business

UK Tech list: 35 of the companies showing the best innovation and technology

We take a look at those business striving to break new ground through innovation and invention

There are many great examples of companies using groundbreaking technology and innovation right across the UK's business world.

Sectors such as life sciences and software to advanced manufacturing and financial services are all utilising the most forward-thinking, innovative ways to grow their businesses.

Our UK Tech list draws on the expertise of Trinity Mirror business reporters and editors in England and Wales to highlight 35 great businesses doing just that.

The list, which appears in alphabetical order, brings together established firms driving new phases of impressive technology-fuelled growth to small starts-ups looking to disrupt established markets.

Access Pay

Fintech company Access Pay is looking to recruit up to 60 new members of staff and accelerate its plans to expand into the US markets following a £2m funding boost earlier this year.

Launched in 2012, Access Pay has played a key role in transforming the way business payments are sent and received across the world.

Its software allows businesses to automate their payment transactions more quickly and securely through one platform.

They service a range of clients from SMEs to large corporates including Clifford Thames and European research organisation CERN.

Having secured funding with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank’s Growth Finance team, the Manchester company has revealed plans to embark on a recruitment drive and establish an operation in the US.

Airbus

Airbus' huge operations at Broughton in north Wales and Filton near Bristol, play a pivotal role in the design and production of some of the world' s most technologically advanced aircraft, including its A380 superjumbo.

The wing-making operation at Broughton employs 6,000 with more than 4,000 in Filton.

The aerospace giant spends around £4bn annually with UK suppliers, which supports a further 11,000 high-skilled jobs in its supply chain.

British Airways Airbus A320

 

AO.com

Stock Market listed online electricals retailer, AO.com, was founded in 2000 by John Roberts following a £1 bet in a Bolton pub.

Formerly known as Appliances Online, the company rebranded in 2013 to become AO.com and the current logo was born.In the same year they aired their first TV advert, and reached 1 million Facebook likes.

AO.com stocks over 4,000 products and delivers millions of electricals every year from its 740,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Crewe.

Atom Bank

Atom Bank, in Durham, is a challenger bank chaired by Metro Bank founder Anthony Thomson, that is using technology to provide the most personalised service in its sector.

With investment from around Europe, most recently a £30 injection of funds from the British Business Bank, the company showed its quirky side earlier this year by appointing rapper will.i.am to join its board to advise on “culture, philanthropy and technology.”

Autotrader

Manchester-headquartered Autotrader is seen as the ‘king of the automotive digital market.

Following a transformative few years including an IPO (flotation) in 2015, the business today is a tech savvy digitally led operation with revenues of £281m.

Marking its 40th anniversary this year, the company has shifting gears in its efforts to serve car manufacturers and dealers in a way akin to how the likes of Google and Facebook service their advertisers with a raft of creative and data tools.

The bulk of the company’s revenues may still flow from classified ads from dealers but online advertising from car manufacturers, underpinned by programmatic and native, is where it sees its future.

Beatroot

Macclesfield music moguls Miles Galliford and Chris Garrett are the brains behind music intelligence platform, Beatroot.

Offering audio analysis and insight, Beatroot is able to catalogue millions of tracks, “anatomising” each one, providing accurate discovery and drilldown across entire catalogues.

Founded in 2014, Garrett targeted 500 customers by the end of its first full year, and is set to break the US market. He’s hoping to keep the team fairly tight, but wants highly skilled professionals on the team.

Beauty Bay

Expanding beauty specialist, Beauty Bay, set up camp in a 60,000 sq ft warehouse in Trafford Park last year.

Recently teaming up with XPO Logistics to manage the company’s double-digit growth by providing e-fulfilment logistics operations, Beauty Bay is proving to be leaders in online beauty industry.

Originally launched in 1999 as Fragrance Bay, the name change came soon after as they extended their product line.

It now offers more than 10,000 products from the UK and International brands.

Bluesky International

The way we look at the world is changing – partly thanks to business such as aerial photography firm Bluesky International, in Coalville, Lecistershire.

Bluesky creates high-resolution aerial images which are used by Government agencies and utility firms. The company has secured several multi million pound contracts in recent years.

The business specialises in aerial surveys using photography, laser surveys, and thermal data using the very latest survey technology.Analysis of the Bluesky models has uncovered evidence of more than 300 potential archaeological features.

The business is an internationally recognised leader with projects extending around the globe, including with prestigious organisations such as Google, the BBC and government agencies.

Bombardier

Bombardier is a global aerospace, defence and railway company with its train-building site at Litchurch Lane in Derby employing around 1,600 people.

And earlier this year it secured a £1bn contract to supply trains for the new East Anglia franchise and a £900m deal to make trains for the new South West Trains franchise.

The Derby site is the only facility in the UK able to design, manufacture, assemble and test new trains for domestic and export markets.

Flybe Bombardier Q400 plane

 

Boohoo.com

Online fashion retailer boohoo.com is the vanguard of fast fashion. It was Launched by Mamud Kamani and Carol Kane in 2006, leveraging their extensive experience in the fashion industry to create a budget priced clothes retailer aimed at 16-24 year olds.

It’s successful online model saw the company float on the London Stock Exchange and is now growing across both Europe, while making its debut in the USA with the acquisition of Nasty Gal earlier this year.

Cobra Biologics

Cobra Biologics is a biologics and pharmaceuticals company which specialises in the manufacturing of the raw materials used in gene therapy - a medical process used to correct genetic disorders.

The company, based at Keele in Staffordshire, last year generated revenue of £25m.

It recently announced plans for a £15 million expansion which will see the creation of up to 50 new jobs and result in increased manufacturing and production capacity at its Keele base and the company's two facilities in Sweden.

Connexica

Stafford-based Connexica has develops CXAIR, one of the UK's leading search-powered data discovery platform.

The company's products help organisations in both the public and private sector - including local authorities and the NHS - to gain powerful insight from their data and allows users of al technical ability to carry out their own data analysis and reporting.

The award-winning company, which employs 32 people and has a turnover of £1.3m, is now looking to build useful applications off its CXAIR platform to help organisations understand better their data and allow them to join the information with other data sources.

EPM Technology

EPM Technology is a high-performance engineering business which specialises in composite component design and manufacture of complex assemblies and sub systems for automotive, aerospace, defence and F1 clients.

From its purpose-built, 60,000 sq ft technology centre in Derby, the firm manufactures complex, lightweight, performance-critical and environmentally advantageous components, including patterns, jigs and prototype parts.

The company is organised, accredited and is today operating faster, more efficiently and with more flexibility than ever before.

It is these factors that will help ensure the firm maintains its position as a leading company in the manufacture of composite and metallic materials that build genuine, engineering momentum.

Custodian Solutions

Software company Custodian Solutions is using its technology to combat dangerous fakes around the globe. Based at Exeter Quay, the company employs three in the south west and a further three across the UK.

Custodian helps companies that produce consumer goods to combat dangerous fakes of their products. It providing tools to support best investigative practices that allow investigators, analysts and lawyers to take safe, appropriate and effective enforcement action.

Headforwards

Headforwards is the poster boy of Cornwall’s tech sector and like other firms in the Duchy it epitomises growth and job creation.

Based at the Pool Innovation Centre, in the Camborne Pool Redruth Silicon Corridor, the soutsource software development company specialises in creating dedicated teams to work on long-term projects in partnership with its clients.

Launched in 2011, it has enjoyed exponential growth since and now employs 102 staff, but has plans to double that figure by 2020.

Headforwards was set up by Toby Parkins and Craig Girvan.

Horiba MIRA

Ironically for an operation at the cutting edge of driverless technology, Horiba Mira- the Motor Industry Research Association – near Hinckley, is a former RAF base.

Today it is a global centre for businesses involved in designing and testing the next generation of cars, bikes, vans, lorries and buses.

More pertinently it has played a pivotal role in the UK’s biggest collaborative trial of driverless and connected cars, which was recently given the green light to move out onto city streets.

Project partners Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors European Technical Centre are now ready for real life road testing in Milton Keynes and Coventry and, all being well, could go into production as early as 2019.

Horiba vice-chairman Kozo Ishida and George Gillespie, chief executive at Horiba Mira

 

Hopper HQ

Start-up Hopper HQ has created what is believed to be the only fully automated planning and scheduling tool for photo sharing website Instagram.

It enables brands, agencies and individuals to manage better their social media presence on the website and, more loosely, can be described as Tweetdeck for Instagram.

The Birmingham-based company now has nine staff and is predicting turnover will hit £1 million in the year to May 2018.

Co-founder Mike Bandar was even awarded a BEM in the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to young entrepreneurs in the West Midlands.

Mike Bandar, co-founder of Hopper HQ

 

Hydro Industries

Hydro Industries, based in Llangennech in west Wales, has developed ground breaking water purification technology.

Its technology is now being deployed across the world providing clean water to communities, including those in conflict hit countries such as Somalia and Sudan.

It also sees India as a huge growth market.

And it recently confirmed a tie up with global industrial firm Harsco Corporation, which has its HQ in the US.

The new agreement will enable both companies to bring environmental and recycling solutions to the steel plants globally.

IQE

One of Wales' leading technology firms, IQE, has been tipped to be at the heart of the next iPhone from Apple.

IQE, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, makes the special materials that are found in laser #diodes, which are expected to feature in the next Apple iPhone - to power ground breaking 3D tracking technology.

It is also a key partner in plans to create the world's compound semiconducter cluster in south east Wales, which could create up to 2,000 new hi-tech jobs. It has its global HQ in Cardiff.

Kar-Go

Kar-Go is on track to deliver one the of first road-legal driverless vehicles in 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The vehicle, built by the University of Aberystwyth-based Academy of Robotics is capable of delivering items to retail customers on unmarked roads without human assistance.

The academy recently closed its equity crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube at more than £321k – 107% of its original target.

The funding has also been matched by one of the largest tech companies in the world, according to William Sachiti, the group’s founder.

By using a combination of advanced robotics, driverless vehicle technology and an advanced package management system, Kar-Go will be able to make deliveries in residential areas at any time of the day.

Kromek

County Durham’s Kromek was named the most innovative company in the UK in 2016 after filing almost 247 patents on its radiation detection technology.

The company is the largest employer on Sedgefield’s NETPark and is moving into full commercialisation of the technology first developed at Durham University thanks to contracts around the world, including the US Defence Agency.

And it has just confirmed a new £4.17m five year contract with a health sector customer.

Magna Parva

It is apt that Magna Parva should be based next door to the National Space Centre, in Leicester, as it designs and makes parts for spaceships, satellites and planetary landers that might one day be orbiting Earth, landing on the moon or on missions to the planet Mars.

Put it another way, the business comes up with solutions for problems that haven’t even been invented yet.

Its solutions must be guaranteed to work on billion dollar, unmanned missions to the darkest corners of the solar system, where there is no room for even the slightest imperfection.

Two current projects it has been involved in include BepiColombo, Europe’s first mission to Mercury, and ExoMars, a seven-month journey to look at the planet’s atmosphere and discover whether there really is life on Mars.

Perpetual V2G Systems

Founded in 2013, green tech company Perpetual is already reducing the carbon footprint of companies such as Sainsbury’s.

It harnesses lithium ion cell technology to provide zero carbon power in a variety of off-grid and mobile power settings, ranging from carbon reduction systems for use in supermarket delivery vans through to critical onboard power supplies in emergency vehicles.

The batteries can also be used to provide remote power without the need for generators, and for off-grid power storage and temporary power in both domestic and commercial buildings.

Last year the Lampeter-based firm secured a £500,000 equity investment from Finance Wales.

Pixalytics

Pixalytics is a satellite remote sensing company working in the space sector – a field more commonly known as “Earth observation”.

There are about 1,500 active satellites orbiting the planet and a quarter of these collect data about what is happening on Earth.

The Plymouth Science Park-based firm downloads this data and processes it to create information for clients about the behaviour and resources on the Earth.

Examples include flood maps; information about soil and crop health; and data about what is happening in rivers, reservoirs and the oceans.

The company as formed in 2012 by Dr Sam Lavender and her husband Andrew Lavender.

Sage

The largest tech company on the FTSE 100, Sage employs nearly 2,000 people in Newcastle and more than 13,000 worldwide.

The accountancy software firm has been holding star-studded Sage Summits around the world to push its brand.

And under chief executive Stephen Kelly, has set itself up as a champion for SMEs.

It has also been on the acquisition trail, most recently spending £654m on US cloud financial management solutions firm Intacct.

Silson

The high-tech manufacturing Silson, based in Southam, Warkwickshire, makes ultra-thin membranes for use at the cutting edge of science around the world.

They are sold to around 600 customers in 35 countries around the globe, which include research institutes working with x-ray and electron beam technology.

And the business is now expanding after receiving backing from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking and the University of Warwick Science Park.

Silson has invested around £1m in its future growth over the past two years by moving to the new base on Insight Park and purchasing new, advanced machinery.

The team from Silson (from left): Dirk Schafer, Noshad Khowaja and Peter Anastasi, with research assistant Carmen Sánchez de Rojas Candela (seated)

 

Social Chain

Based in Manchester, with offices in London, Berlin and New York, Social Chain is now one of Europe’s largest influencer/social media marketing agencies.

It has a collective reach of over 200 million millennials and a rich client portfolio including Hungry House, Just Eat, Spotify, Microsoft, Puma and P&G.

Steven Bartlett founded Social Chain in 2014 with a cheque for £300,000 and an initial staff of six, after dropping out of Manchester.

Today, the agency runs campaigns for the likes of Disney and the BBC and owns world-renowned media brands such as Sporf, Student Problems and Love Food and has enjoyed viral success with its 'Manchester: Welcome to Zlatan' advertising campaign.

Sure Chill

Unlike conventional refrigeration, the patented Sure Chill cooling technology does not require a constant electricity supply and can be used to time-shift energy usage.

It provide cooling for over ten days or more without power in hot ambient conditions. The platform technology can be adapted to suit any cooling device, from cool box and domestic refrigerators to air conditioning and retail chillers.

And the Cardiff-based technology firm, which has been backed by Bill Gates, was recently named as one of 30 firms globally that can help create a better future for the world in a Dubai government backed initiative.

Renfrew Group International

Renfrew Group International comes up with engineering ideas for products ranging from motorbikes and cars to medical devices, torches, ride-on lawnmowers and even school chairs.

The list of projects the team has worked on seems endless.

There is the recent prototype for a self-care smartwatch; prototype engines for Loughborough hydrogen fuel cell business Intelligent Energy; designs for the popular Hoselock garden hose; even parts for Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, the McClaren SLR, Overfinch Range Rover and London buses.

The level of skills among the 25-plus team mean they were just at home designing car trims as medical devices that sit inside a patient’s body.

Riversimple

One of the most innovative companies in Wales, Riversimple has been working for years developing its breakthrough Rasa ‘network electric’ car powered by a small hydrogen fuel cell in the boot.

The Powys-based firm, led by Hugo Spowers, set out to rethink not just the way we power cars, but the way we build and acquire them.

The Rasa is as lightweight as it can be, its chassis a carbon fibre monocoque weighing just 40kg. And a product of 15 years of research, it emits only water and has a range of 300 miles.

And residents in Momouthshire have been chosen to test drive 20 of the hand built cars later this year, ahead of commercialisation in 2018.

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is a global aerospace, defence, energy and marine company, with its civil aerospace and nuclear divisions in Derby. It is the city's largest private sector employer with around 14,000 staff.

With a reputation for delivering the best jet engines in the world, Rolls-Royce’s product portfolio powers more than 35 types of commercial aircraft. Over 13,000 aircraft in-service around the world are powered by Rolls-Royce engines.

The Trent XWB is the world’s most efficient large aero engine.

Rolls-Royce aerospace

 

Telecom Networks

Internet provider Telcom is one of the north’s fastest growing companies.

Launched by Shaun Gibson and Doug Ward, Telcom provides ultrafast internet without digging up the streets thanks to a combination of fibre and dedicated wireless connections.

Telcom was born organically in 2014, based on their findings that the country had a huge internet connectivity gap, knowledge gained during the Tech Britain tour.

The company now has a team of 30, with offices in Manchester and London. High-profile customers include Google, Uber and Ticketmaster.

Toyota

Toyota has two manufacturing plants in the UK representing a total investment of £2.5bn and a workforce of 3,000.

The vehicle manufacturing plant is located at Burnaston, just outside Derby, and the engine manufacturing plant is located at Deeside in North Wales.

And in March the Japanese car maker announced plans to invest a further £240m in upgrading the Burnaston plant, which employs around 2,500 people, with new equipment, technologies and systems.

Last year, Toyota made around 180,000 vehicles at Burnaston.

Toyota C-HR(Image: Handout)

 

Torc2

Torc2, based in Coventry has created a new form of plastic that could revolutionise the way limb conditions and injuries are treated, claimed to be a world first.

It has also established a new process method using its flexible, durable compound that can be re-shaped at temperatures safe for patients.

Gary Blundell and Ron Taylor, who are part of the team that runs the firm, have a background in engineering and plastics and originally developed the new material as a potential replacement for the traditional Plaster of Paris casts.

Visualsoft

Visualsoft has hit the headlines for giving staff unlimited holidays, with boss Dean Benson arguing that staff should be trusted to do their work in whatever time it takes.

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