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DIGIT Deal Roundup Column: May 2020

David Paul

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deal roundup

In this month’s DIGIT Deal Roundup, we see new deals from ScotlandIS, AdinMo, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and Edinburgh Council.

Investment

ScotlandIS

Connecting Scotland

ScotlandIS announced that the Scottish Government is planning to invest £5 million to boost digital connectivity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Government announced the launch of a new programme, Connecting Scotland, in May. The programme hopes to assist 9,000 high-risk people so they can access services and support and also connect with friends or family during the pandemic.

Holyrood’s investment will be focused on improving internet connections, funding training and support schemes and providing laptops or tablets to some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

Those taking part in the programme will also be paired with a ‘digital champion’, who will help to support them for six months to get connected and access vital information online.

Commenting on the announcement, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Access to the internet is a real lifeline during these difficult times, so we want to support people to get online and stay connected through this project.

“The advice is clear that we need to stay at home, but for those shielding and in a high-risk group, and not online, we know this is difficult and can increase isolation and loneliness at a time they already feel vulnerable and might be missing other support.”

Campbell added: “The internet helps us to keep in touch with friends and family and is an important way to find information on support services during this challenging time.

“This £5 million investment will bring 9,000 more people online over the coming months, and help people best manage the impact that coronavirus is having on their lives.”

The Connecting Scotland project will be delivered alongside local authorities, as well as Healthcare Improvement Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and ScotlandIS.

It has also secured support from Microsoft, Leidos, The Data Lab and Accenture.

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of ScotlandIS, insisted the programme will help to provide critical support amid a challenging period.

She said: “ScotlandIS is delighted at news of the Scottish Government’s funding of the Connecting Scotland programme. The initiative, with support from several key industry players, will help the most vulnerable people in Scotland get online to access much-needed support, information, and training at this challenging time.

“It is through collaboration, innovation, and intent that we can advance the digitisation of Scotland and ensure no-one is left behind when it comes to online connectivity, and ScotlandIS is proud to play its role in delivering on this ambition.”


AdInMo

AdInMo

Edinburgh-based AdInMo has secured a $500,000 (£409,085) investment round led by Techstart Ventures.

The new funding will allow AdInMo to invest in scaling-up its platform capabilities and build out its core team.

This begins with the appointment of Chris Wright, who joins the company as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Wright was previously co-founder and CTO at games analytics and ad-tech company deltaDNA, which last year was acquired by Unity Technologies.

Kristan Rivers, CEO at AdInMo, commented: “The in-game ad model is currently broken for all stakeholders. Advertisers can only run direct response campaigns, developers only get paid if a player clicks an ad and leaves their game, and players must put up with constant disruptions.

“AdInMo’s dynamic in-game ad platform solves all of this, by seamlessly integrating non-intrusive ads into gameplay which are impossible to skip, block or ignore, and as a result, AdInMo ad units deliver 4x higher brand recall compared with video ads. Put simply: AdInMo delivers advertising that reaches the unreachable.”

Mark Hogarth, Partner at Techstart Ventures, added: “Kristan and his team at AdInMo have developed an in-game advertising platform that enables brands to access an incredibly broad demographic at scale.

“AdInMo’s approach allows developers to monetise games without impacting the players’ experience. This is why Techstart was delighted to lead this seed round and we look forward to supporting AdInMo as it brings this exciting solution to the world’s most innovative advertisers, publishers and developers.”

AdInMo ad placements are designed to blend with the chosen game environment, appearing for example as billboards in racing games, backgrounds to puzzle games or coins and power-ups in platform games.

The programmatic technology allows advertisers to target audiences across numerous game genres via Internet Advertising Bureau approved formats, while tracking viewability and brand interaction metrics in real-time.


National Manufacturing Institute Scotland

National Manufacturing Institute Scotland

The Scottish Government has announced an additional £20 million in funding for the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS).

This latest funding boost takes the total Holyrood investment in the project to £75 million and comes as a contract is signed between Morrisons Construction and the University of Strathclyde to build the NMIS facility.

Worth around £42 million, the contract will see Morrisons Construction begin work later this year, with the site expected to take around 18 months to complete.

Operated by the University of Strathclyde, the NMIS includes the existing Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, which opened last year.

The Institute will be an industry-led centre of manufacturing expertise aimed at showcasing Scotland as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.

In addition to the latest funding boost, Holyrood announced £15.8 million of investment as the successful bidders to the Advanced Manufacturing Challenge Fund (AMCF) are confirmed.

Through 12 projects, colleges, local authorities, third sector organisations and universities across the country will provide free services to help SMEs develop and improve their manufacturing capabilities.

Commenting on the announcement, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government is working with our partners to create a successful, vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector.

“The National Manufacturing Institute and the Advanced Manufacturing Challenge Fund both form a key part of that, helping companies across Scotland to develop skills, perfect the latest techniques and push forward with cutting-edge research.”


Smarter Grid Solutions

Smarter Grid Solutions

The value of Scottish technology company, Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS), research and development (R&D) projects surpassed £20 million in May.

SGS has been involved in a range of R&D programmes on both sides of the Atlantic, with projects focusing on enabling electrical grid operators to address climate change and meet net-zero carbon emission targets.

One particular project involving SGS’ technology saw the development of smart ‘micro-grids’ that can manage electric supply and demand across cities, rural areas or even individual industrial sites.

In addition to underpinning a range of innovative projects, the firm revealed that it has enabled more than £300 million of investment in clean energy assets.

Bob Currie, chief technology officer and co-founder of SGS, commented: “Decarbonising grids has been at the heart of SGS’ business since the company was founded in 2008 and, during the past decade, we’ve seen an amazing shift in the energy landscape, with consumers and politicians alike now pushing towards net zero.

“The R&D we carry out in partnership with grid operators and fellow technology companies lies at the heart of achieving these goals.”

In Europe, the firm is working closely with UK Power Networks to connect more distributed energy resources (DERs), such as renewable energy devices and batteries to its grid.

It has also partnered with SP Energy Networks on electric vehicle smart charging and a project that will allow more DERs to be connected to existing network infrastructure, which in the long-term will avoid more costly grid upgrades.

Currie added: “Progress is already being made to decarbonise our power grids, but the real victories will come when our heat and transport networks are also electrified to remove or minimise carbon dioxide emissions.

“That means connecting cars, vans and other EVs to the grid so they can be recharged, and also heating and cooling our homes, businesses and factories using electricity instead of gas, oil or other polluting fuels.”

Smarter Grid Solutions has a number of upcoming R&D projects on the horizon, including work to integrate electric heating and alternative fuels such as green hydrogen into the grid.


CityFibre

CityFibre

CityFibre is connecting 152 public sector sites to gigabit-capable full-fibre broadband as part of a £7.5 million contract to improve digital services in the region.

Construction of the broadband network initially began in autumn last year. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic led to the project being put on hold.

Following the approval of the Highland Council and key partners, work has recommenced to deliver the broadband services, and work has already restarted to build critical digital infrastructure in Inverness, including NHS sites such as Raigmore Hospital,

The digital connectivity project is being carried out in line with guidance from the Scottish Road Works Commissioner and confirmation that the Scottish Government identifies telecommunications as Critical National Infrastructure.

Allan McEwan, CityFibre’s city manager for Inverness, commented: “This project is all about future-proofing and transforming public services across the Highlands.

“The last few weeks have underlined the vital role these services play in all our lives and it is so important that they have the digital infrastructure they need to deliver the best possible levels of service to everyone in the community.

“The infrastructure we are building has been classed as critical and that has allowed our construction teams to restart activity following a brief hiatus.”

Local contractor GCU UK, which is leading the building work on behalf of CityFibre, will implement additional measures and follow social distancing protocols to ensure the safety of both workers and the wider community.

McEwan added: “All construction crews will be following social distancing protocols that are designed to protect themselves and people in the community. Appropriate PPE will also be used to help them carry out these essential works.”


Edinburgh Council

Edinburgh CCTV

Edinburgh council says it intends to replace the city’s previous CCTV systems as it hopes to introduce talking cameras and number-plate recognition.

The city’s ageing CCTV system is set to receive a £650,000 makeover to accompany a host of new digital ideas across the city.

The council is exploring the use of current technologies and data systems to turn Edinburgh into a “smart city” in the future. The city’s updated CCTV network will likely be a key component of that upgrade.

The council has been evolving smart city ideas through its Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, run by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University, and funded through Edinburgh’s City Deal.

Depute council leader Cammy Day commented: “We are developing a smart city strategy and trying to get the best brains of the city together to have that discussion about what should the smart city look like.

“CCTV is part of that, but it is a substantial investment and is moving from analogue to digital the best thing when we can have remote cameras and a whole range of things?”

Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “It’s really important we don’t consider CCTV in isolation because we are considering as part of the smart cities the whole issue about whether we have a city operations centre. We are talking to both CGI and the university DDI programme about it.

“It is obvious to us the need to enhance technology and the way we deal with technology is going to be a big part of that plan.”

Edinburgh council says it is “setting out bold, ambitious ideas” to help it achieve its 2050 vision for the city through its ‘Connecting our City, Transforming our Places‘ concept.

“The ideas focus on better places designed with people at their heart, with space for human connections; a city that is enabled by technology driving a stronger economy,” a statement from the council read.

“The ideas also focus on transport as an enabler of transformational change – by re-prioritising how we use our public spaces, roads and streets, using smart technology and integrated services, we can help create a more active, resilient and inclusive city.”


DevicePilot

London based software company DevicePilot announced an extra £1.7 million in funding from its most recent seed investment round, led by Venture Capital firm Beacon Capital, in May.

The extra funding now takes the company’s total investment to more than £3 million and includes investors such as Skyscanner founders Gareth Williams and Bonamy Grimes, and Entrepreneur First founders Alice Bentick and Matt Clifford.

DevicePilot says it can now expand its Service Monitoring platform, used by businesses with large networks of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices to improve the delivery of their services.

Company co-founder and Head of Product, Keith Reed, said: “The single-most-important question any business needs to ask itself is: ‘Is my device estate ready to deliver my business today?’

“As connected devices become more and more prevalent in businesses, Service Monitoring is emerging as a key, but often overlooked, requirement for industry growth.”

Co-founder and CEO of DevicePilot, Pilgrim Beart, added: “This funding helps take us to the next level.

“Every connected product company discovers an inflexion point where it’s impossible to continue delivering a good service to customers without complete, real-time oversight of their network.”

Maria Dramalioti-Taylor, Managing Partner at Beacon Capital, commented: “It is clear that connected devices have enormous potential to revolutionise businesses in almost every sector – but many have failed to deliver on their promise.

“DevicePilot can catalyse the adoption of IoT by solving a problem that all connected device companies are experiencing.

“Every other sector of the digital economy has benefited from a plethora of customer experience tools.

“IoT companies have not to date had access to similar enterprise-grade tools. DevicePilot has the potential to be this missing piece of the IoT technology stack.”


UniKLasers

Precision laser manufacturer UniKLasers has closed a £750,000 financing round led by Par Equity with support from the Scottish Investment Bank.

The investment will enable the firm to expand and upgrade its manufacturing and R&D capabilities, build its global sales and marketing pipeline and increase its workforce.

Anastasia Bombrys, chief operating officer at UniKLasers, said the new investment round comes at a particularly poignant time.

She said: “This month is a very important milestone in laser history. It marks the 60th anniversary since the invention of the world’s first laser by American physicist, Theodore Maiman.

“The intervening period has seen laser become crucial to manufacturing, engineering and academic research across the world.

“Par Equity’s support in championing the development of young businesses is unrivalled in Scotland. it is a standard-bearer for high growth businesses with exceptional potential and we are delighted to be part of its portfolio.”

This latest investment round takes the company’s total funding since 2017 to £2.3 million and is the second that Par Equity has made since its recent partnership with British Business Investments through the Regional Angels Programme.

Paul Atkinson, sponsoring partner at Par Equity, commented: “Par Equity first invested in UniKLasers in 2017 and we are delighted to continue supporting the Company as one of the very best high-growth technology startups.

“Through our EIS Fund, our Private Investor Network, our recent tie-up with British Business Investments and with the Scottish Investment Bank we are able to draw on a breadth of firepower for our portfolio.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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