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DIGIT Deal Roundup Column | February 2021

David Paul

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DIGIT Deal Roundup

Moving into the second month of 2021, Scotland saw a multitude of new partnerships and funding announcements from firms such as Check Point, Sustainably, Opex, and Frog Systems.

Deals and Partnerships

 

Check Point and SBRC

Check Point SBRC

Check Point announced it will partner with the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) to support its new cyber incident response helpline for Scottish SMEs.

Launched in October 2020, the free helpline is the first of its kind in the UK and was deployed in the face of rising cyber threats toward businesses and charities in the Scottish SME community.

Roddy MacCallum, Head of Scotland at Check Point Software Technologies, commented: “Being able to help SMEs that have been targeted by cyber-attacks to recover quickly is critical to their continued operation.

“In many cases, SMEs don’t have the expert resources available in-house to deal with cyber incidents and don’t know who to turn to for help.

“By partnering with SBRC on its cyber incident response helpline, we can give SMEs access to the knowledge and support they need to recover as fast as possible from attacks.”

Mark Cunningham-Dickie, SBRC’s Cyber Incident and Response Manager said: “We’re delighted to welcome Check Point as a new member of the SBRC Cyber Cadre team.

“Check Point’s credentials in incident response is outstanding, and they join a group of other dedicated organisations that will support the local SME community.”

Check Point has worked with the SBRC for the past two years, helping businesses in Scotland and across the UK stay secure.

The cybersecurity firm said the partnership underlines its ongoing commitment to providing SMEs with the training and support needed to help them prevent cyberattacks from impacting their business.

To read the full article, click here.


Opex and Dana Petroleum

Digit Deal Roundup

An Aberdeen-based provider of data analytics and predictive technology solutions has entered a long-term collaboration with North Sea oil and gas operator Dana Petroleum.

Having worked with OPEX Group previously, Dana has now signed a three-year contract with two one-year options. As Dana’s data-analytics partner, OPEX Group will be applying their X-PAS analytics platform across the firm’s Triton and Western Isles FPSO assets.

X-PAS will be implemented on critical systems on both North Sea assets to improve operational stability and reliability. Dana has also rolled out a number of OPEX’s AI-driven tools to automatically monitor sub-systems on the Triton and Western Isles assets.

The six-figure per annum contract builds upon the collaboration with OPEX Group, which has already translated valuable data insights into production and maintenance efficiencies.

Jamie Bennett, CEO of OPEX Group, said: “This new contract win builds upon our successful collaboration with Dana Petroleum. We look forward to continuing to support their asset teams, helping to enhance productivity and provide digital solutions to operational challenges.

“It arrives at a time when OPEX is rapidly expanding our product offering, encompassing both operational stability and emissions reduction solutions to help operators achieve their decarbonisation targets.”


Converged and TechFest

converged

IT and cybersecurity company Converged Communication Solutions joined forces with Scottish charity TechFest to help other charities better protect themselves against online crime.

Through a new virtual event that took place in late February during CyberScotland Week, the free Cyber Security Basics for Charities workshop provided a chance to learn, question and build cyber confidence.

As organisations have transitioned to remote working and are relying on digital communication more than ever, many employees and volunteers have fallen victim to cyber threats.

According to research from Ecclesiastical Insurance, 95% of charities now work from home. Only half of these organisations are taking the necessary steps to increase cyber protection for staff working remotely, resulting in one-third falling victim to cybercrime.

Robbie Ross, chief security officer at Converged Communication Solutions said: “It’s a sad fact that cybercriminals do not care who they target and therefore it is vital that charities are as prepared as any business for a cyber-attack.

“Unfortunately, though, when it comes to cybersecurity, very often charities can be at a disadvantage and we want to change this. A huge perceived barrier is around lack of technical skills or know-how, but we want to assure charities that good cybersecurity practices are entirely achievable without these. It is time to take away the stigma that cybersecurity is ‘techy’ and ‘geeky’.

“Many of us do this job for the simple reason that we don’t want to see people and businesses falling victim to cybercrime, especially when there are simple steps, they can take to protect themselves.

“For this reason, we made a commitment to reach as many charities as possible this year, to arm them with the fundamentals and the tools required to more confidently protect their organisation from threats. Our partnership with TechFest underlines this ambition.”

To read the full article, click here.


AAI EmployAbility

AAI EmployAbility

Led by social enterprise AAI EmployAbility, the ‘Back to Work’ programme is supported by the Scottish Government’s Women’s Returner Fund.

The initiative will have a dual focus of supporting underrepresented communities while empowering organisations to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

A range of organisations spanning several industries will take part in the initiative, including Brewgooder, OneBanks, Heartbox, Cutitronics, the RSPB and East Renfrewshire Council.

As part of the programme, six private sector companies will take on minority ethnic women for paid work placements.

Joy Lewis, CEO of AAI EmployAbility said: “While this is the fourth consecutive year in which we have run a diversity-focused project with the financial backing of the Scottish Government, you could argue that understanding diversity and taking steps to be truly inclusive has never been more important to our workforce.

“2020 saw the pandemic rage through societies worldwide, while issues of social justice and racism came to the fore in an extraordinary and urgent fashion.

“The aim of this project is to support both underrepresented, yet incredibly talented, women and our partner employers, giving them the tools that will improve employment prospects at the end of the journey.”

Colin Hewitt, Founder and CEO of cash flow forecasting specialist Float, said: “We’re delighted to be working with AAI on their Back to Work project.

“This project is important to Float as we’ve become aware of the challenges in society for women who’ve had a career break, and how those barriers are amplified for many communities in Scotland.

“It’s fantastic to now be able to support initiatives like these and I’m looking forward to seeing Float continue to do more in the area of diversity and inclusion.”

Yvette McLaren, a participating women returner who has secured a paid four-week placement with Float, added: “I’ve been part of previous programmes for women returners, but have never felt they were properly tailored to my background or needs.

“My confidence has skyrocketed from attending these online events, getting one-to-one support from AAI, and particularly from the opportunity to interact with potential employers.

“I’ve lived in Edinburgh since 1991 and it’s reassuring to know there are businesses here really trying to take diversity seriously.”

To read the full article, click here.


DataVita

Data centre provider DataVita has become the first Scottish IT company to sign the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact and commit itself to a carbon-neutral future.

Launched this year, the pan-European initiative has seen more than 40 companies and trade organisations pledge to reduce their carbon footprint and make data centre and cloud operations more sustainable.

As part of the pact, DataVita has agreed to meet 2025 and 2030 targets in areas such as energy efficiency, water conservation, heat recycling, and the re-use and repair of server equipment.

Commenting on the announcement, DataVita Managing Director, Danny Quinn, said: “We’re fast becoming a digital and data-driven society, which means data centres are becoming an even more critical element of our infrastructure.

“Data centres are fast becoming the fourth utility, and with that, we have a real opportunity and responsibility to focus on sustainability.”

The Pact follows the launch of the European Green Deal, which set the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with companies involved supporting the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

Quinn added: “By their nature, data centres can consume large amounts of energy, but the IT industry is also one of the most forward-thinking sectors when it comes to adopting new technology and making positive changes.

“The Climate Neutral Data Centre pact highlights the industry-wide focus on addressing the greatest challenge of our time, and while we’re already making progress with sustainable processes and systems, we want to further reduce our carbon footprint.

“The global focus on sustainability is not limited to the data centre and IT industry. As businesses become more aware of their and their supply chain’s environmental impact, small changes – and their associated energy savings – can make a larger collective impact.”

To read the full article, click here.


Accenture

Accenture Infinity Works

Accenture announced the acquisition of cloud and digital transformation consultancy, Infinity Works last month.

The firm said it hoped that the deal would “further strengthen and expand” its cloud delivery and engineering capabilities.

Karthik Narain, global lead of Accenture Cloud First, commented: “Acquiring Infinity Works is a significant step in advancing our Accenture Cloud First strategy and capabilities in the UK, and in achieving our purpose to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity.

“The Infinity Works team brings deep cloud and engineering specialisation and increases our ability to leverage cloud-native architectures, applications and methods to help clients innovate and operate with speed and flexibility at scale.”

Commenting on the acquisition, Infinity Works co-founder Paul Henshaw said: “Accenture’s resources and capabilities will enable us to better support our customers’ digital projects while providing them with the same exceptional levels of service they’ve come to expect.

“Ever since Infinity Works was founded, we have used cloud-first approaches to help our customers migrate to the cloud and enable them to digitally transform at scale and speed.

“We are proud of our proven experience of delivering across multiple sectors using a combination of our unique working culture, values, and technical expertise.”

Emma Kendrew, cloud infrastructure engineering lead at Accenture UK & Ireland, added: “We are delighted to welcome the Infinity Works team as they bring a strong culture and unique approach to cloud that aligns well with Accenture.

“Modern software engineering is critical to unleashing the transformational power of cloud and adding the exceptional talents of the Infinity Works team will help propel us forward in realising our Cloud First ambitions.”

To read the full article, click here.


Spire Global

Skypark

Nanosatellite production firm Spire Global UK has announced a pre-let deal to take up office space at Glasgow’s Skypark.

Spire Global is moving into larger premises after seeing a rapid expansion of its presence in the park over the last four years.

The ‘landmark’ deal will see the firm move from 11,200 sq. ft. premises on the site to a new purpose-built office and manufacturing facility totalling 29,511 sq. ft. on a 10-year lease.

Spire Global, which collects data from space to monitor aviation, maritime and weather patterns across the world, says it can now use the larger office space and manufacturing facility to build its workforce.

Senior Investment Manager at the international business of Federated Hermes, Stephen Ellis, commented: “Skypark continues to attract high-quality and diverse names that are looking to expand, and this is further testament to the exceptional quality of Skypark’s office space which continues to develop as one of Scotland’s leading business locations.

“With ongoing improvement works, such as the recent Platinum Certification by CyclingScore on its cycling facility, Skypark has a unique offering that will continue to meet the needs of its occupiers in the years to come.”

The Scottish government has pledged support for the country’s space scene, announcing a £14.7 million investment for Spire Global to “help create more than 260 jobs in Scotland’s space sector”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the company has received one of the largest funding packages ever provided by Scottish Enterprise.

Commenting on the investment boost, head of global communications at Spire Global, James Pearson, said: “Scotland has become a vital part of Spire’s European growth, as Glasgow has produced more satellites than any other city in Europe, including over 100 launched from Spire.

“New funding will enable Spire to establish a stronghold in the UK and continue to design, build, test, and integrate satellites entirely within one building in Skypark, Glasgow.

“Our aim is to offer the most effective weather forecast in the world and to make Scotland a leading region in the European space sector.”

To read the full article, click here.


Tes and SchoolCloud

Business Disruption

Tes announced the purchase of online parents’ evening software firm SchoolCloud in February.

The acquisition of Glasgow-based SchoolCloud by Tes further widens the solutions that the EdTech leader offers to schools, including timetabling, pupil management, wellbeing survey tools, recruitment, and online safeguarding and compliance training.

Rod Williams, Chief Executive of Tes, said: “As a leading provider of software solutions to schools, we have seen growing adoption of technology by schools to help with all manner of tasks, from managing pupil behaviours, to planning class timetables, and monitoring staff wellbeing.

“However, this year, schools have understandably looked to adopt new technology with a greater sense of urgency.

“This is likely to leave a longstanding valuable legacy, given the clear benefits SchoolCloud has brought to schools. We’re very excited about this now becoming part of Tes’ offering to schools.”

Robbie Beattie, Co-founder of SchoolCloud, said: “We’ve seen huge success as more schools adopt new technology. However, by being part of Tes, we are now part of a trusted partner for tens of thousands of schools worldwide.

“We know both schools and parents love how SchoolCloud can evolve parents’ evenings and we’re excited at the prospect of now being able to bring this technology to so many more.”

Marcus Fields, Co-founder of SchoolCloud, said: “From a classroom project to a solution that can help teachers and parents across the globe, this has certainly been an incredible 16 years.

“The team around us care deeply about supporting schools and it is fantastic to become part of such an established brand that shares those values.”


Funding and Investment

Sustainably

Loral and Eischel Quinn

Tech for good company Sustainably reached its crowdfunding goal of £300,000 with a week still to go in February.

The charity donation app had received over £302,000 from 251 investors as of the 15th of February and went on to receive overfunding. The campaign was launched on January 18th, having made 80% of its funding by day two.

Based in both Edinburgh and London, the company started with links to 10 charities – it now works with at least 40 as part of its mission.

Sustainably Co-founder and CEO Loral Quinn said: “We’ve so far won over 250 investors, who have collectively backed Sustainably’s giving tech with over £302k.

“By providing a continuous new revenue stream for good causes, we’re transforming frictionless giving. This funding will allow us to reach new users and charities, improve our app, and launch a B2B platform.”

The company’s Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Eishel Quinn added: “Myself and Loral are really thankful to everyone who has joined the Sustainably crowdfunding community so far. It’s been really amazing to see the response.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the diverse team we’ve built at Sustainably, which has now grown to ten other members whose skills include software engineering, data science, marketing, user experience, user interface design and product design. We’re confident that we have a compelling customer proposition that will delight and deliver real value to our customers.

“We can’t wait to bring the roadmap to life – designing multiple ways to give and adding more features to the app. On top of that, we’re also about to start a corporate pilot with one of the largest UK insurers and their 16,000 staff.

“We recently launched our beta charity platform for causes to fully self serve on Sustainably which will enable us to onboard charities at scale. And finally, our plans are underway to launch into international markets by 2023.”

To read the full article, click here.


Frog Systems

mental health technology industry Frog Systems

It was a strong February for Glasgow-based tech startup Frog Systems, which secured a significant funding boost from several blue-chip investors.

The majority of the £500,000 investment came from chair of the Aldridge Foundation Sir Rod Aldridge, who is founder and former chair of Capita Group, with the balance coming from existing investors and four new investors.

Frog says the money will be used to finance the recruitment of new staff, including a sales and service team to lead the company’s expansion over the next 12 months.

The funding boost will also enable the firm to release its online mental wellness platform across a range of sectors, including corporate, financial and professional services, higher education, housing, arts, sport and membership and governing bodies.

Commenting on the news, Aldridge said: “Mental and physical illness does not discriminate. Each one of us is touched by it at some point in our lives and the current pandemic has exacerbated this situation.

“The innovative technology developed by Frog which is a free, online resource, uses the power of video to encourage taking the first step in seeking early support – providing a bridge between citizen and service provider.”

Around £1.8 million has been invested by Frog in developing “an IT platform that is both scalable along with offering the ability to fully customise solutions to a client’s particular circumstances or requirements”.

Chair of Frog Systems Nick Kuenssberg said: “Having achieved a robust scalable platform, Frog is now well-placed to demonstrate its unique capabilities in partnership with any organisation with a duty of care towards its staff, membership or customers.

“This funding allows the company to make a real difference to society at a time when mental health and wellbeing are top of most people’s agenda.”

To read the full article, click here.


Suji BFR

SujiBFR

Edinburgh-based health and fitness startup Suji BFR received a six-figure investment to support the development of a smart fitness device.

SujiBFR secured the funding as part of an investment round led by BioCity Group. Tennis champion Jamie Murray and his partner Alejandra Murray are among the investors backing Suji BFR alongside Scottish Enterprise.

Commenting on the device, Jamie Murray said: “Everyone is aware of the challenges of avoiding and overcoming injury, not to mention the joint and muscle pain that can be experienced during training. Suji BFR has taken the scientifically proven benefits of BFR and incorporated these into a device that is easy to use, safe and effective,” he said.

“For me, Suji Device also acts as an effective tool when I’m on the road with limited access to gym equipment. It’s a perfect example of how investment in new solutions can help athletes to reduce pain, optimise performance and recover after injury,” Murray added.

SujiBFR said the investment will be used for product development, to accelerate customer growth and create additional technical jobs in the firm.

The backing comes as Suji BFR announces a partnership with the LTA, the national governing body for tennis in Great Britain.

The partnership means the LTA Performance team can assign Suji Devices to players on tour, while also making it one of a number of technologies available at its National Tennis Centre, for players supported through the governing body’s Elite, Pro Scholarship and Men’s & Women’s Programmes.

The deal continues the LTA’s drive to move tennis forward through innovation, and forms part of a wider LTA performance strategy to use advanced athlete technology to support elite players both when training at home and when competing on tour.

Scottish entrepreneur Alexander Birks, who set up the company after a successful career in boxing, commented: “I created Suji BFR to fill that gap and make effective and safe BFR training accessible to everyone, not only the professionals but the huge number of fitness enthusiasts who could benefit from this technology.

“Users have reported improvements in muscle strength of up to 31% as well as reductions in joint and muscle soreness by 7 points out of 10. The connected app safely guides users through set-up and use while their progress is logged after each training session.”

To read the full article, click here.


Heriot-Watt University & UKATC

Scottish Space Sector Soars To new Heights. UK Galileo Satellite System. astrophotonics

Heriot-Watt University joined forces with the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) last month to help carry out astrophotonics research in Scotland.

The project has received over £890,000 in funding from the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council to pursue two main areas of research.

Funding will enshrine Edinburgh as a “world centre for astrophotonics,” and will allow researchers to focus on developing new optical components.

Heriot-Watt is leading a new consortium, which includes partners from the UKATC, the University of Arizona and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

Professor Robert Thomson, head of Heriot-Watt’s Photonic Instrumentation Group said: “We find ourselves at a point where conventional approaches to optical instruments like telescopes are reaching their limits.

“Astrophotonic technologies offer a route to circumvent these limits and help astronomers discover more about our universe.

“Our aim is to use advanced photonic manufacturing techniques to fabricate optics that are not limited in their shape like normal optics. In the long term, this will allow astronomical instruments that are more efficient and lower cost.”

Professor Derryck Reid, head of the Ultrafast Optics Group at Heriot-Watt, will focus on improving the way astronomers measure light.

“We’re going to demonstrate a new class of small, ultra-stable lasers that will provide a ‘ruler’ for the wavelength of light,” Reid said. “This will allow astronomers to measure the wavelength of starlight extremely precisely, and in a way that allows comparisons over years and even decades.

“The wavelength signatures of starlight can reveal exciting information about questions such as whether life exists on exoplanets, or if the fundamental constants of physics are in fact changing by tiny amounts,” he commented.

The three-year project aims to demonstrate new research and builds on sustained funding to Heriot-Watt from the STFC and other funding organisations such as the EU over the past decade.

It will also support work that is taking astrophotonic technology to the higher technology readiness levels needed for deployment on major international projects like the Extremely Large Telescope.

Professor Chris Evans, head of science at the UKATC, said: “As we build larger telescopes to look deeper into the universe, they scale upwards in size and cost with traditional optics.

“Establishing this joint project with Heriot-Watt gives us an exciting opportunity to explore the huge potential of new photonic technologies towards the cutting-edge astronomical instruments of the 2030s and beyond.”

To read the full article, click here.


University of Aberdeen

quantum

Researchers from the University’s Department of Chemistry were awarded a New Horizons grant worth a total of £326,000 from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC).

According to researchers, the money will allow them to “push the boundaries” of quantum computing and LCD displays.

The first of the two projects, led by Professor Abbie McLaughlin and Dr Eve Wildmawill, will “observe the phenomenon of Many-Body Localisation (MBL) in a chemical compound for the first time,” according to a university statement.

A breakthrough in this area could supposedly result in the design of new quantum technologies, such as computers with “superior algorithmic capabilities”.

Professor McLaughlin commented: “Normally, quantum computers must be cooled to extremely low temperatures but the MBL system is less sensitive to its environment and can allow quantum computers to operate at higher temperatures.

“If successful, this research could result in the design of new quantum technologies, such as advanced quantum computers and sensors, which would have major benefits in sectors such as healthcare, aerospace, transport, finance, and telecommunications.”

As part of the second project, led by researchers Professors Corrie Imrie and John Storeywill, a new liquid crystal phase will be investigated which could potentially lead to the “next generation of LCD screens”.

Commenting on the research, Professor Imrie said: “Our aim is to develop new materials that may be used in a wide range of applications.

“We all use liquid crystal displays in our televisions, computer monitors, tablets and phones. This research could lead to the next generation of extremely fast switching LCDs operating at lower power, improving their performance and environmental impact.

“This has the potential to transform the LCD industry,” he said.

Professor McLaughlin, Director of Research for Chemistry, added: “The New Horizons programme is designed to support high-risk, transformative research and these projects highlight the innovative and impactful research being undertaken at the University.

“They have the potential to revolutionise technology that plays a vital role in our society and I’m looking forward to driving this research forward.”

New Horizons funding will be a welcome boost for UK quantum technology research, following on from the news in September last year (2020) of £10 million in funding for the country’s first quantum computer hosted in Abington, Oxfordshire.

The new computer could supposedly provide up to £4 billion of economic opportunities globally by 2024, and surpass over £341 billion globally in productivity gains within the next few decades.

In Scotland, too, quantum technology is becoming increasingly important technology. Edinburgh-based laser manufacturer UniKLasers secured an £800,000 in September last year from Innovate UK to drive future research.

The National Research and Innovation Agency says it could use the money to help spearhead the commercial development of quantum technology applications.

To read the full article, click here.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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