaughlin. Lunch is £15+VAT pp, with breakfast options also available. Little Piggy launches lunch boxes





In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the start of the Human Genome Project, Wellcome Genome Campus is hosting a virtual open day on 17 October, giving people the chance to tour the campus, discover the science that takes place there and explore an exhibition. Discover why this international research effort was – and continues to be – so important, learning about its transformative impact on biology, medicine and technology. You’ll also get a chance to take a look around the lab with the Wellcome Sanger Institute's Cellular Generation and Phenotyping (CGAP) team and learn about the work they do every day, including looking at different cell types and changing media. You might even get to see one of their robots in action! With all sorts of activities and conversations taking place, it promises to be an illuminating day, and it’s all free to join in with. HUMAN GENOME PROJECT ANNIVERSARY OPEN DAY

CN ELEARNING LAUNCHES Cambridge Network has launched CN eLearning, strengthening its training offering with a huge range bite-sized digital resources. It covers essential skills such as health and safety, safeguarding and information security, plus soft skills including management and teamwork.

Gourd, Cambridge Network’s CEO, says: "Computer-based training of this kind is a natural progression, and we are delighted to offer it in response to specific requests from the HR community. Its beauty is its accessibility – anyone can access learning from anywhere, at any time, and know that they will not be tied to a screen for more than a quarter of an hour.”

Learners pay once for access to the complete learning library, consisting of more than 160 short courses. John





When the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, the Cambridge Cluster got busy doing what it does best: finding innovative solutions to difficult problems. Here, Matthew Gooding takes a look at some of the ways the city’s business community responded to the pandemic

n a shared house on Cambridge’s Oxford Road, three friends watched the spread of Covid-19 across the

globe and decided they needed to do their bit to help with the fightback. The trio of housemates – Ray Siems, Evan Martin and Wilson Griffiths – joined another friend, Ravi Solanki, on two projects to assist frontline NHS workers battling the pandemic. The second project, an online portal for the charity HEROES, helped the organisation assist 90,000 frontline staff in three months, earning recognition from the Royal Academy of Engineering in the process. Their efforts were indicative of the response to the Covid-19 outbreak from across the Cambridge Cluster, with individuals, start-ups and multinationals joining forces to develop solutions to help in the rapidly evolving crisis. As the pandemic moves into the next stage, the city’s brightest minds are sure to play a leading role as society is reshaped and we become accustomed to the ‘new normal’. STOPPING THE SPREAD AND HELPING THE HEROES Ray is CEO and co-founder of Catalyst AI (no relation) and an alumnus of the University of Cambridge engineering department. He and Ravi, at the time a final-year medical student, first worked together to develop Stop the Spread, a website seeking to provide clear, easy-to-digest information on the pandemic for medics and patients. “Ravi was on a placement in a hospital, and when the Covid-19 outbreak started we got talking about the lack of information filtering through down to the patient level,” Ray says. “We wanted to see if there was something that we could do to help, because it was clearly an information problem rather

than a medical one. And that’s where we came up with the idea to work with him and a few other doctors around Cambridge to try to make a more accessible version of the official NHS information.” Put together in three days and drawing together information from official sources that, in the early days of the pandemic, was fragmented and hard to digest, the site was a hit with patients and practitioners alike. “We did a soft launch on the Monday, and by the Tuesday we’d had 20,000 hits,” says Ray. Stop the Spread was used by GP practices and clinical commissioning groups, which recommended it to patients. But as official channels began to up their game with coherent, up-to-date advice, the team were given another opportunity to put their talent

to use. “As the official information started to become more clear and widely disseminated, there was no longer as much as of a need for Stop the Spread,” Ray says. “That was around the time the number of people in hospital was vastly increasing, and we could see there was now a need to look at the effect that was having on healthcare workers.” Through a contact on Twitter, the quartet teamed up with Dr Dominic Pimenta to work on a website for his new charity, HEROES, which was set up to support NHS workers during the crisis. Dr Pimenta had signed up former Chelsea and England footballer Joe Cole as an ambassador, and with a media appearance to launch the charity scheduled, the team again had a tight timescale to create something from scratch.

ABOVE Three of the friends who created Stop the Spread (from lef t to right): Ray Siems, Ravi Solanki and Evan Mar tin





“They were going on to Good Morning Britain on the Monday morning at 8am, which left us with less than two days to build a website and an approachable brand that people felt they could trust,” Ray explains. The resulting site – – now provides secure end-to-end digital infrastructure to allow NHS workers to apply for and receive financial relief grants digitally. Staff can now submit an application through the HEROES website, while the site also allows members of the public to make donations to the charity, and provides information on a wide range of topics relevant to NHS staff. Crucially, it was also ready for Cole’s date on the Good Morning Britain sofa. The project was one of 19 schemes across the country to receive a special engineering award from the Royal Academy of Engineering for its ‘transformative’ effect on people’s lives. “The award was a real honour and a surprise,” Rays says. “There must be so many engineers out there who played an important part in the pandemic and we were just the ones lucky enough be recognised.” FIVE YEARS’ WORK IN FOUR WEEKS Ray and his friends were not the only ones leaping into action as Covid-19 took hold. Teams around the city raced to come up with new ventilator designs as fears rose that hospitals could be overwhelmed. TTP just outside Cambridge was one of the companies that answered the call of the government’s Ventilator Challenge, developing from scratch a machine built with existing parts that could be manufactured rapidly. Within four weeks they had a working product ready to submit to the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for approval. Diagnostic testing is critical to track the virus, understand epidemiology and suppress transmission"

on this project,” he says. “With CoVent, we moved through the phases of the project quickly. Because we have a flat organisational structure, people were used to working in a fluid, rapidly changing environment. “The other thing is around radical trust. When you’re trying to move that fast, you don’t have time to tell everybody everything; you have to keep the information flowing and pass on the minimum necessary to get the job done. That requires extreme trust that things that you know need to happen were happening, and that proved to be the case.” SCIENCE TO THE FORE IN TESTING TIMES As the pandemic has developed, the focus has moved on to testing and, ultimately, developing a vaccine that could help life get back to some sort of normality. Cambridge- based AstraZeneca has been at the heart of developing one of the most high-profile vaccine candidates, working with experts from the University of Oxford. Though there have been a few bumps in the road recently, with trials suspended at the time of writing, CEO Pascal Soriot is still hopeful they will have something ready to submit to the regulators in the next few months, stating recently that AZ is “on track for having a set of data that we would submit before the end of the year”. Elsewhere in the Cambridge life science Cluster, Avacta has been working on three separate testing projects deploying the company’s Affimer platform, which is designed to offer an alternative to conventional antibody therapies.

“Responding to challenging problems is what we do all the time,” says Douglas Bradshaw, who heads up the company’s healthcare activities. “And the government’s not the first client to phone us up and say, “We’ve got a ‘burning tower’, can you help?” The objective was to create a design for a ventilator that could be manufactured in thousands of units per week. Within three days we had a initial design and within ten days that design was more or less fixed. “Normally for a project like this you would use bespoke parts, because that gives you more options. But here there was zero chance of doing that because of the timescales involved, so we had to use simple valves and sensors that were available in their thousands. We had to work closely with the government to ensure supplies were available and we have ended up with a product that can be built from components and raw materials that are available in vast numbers, and we managed to source all the components bar one from UK suppliers.” Given that this process usually takes three to five years, to turn something around in a matter of weeks is a testament to the skills in TTP’s team. The design is now ready to go into rapid production should the pandemic escalate again and put more pressure on clinics. Douglas says the lessons learned during the project can be taken forward into TTP’s work designing cutting-edge products for clients around the world. “I think it showed me that the way our team works really helped

BELOW TTP’s Douglas Bradshaw,

who heads up the company’s healthcare activities

ISSUE 07 10



entrepreneurial activity,” he says. “Cambridge has been the place to be in the UK for this kind of work for some time, and now increasingly it is seen as a hothouse globally, so I think it was natural that the UK and Cambridge specifically would be at the forefront of the response to Covid-19. “What we saw in the Ventilator Challenge was a willingness to collaborate. That was across the board and up and down the supply chain. I think there was a sense of needs must, we’re all in this together.” Ray Siems believes the thriving Cambridge ecosystem offers a breadth of skills that make it ready to respond at short notice in a crisis. “The crucial ingredient is that you get people across multiple disciplines coming together,” he says. “For us we had a cross between software engineering and medicine, and that meant that we had what we needed to put together a product and a service that could make a difference. You’ve seen that in manufacturing as well with some of the great initiatives there. “Specifically, we were lucky that the core team – myself, Evan and Wilson – have worked together across three countries over six years. We all have a different specialty and, because we know how to work well together, it means we can make a product quite quickly. And I think that’s why we’re able to do something in a relatively short space of time,” he reflects. “As an engineer, you’re often away from the coalface, so it has been great to work on these projects and see first-hand the difference they’ve made to people’s lives.” IMAGE The Cambridge Cluster has been hard at work during the pandemic. Avacta has developed a saliva test to indicate is a patient is infected in minutes as “diagnostic testing is critical to track the virus” according to commercial director David Wilson (pictured lef t)

“As stated by the World Health Organisation, diagnostic testing is critical to track the virus, understand epidemiology, inform case management and suppress transmission,” says David Wilson, Avacta’s commercial director for reagents and diagnostics. “With Covid-19 symptoms not easily distinguishable from the common cold or flu, rapid population screening paired with lab diagnostic testing is one of the most effective methods to control the spread of infection, enabling earlier quarantine and treatment. “Avacta’s focus is on immunoassays, and in particular immunoassays to test for the presence of viral antigen to indicate whether a person has the Covid-19 infection at that time, rather than for the antibodies that are formed in the body’s response to the infection,” he explains. Working with life science giant Cytiva, Avacta has developed a saliva test for Covid-19, which can indicate if a patient is infected in a matter of minutes. This is currently being clinically validated. The firm is also collaborating on a laboratory analysis

platform that uses Affimer reagents and would allow a single technician to process 1,000 Covid-19 swab or saliva samples a day, which could be handy in hospitals and clinics. David adds: “Using the same Affimer reagents that are incorporated into saliva test, Avacta has developed in-house a high-performance ELISA laboratory test to detect the Covid-19 virus. Avacta will make the ELISA test available as a kit so that researchers globally can use it in their own laboratories to support research into the coronavirus.”


Douglas Bradshaw says it is no surprise that Cambridge companies have been at the forefront of the UK’s efforts to fight the tide of coronavirus, pinpointing the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’, which sees the city surrounded by a high concentration of cutting-edge tech and life science companies, as the key factor. “The access to molecular biology we have now is fuelling research and development and

Cambridge has been the place to be in the UK for this kind of work for some time, and now increasingly it is seen as a hothouse globally"





Dr Michelle Griffin discusses TTP’s response to the government’s Ventilator Challenge: the CoVent

hen the pandemic arrived and the government launched the Ventilator Challenge, we knew

staff needed to learn to use the device despite not being specialists in caring for patients requiring ventilation. But while we had some indications of the health problems of Covid-19 patients from other countries, there was neither a standard ventilation protocol for Covid-19 patients, nor a blueprint for a new ventilator that would meet their needs in the UK context. To respond to this challenge, we expanded TTP’s clinical network to bring in the necessary medical expertise and real-world evidence to inform the design of our ventilator. This included intensive care doctors and anaesthetists with specialist experience of treating Covid-19 patients. Along with the government’s clinical group and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), our clinical network advised us on what was required to meet the needs of both patients and clinicians. Equally, we had to ensure that the ventilator we were creating met the requirements of the MHRA for approval for use, as well as ensuring it could be used by clinicians without specialist

we had to design a new ventilator rapidly. But amid the unfolding pandemic, the clinical needs of Covid-19 patients and the requirements for a UK pandemic ventilator were far from clear. So, as a clinician and technologist at TTP, I began to clarify the needs of patients and what this meant for our ventilator, dubbed ‘CoVent’. This quickly expanded into a role spanning the consortium of Cambridge technology companies responding to the Ventilator Challenge. We knew that ventilators needed to be ready for deployment in the NHS within weeks, and therefore had to be designed using only readily available parts. In the world of medical device development, where such a project typically takes three to five years, this challenge verged on the impossible. In addition, the government’s call was for a device that would be intuitive to use. This was for the worst case scenario, where severe Covid-19 cases exceeded NHS capacity and healthcare

experience in helping patients with critical respiratory problems. As plans for Nightingale Hospitals were being drawn up, and former healthcare professionals – like me – called to return to the NHS, it was crucial to understand the likely skill level and experience of clinical users, and the environment they would be working in. We got feedback from frontline clinicians during lockdown by means of video calls, where we showed them our designs. Engineers and designers on the call worked in real time to implement their feedback. Only when the first prototype devices were assembled did we conduct socially distanced in-person user testing of CoVent. Thankfully, nationwide social distancing suppressed the virus and new ventilators weren’t needed, though the CoVent production line at our manufacturer, Dyson, was being readied as cases peaked in April. Still, the Ventilator Challenge had a lasting impact on our work at TTP. More than ever, we recognise the importance of input from working clinicians from the beginning and throughout product development. Our clinical network provides rapid and frequent insight from working doctors and nurses into how a disease is currently treated, variations in clinical practice, who is the likely user of a medical device and whether the clinical and market need is likely to change. The Ventilator Challenge reminds us that if you always think in these terms, clinician input will lead you to a better product. Read more blogs on lessons from the Ventilator Challenge for product and technology development at

ABOVE TTP’s CoVent uses only readily available par ts and was designed to be intuitive to use

More than ever, we recognise the importance of input fromworking clinicians from the beginning and throughout product development"





John Gourd, CEO of Cambridge Network, looks at how Cambridge has proved its adaptability in the face of unprecedented challenges KEYS TO THE CLUSTER’S SUCCESS RESILIENCE & ADAPTABILITY:

A few examples include: z z AstraZeneca’s work with the University of Oxford to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. z z TTP and other local technology consultancies participating in the nationwide Ventilator Challenge. z z Marshall’s work on reinventing the iron lung. z z EG Technology, which offered medical device developers support from its team of engineers. z z Countless cases of altruism, with donations of equipment and funds to the NHS and other organisations. As a Network, we also had to drastically adapt our business model. Because lockdown meant we were no longer able to host face-to-face events, training sessions or jobs fairs, we quickly learnt how to move all this content online. This was achieved in a matter of days. But it wasn’t just the delivery method that changed – our audience’s needs changed, too. A fundamental shift took place and our members’ focus turned to the new challenges. Members needed to know how to run teams and look after their mental health when everyone was working remotely.

hether it is the incorporation of AI into drug discovery or the use of enhanced video imaging

in agritech, Cambridge companies have been at the forefront of melding technologies to meet the demands of a global market since the earliest days of software and hardware development. In fact, the Cambridge Phenomenon and the success of the local ecosystem has been built upon the foundations of resilience and adaptability. And it is no surprise that Cambridge Network members have risen to the challenges the pandemic placed upon us, and not necessarily just for their own financial gain.

The Cambridge Phenomenon and the success of the local ecosystem has been built upon the foundations of resilience and adaptability"

ISSUE 07 14



They needed to understand how to communicate with their main customers and stakeholders in a crisis; how to interview, recruit, onboard and more via video. We decided to make most of our content free, because the challenges in the local area applied to all businesses, whether they were members or not. Over the course of the past few months, the Network team has run more than 50 webinars, attracting almost 3,000 participants from around 500 different organisations. Separately, we’ve also hosted three successful online jobs and careers fairs since March. As we continue the slow steps out of lockdown and a gradual return to the office, our members are asking for additional help. How do they manage the return to the office, both physically and mentally? How can we reconnect effectively with our customers? We continue to offer hour-long sessions on these and a diverse range of other

subjects, all delivered virtually with the help of our expert members. We had already taken most of our CPD-accredited training online and the appetite for courses hasn’t diminished. Just last week we also launched CN eLearning, a suite of short online training courses that enable companies to train/ upskill and develop their employees while they work at home. However, we are aware that nothing can fully replicate the pleasure of meeting a business contact face-to- face or the serendipitous joy when someone with a problem unexpectedly meets someone with a solution – this is when networking performs at its best. But until then, we’ll do our best to recreate these experiences online. Cambridge is an exemplar of the Darwinist aphorism: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

ABOVE The home of Cambridge Network , The Hauser Forum. © Cambridge Enterprise.





The last few months have seen an acceleration in innovation, finds Parminder Lally, senior associate at IP firm Appleyard Lees

ow, what a strange year 2020 has turned out to be! For the January issue, I was asked to

start of lockdown, Zoom quickly became the platform of choice for video calls. However, this seems to have spurred Microsoft to further develop the Teams app. For example, Zoom allowed you to view lots of people on screen in gallery mode, while Microsoft Teams initially had a limit of four visible participants – Microsoft quickly changed this to nine people, and plans to expand this even further. When people started to complain about ‘Zoom fatigue’, Microsoft started to develop a ‘Together mode’, which aims to reduce the cognitive load of a video call. I for one have enjoyed watching the competition between these two companies, which, ultimately, results in better products for us. Robotic systems have existed for some time in warehouses and manufacturing plants, but the pandemic has accelerated the interest in using robot helpers in a variety of areas. Companies developing robots to perform weeding, spraying and

harvesting have been inundated with orders from farmers due to the shortage in agricultural workers (which may become even more of an issue when the UK leaves the EU), and such companies are also attracting more investment now. The same is true for companies developing vertical farms, where crops can be watered and fed using minimal human labour. We’re also seeing companies that develop robotic assistants for the home attract a lot of interest, including robots that can provide people who live on their own with someone to talk to in an attempt to make people feel less lonely. Robotic systems such as these tend to go hand in hand with artificial intelligence (AI) innovation. Arguably, AI that improves human-machine interaction may be more important now as we continue to work remotely and our face-to-face interactions with other humans are reduced. We have seen companies continuing to innovate in the areas of computer vision, speech recognition and emotion recognition. There may be plenty of exciting innovation generation going on, but the IP budgets of all types of companies are stretched more than ever. I recently heard that a well-known multinational personal care company has lost income because people are washing their hair and using deodorant less frequently during lockdown! Companies may need to, at least temporarily, deviate from how they usually manage their IP to make best use of their IP budget. For start-ups, this may involve keeping ideas secret for longer, while SMEs and multinationals may need to make the tough decision to cut down their IP portfolios. If you’d like advice on how you can best protect your IP while on a tight budget, do get in touch or take a look at our series of articles on IP in a post-Covid world at

write about my tech and IP predictions, but I definitely didn’t predict that many of us would become remote workers almost overnight. The pandemic has transformed our lives and impacted every industry. However, rather than slowing down innovation, I would say innovation has been accelerated by the pandemic. I was a little surprised by how soon I observed the signs that certain sectors were back up and running and some sectors were as active, if not more active, in generating innovation. The high-tech sector, particularly companies who operate in the software space, was quick to recover. You will be well-acquainted with Zoom and Microsoft Teams by now – who could have predicted that so many of us would become reliant on these technologies to keep in touch with our colleagues, friends and family? At the

I have enjoyed watching the competition between these two companies, which, ultimately, results in better products for us"





Allia Future Business Centre’s Laura Nicholls and Sally Bain reflect on the role of the office post-pandemic

efore coronavirus hit, millions of us spent our working days in an office. Then, lockdown changed

can be some of the most productive, interesting and idea-sharing exchanges. Did you know that innovation teams rate interaction as crucial for the success of a new venture? MENTAL HEALTH: Working alone can be isolating and affect your mood, wellbeing and productivity. Being in a team provides us with a culture in which we can belong and develop friendships as we build our careers. Homeworking environments aren’t set up for the long term: those with a home office are lucky, but many are ‘making do’ at the kitchen table with furniture unsuitable for their posture, insufficient internet bandwidth, plus no quiet space for those long video calls (and Zoom fatigue is a thing!). TRAINING AND SUPERVISING: We learn from our colleagues; observing, asking questions and picking up tips. While online courses are available, nothing beats training in a room of people discussing challenges face to face. People management is more difficult as well , with some employees needing more time to guide and direct them, and this isn’t as effective or personal when delivered remotely.

everything, forcing many to work from home – which was welcome for some, allowing a greater work-life balance, but for others, the change was not positive. Studies show productivity can decrease despite more hours worked when based at home, and many miss the camaraderie of their teams. The office is a popular topic of discussion – how we use them and whether we need them at all . But let’s look beyond the physical space and consider the needs, lives and experiences of those working within them. Rather than just a space to house desks, it provides a home for teams, with bonding and creativity, creating a mixed social space and an escape from the home.

A SENSE OF PURPOSE: Being in an office creates a joint sense of purpose for colleagues. The workplace can be the physical heart and soul of a business – representing its values and cultural aspirations – which helps build team spirit. This can be hard to maintain when colleagues are operating in isolation. If your business has had to change and adapt during the Covid-19 lockdown, you may need more space to allow for social distancing, or a smaller office space to accommodate streamlined teams – take a look at Future Business Centres: innovative communities built on support and collaboration that offer agile and flexible workspaces for different-sized teams.

ABOVE Working in an office

creates a sense of purpose and

community that is difficult to maintain working in isolation

SOCIAL INTERACTION: 61% of workers recently surveyed cited

reduced social interaction as the main disadvantage of homeworking. Without an office, there is less social interaction and, as many of us have discovered, Zoom meetings just don’t compare. Chats over making a cuppa wouldn’t make it into a team video call , but these





Local schools share how they’re harnessing technology to make education more engaging

hen schools across the country closed in March and remote learning became

meant that when pupils were sent home, teachers were already well- versed in delivering content digitally – but the school still had its work cut out ensuring everything transitioned smoothly. “Aware of the looming likelihood of lockdown, The Leys IT department and teaching staff went into overdrive – and in just a month, upskilled staff to deliver live remote lessons and pastoral support to our pupils,” recalls Geoffrey Howe, director of Teaching and Learning at The Leys. “Pupils accessed their teachers via iPads and were able to progress with their courses using Google Classroom and Google Meet. Teachers also began experimenting with different techniques to ensure remote lessons were engaging and

the ‘new normal’, teachers were forced to adapt at lightning speed. The need to deliver virtual lessons, keep up pastoral care and enable communication between colleagues meant adopting new tech like video streams and resource-sharing platforms, virtually overnight. In some cases, this prompted a quantum leap in school’s digital capabilities, with IT usage and integration moving on years in the space of a few weeks. But here in Cambridge, our tech-savvy schools had a head-start. The Leys has been investing in digital tools for years, offering iPads for all pupils and teachers and developing Google Cloud infrastructure. This

IMAGE The Leys has been integrating VR into teaching to create an immersive experience for pupils





IMAGES The Leys (below) was evaluating the use of VR even before the pandemic, while St Mary’s (middle) used lockdown to fur ther encourage pupils in STEM subjects. CAST (right) is a specialist STEM academy with excellent laboratories and facilities

interactive. Protocols were established and techniques such as chunked learning, interactive quizzing and real-time discussions were used to keep learning going. Staff shared what they learnt about what worked and what didn’t, and the school developed a toolkit for effective online learning. Alongside the lessons, our teachers

our integrated specialist-taught STEM curriculum, we are inspiring our girls and laying the foundations for possible future careers in a STEM- related industry,” comments Computer Science co-ordinator Andrew Severy. “Our specialist STEM programmes start from reception, where the girls begin learning wood-working and continue all the way up to year 6 and beyond. This approach pays dividends; it imbues our girls with the confidence to pursue STEM-related subjects at much higher rates than the national average.” If any further proof is needed of St Mary’s pupils’ enthusiasm for STEM, you only need look to the school’s prize-winning robotics club, which has seen national and international success over the past couple of years, winning national RoboCupJunior competitions and coming eighth in the European Championships in 2019 – the only all-girls team to make it to Championships. Also enthusing local young people in all things STEM is the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology (CAST), situated in the heart of the Biomedical Campus. Surrounded by world-leading academic and commercial organisations which

maintained pastoral support via regular video calls with pupils.”

Over at St Mary’s School, teachers used lockdown as an opportunity to engage pupils in computer science and STEM, setting coding challenges and encouraging creative thinking to tackle real-world problems. From programming computer games and LED light shows to building parachutes for toys, pupils were encouraged to explore, create and design – characteristic of St Mary’s approach to STEM teaching as whole. “We firmly believe that through

While we’re pleased to be teaching face to face, the lessons we learnt mean we are ready to move towards remote teaching”

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support and contribute to the life and work of the college, this specialist academy offers state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities for those aged between 13 and 19 years – inspiring the next generation of Britain's scientists, technicians, engineers and programmers. One of CAST’s biggest draws is its ‘challenge projects’ with businesses in the Cambridge Cluster and beyond, something which continued even when students were learning from home. “Challenges offer the experience of work-related and project-based learning, and often use industry-level technology to provide our students with the practical skills that underpin learning achieved through academic study,” explains principal Danielle Pacey. “The programme is regarded as a national exemplar of excellence in project- based learning by educationalists and business leaders.” She adds: “We were delighted we were still able to continue with our challenge project work with employer partners during lockdown, with a number of year 9 students managing to complete a Bronze Industrial Cadets award with Amazon and ARM, and some year 10 students continuing

to work on their hydroelectric power project with Mott MacDonald.” Being such a tech-focused school, it’s no surprise CAST was fleet of foot when it came to adapting to online teaching, quickly integrating pre- recorded presentations and live virtual lessons, plus posting lesson resources on Microsoft Teams. And although they’re happy to have welcomed back pupils now, the team has drawn positives from recent experiences. “There have been a number of advantages to the ways we have used technology over lockdown: as families are not allowed in the building for events, posting narrated PowerPoint presentations and arranging Microsoft Teams meetings help keep them informed about students learning and progress,” says Danielle. “Also, while we’re pleased to be back teaching face to face, all the lessons we learnt mean we are ready to move towards remote teaching if staff members or students need to remain at home. The skills staff have acquired during this time are already being incorporated into day-to-day teaching.” It’s a similar story at The Leys, where lessons learned in lockdown have informed the school’s approach to tech moving forwards. “Now that

the school has reopened, albeit with strict social-distancing guidelines in place, the tech gains made in digital learning have been retained and built upon,” comments Geoffrey Howe. “Staff have received further training so that if local lockdowns become a feature of the academic year, learning at The Leys will continue.” The school was already evaluating the use of virtual reality (VR) technology before the pandemic and, last year, one of the teaching rooms was transformed into a VR classroom that can provide an immersive experience for pupils and teachers, allowing them to create, upload and share content in engaging and unique ways. “It will be exciting to see how this concept is

developed over the coming year,” concludes Geoffrey. “Technology is an integral part of the world we all live in and teaching digital skills and exposing students to an education where digital delivery is commonplace is essential to preparation for life beyond the school gate.”





Local social enterprise Form the Future shares how it weathered the pandemic

orm the Future CIC’s mission is clear – to connect young people to a world of career

possibilities, inspire them to dream big and empower them to fulfil their potential . Over the last few months, the pandemic has shown that this mission has never been more important, and that high-quality careers education is vital to help the next generation find their place in a rapidly changing world. In the last five years, this Cambridge-based social enterprise has reached over 62,741 students, hosted 782 events for students and utilised thousands of hours of volunteer time to inspire young people into their future careers. But like so many businesses, Form the Future has been forced change the way it operates because of coronavirus. “The biggest challenge was right at the start: the decision to

stop delivering our activities in schools. This was really hard, because we put a huge amount of effort into planning these and we know how much students get from the experience,” explains CEO Anne Bailey. “We immediately started to think about how we could make our services relevant and accessible if we couldn’t deliver in person. That led to a series of new resources, including our Careers Q&A videos and our Careers in the Curriculum short videos. We realised that schools would need really flexible resources that they could slot into the curriculum in bite-sized chunks – rather than taking a whole day out of school as we’ve done in the past.” What was once an organisation primarily reliant on face-to-face encounters and in-school outreach is now realising that it can use a more digital future to its advantage. Since March, Form the Future has successfully hosted a number of virtual events – including the annual Cambridge Launchpad end-of-year celebration – to celebrate the STEM success of students from schools throughout Cambridge; and NHS Opportunities, in partnership with the NHS, to promote the wealth of careers

on offer from one of the region’s largest employers.

“This virtual method of delivery also gives us more flexibility and means we can reach many more schools across a wider area. Converting our careers workshops into live online events also makes it easier for volunteers. No fighting through Cambridge traffic to get to a school for 9am! Our volunteers have responded really well to this,” explains Anne. As the new academic year gets going, Form the Future is back in schools (virtually) and is seeing its work needed more than ever. “The pandemic has raised awareness of the challenges that recent grads and school leavers are going to face, not just immediately, but for the longer term,” says Anne. “Trying to start your career in a global recession is hard enough, but the added challenge of remote working can be a real barrier. We’re hoping that the new incentives for apprenticeships and for the Kickstart programme will allow us to help many more young people into careers and help businesses plug their skills gaps.” To find out more about Form the Future’s work, visit

Trying to start your career in a global recession is hard enough, but the added challenge of remote working can be a real barrier"




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