Frontier Developments named Business of the Year

Article by Tony Quested | Business Weekly

Frontier Developments, Cambridge’s world-leading video games developer is today unveiled as Business of the Year in the toughest competition in 30 years of the Business Weekly Awards.

The company, which passed a billion dollar valuation in the summer, held off a strong challenge from surgical robotics pioneer CMR Surgical to take the honours.

Although the honours were based on the last 12 months of trading, 2020 is going even better for Frontier. At the start of this week the share price soared 125p to 2,550 (up 5.15 per cent) and the market cap tipped $1.26 billion.

While only privately held startups qualify as unicorns, Frontier’s achievements set against the impact of COVID-19 on capital markets is little short of sensational. And, as we said in an exclusive article recently, there is much more to come: The industry is already valued at $150 billion and is forecast to grow at a conservative 10 per cent a year.

Frontier has gone from strength to strength since transitioning to a new business model and listing on the AIM market in 2013 and 2020 marks a golden age for the enterprise despite coronavirus.

The company has a number of highly anticipated partnerships on the table that are being rolled out imminently and over the coming years; its strong track record over many years as both a developer and a publisher has seen its share price grow more than ten-fold in less than four years.

Frontier’s ‘launch and nurture’ strategy for its immersive games including Elite Dangerous, Planet Coaster, Jurassic World Evolution and Planet Zoo, is holding the business in high esteem within the gaming community.

Its recently established foothold in the third-party publishing business also has investors excited. With five development partners signed in less than 12 months, this publishing business looks set to add further value to Frontier’s already prosperous portfolio.

Cambridge unicorn business CMR Surgical won the inaugural Sir Michael Marshall Engineering Excellence Award for the innovation and development inherent in its Versius robot arm for keyhole surgeons.

In late July we reported that the company had engineered a potentially lucrative new market in the Gulf for its Versius robotic arm for keyhole surgery. CMR experienced a strong start to 2020 with new installations and orders in markets including the UK, India, Italy and France.

As part of its accelerating global rollout, CMR formed a partnership with Gulf Drug – a medical equipment supplier in the United Arab Emirates – to take Versius to this strategically important region, increasing its commercial presence across Asia and the Middle East.

Strong progress has been made as part of the Versius clinical programme, with over 600 clinical cases successfully completed across gynaecology, upper GI, urology and colorectal surgery.

CMR Surgical joined the ranks of Cambridge’s $billion valued unicorns with a £195m Series C raise and has recently further strengthened its senior management team as it continues to grow worldwide.

Redgate Software, shrewdly led by CEO and co-founder Simon Galbraith, wins the International Trade Champion Award. The company is a soaraway success on the global stage, selling database development solutions.

It produced a stroke of genius in terms of global growth last year when it decided to invest $10 million in the acquisition and ongoing development of the biggest cross-platform database migrations tool, Flyway.

Already widely known for its SQL Server expertise, the move was a ‘killer’ play – designed to accelerate Redgate’s plans to enable the database to be included in DevOps, whatever database technology its customers are working on.

The Disruptive Technology Award goes to GeoSpock, the Cambridge extreme data technology pioneer. As we have previously and exclusively revealed, the company is in the process of wrapping up a megabucks and transformational investment round to underpin further international expansion.

GeoSpock has some exciting strategic investors lined up that are well positioned to ensure the company represents the de facto database powering telco IoT and Smart City deployments globally. We are further assured that the company has some major lines of business ‘cooking’ in Asia where appetite for GeoSpock’s technology continues to grow.

Tech Scale-Up of the Year winner, UltraSoC was acquired for multimillions this summer by Texas-headquartered Siemens Digital Industries Software.

UltraSoC provides instrumentation and analytics solutions that put intelligent monitoring, cybersecurity and functional safety capabilities into the core hardware of system-on-chip.

Prior to the Siemens acquisition, UltraSoc had closed a £5 million equity funding round, opened an engineering centre in Warsaw, recruited substantially in Cambridge and Bristol and increased its commercial presence in Europe, the US, Japan and China.

Biotech Scale-Up of the Year Evonetix is developing a desktop platform for scalable, high-fidelity and rapid gene synthesis. It is collaborating with US company Analog Devices Inc to fast-track the development and scale-up of the UK innovator’s desktop DNA writer. The technology will help facilitate the rapidly growing multibillion-dollar synthetic biology industry, Evonetix says.

Evonetix’ novel silicon chip controls the synthesis of DNA at many thousands of independently controlled reaction sites or ‘pixels’ on the chip surface in a highly parallel fashion.

Cambridge cell technology gamechanger Mogrify celebrates a double success in the Business Weekly Awards. The young company won the fiercely contested Life Science Innovation Award, sponsored by global Big Biotech AstraZeneca while co-founder and chief scientific officer Julian Gough is named Cambridge Enterprise Academic Entrepreneur of the Year.

Spearheaded by entrepreneur and CEO Dr Darrin Disley, Mogrify® has developed a proprietary direct cellular conversion technology which makes it possible to enhance existing stem-cell forward reprogramming methods or bypass development pathways altogether, effecting a direct transdifferentiation between a mature cell type to another mature cell type.

Leveraging advanced datasets of next-generation sequencing and regulatory networks, Mogrify is deploying this platform to engineer an evergreen and scalable source of cell types that exhibit efficacy and safety profiles necessary to transform the development of ex vivo cell therapies or in vivo reprogramming therapies for diseases with a high unmet clinical need.

After a stellar performance in its first year of operation which saw the company raise $20 million of start-up capital, $2.5m grant funding and close several deals with US BioPharma, Mogrify pivoted its business model to become a developer of ex vivo cell therapies as well as in vivo reprogramming therapies for indications of unmet need in haematology, immunology and ophthalmology.

The company is progressing these programs through pre-clinical development whilst forming strategic alliances with major European, US and Japanese biopharma players.

Healx is our AI Innovation winner. Only last October, Healx – which is leveraging AI technology to repurpose drugs to treat the planet’s rarest diseases – raised $56 million in a Series B round backed by Japanese and European investors to take its haul in a calendar year to around $66m.

In the last three months the company has agreed further significant global collaborations in uncharted areas of rare disease. Healx is looking to double its headcount by the start of 2021.

Young Company of the Year is Wellcome Sanger Institute spin-out Microbiotica; at just over three years old Microbiotica is the startup equivalent of an infant prodigy. And its potential for growth from young legs is immense.

The company recently joined forces with Cancer Research UK and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to pilot a major new cancer initiative.

Microbiotica was launched in December 2016 with the aim of creating a global leader to exploit the leading microbiome science built at Sanger. The new collaboration is designed to identify and develop microbiome co-therapeutics and biomarkers for cancer patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy., which is leading the UK’s push to become the AI technology capital of the world, won the Cambridge Judge Business School Graduate Business of the Year accolade. Among its founders and its growing workforce abounds Cambridge academic talent. was founded by mathematicians and engineers following years of research into machine intelligence, probability theory and multi-agent problems. Founded in 2016, it now has more than 110 employees from 29 countries.

Cambridge Judge Business School Woman Entrepreneur of the Year is Martina King, the CEO of Cambridge’s world-leading machine learning company Featurespace. The company’s international growth under King’s inspired leadership, with a technology based on University of Cambridge IP, made her the outstanding candidate for the Award this year.

King has also helped take the company into a thriving enterprise in the United States where headcount and contracts are rocketing.

Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s commercialisation arm, was thrilled to select Mogrify CSO and co-founder Julian Gough as winner of its Academic Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Mogrify CEO Dr Darrin Disley said the honour was thoroughly deserved: “Julian Gough is a very well deserved winner of the Academic Entrepreneur of the Year accolade. His drive and perseverance in the period 2016 to 2019 is the sole reason Mogrify was able to bridge the transition from a tripartite academic collaboration into an emerging biotech of sufficient calibre to attract Ahren Innovation Capital to invest, myself to take over the helm as CEO and for pharma industry leaders such as Dr Jane Osbourn and Dr Lorenz Mayer to join the board of directors.”

Dr Hermann Hauser won the Cambridge Enterprise Lifetime Achievement Award: Co-founder of the iconic Acorn Computers; co-founder of Arm, the world’s greatest superchip innovator; co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners – Dr Hauser would figure centre stage in pretty much any global academic and corporate company. Dr Hauser expressed himself “flattered” to be chosen.

Cambridge Enterprise CEO Dr Tony Raven felt Dr Hauser was long overdue recognition for putting the cluster on the world business map and working hard to keep it there.

This is the third year that this particular accolade has been awarded. Nobel Prizewinner Sir Greg Winter was the inaugural champion and last year the prize was shared by the co-founders of genomics sequencing trailblazer Solexa, Sir Shankar Balasubramanian and Sir David Klenerman. All the winners to date are knights of the Realm or British Empire.

The UK/China Award sponsored by Cambridge China Centre was won by TusPark, which has pioneered a beautiful biotechnology innovation hub at the Science Park and also invested in a number of local businesses. “It’s such an honour that TusPark UK has been awarded the The UK/China Award,” a spokesperson said.

TusPark UK is a magnificent ambassador for two-way trade between the territories and its flagship Bio-Innovation Centre at Cambridge Science Park is already making big headlines through the quality of its initial tenant companies.

Superchip architect Arm, which has agreed a $40 billion takeover by US company NVIDIA, wins the Kate Gross Prize for Social Enterprise. Last year, President and chief operating officer Graham Budd took an Arm team to tcheat with a battery of smart technologies to combat medical, food, flooding and other life-threatening crises.

It is one of many such global initiatives where Arm staff and management are adapting bleeding edge wearable and other technology to the needs of people in deprived areas of the globe.

The Business Weekly Awards were due to be presented at a gala dinner in March but the lockdown guillotined those plans. Attempts have been ongoing to hold a physical presentation around now but the Government’s new rule of six has again intervened – unless we meet in plus fours pretending we are shooting grouse or stage an impromptu fox hunt. The fox has been donated by – no, forget it.

Instead, lead forensic sponsor Mills & Reeve – the Cambridge based global law firm – will host a staggered presentation event within the next few weeks at which a representative of each winning company will receive their Award from one of the sponsors on a socially distanced and staged basis.

We will be launching the 2020-2021 Awards next week and are already taking entries. All the major sponsors have renewed their backing for the next Awards competition – a huge show of faith in the merit of the competition and their stated regard for Business Weekly’s role in promoting Cambridge on a world stage.

THE 30th Anniversary Business Weekly Award winners at a glance:

Business of the Year – Frontier Developments
Michael Marshall Engineering Excellence – CMR Surgical
International Trade Champion – Redgate Software
Young Company of the Year – Microbiotica
Disruptive Technology – Geospock
Life Science Innovation Mogrify
AI Innovation – Healx
Biotech Scale-up of the Year – Evonetix
Tech Scale-up of the Year – UltraSoC
The UK/China Award – TusPark UK
Kate Gross Prize for Social Enterprise – Arm
Cambridge Enterprise Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr Hermann Hauser
Cambridge Judge Business School Woman Entrepreneur of the Year – Martina King (Featurespace)
Cambridge Enterprise Academic Entrepreneur of the Year – Julian Gough (Mogrify)
Cambridge Judge Business School Graduate Business of the Year –

Read the press release