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DIGIT Deal Roundup Column: June 2020

David Paul

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DIGIT Deal Roundup

The June edition of DIGIT Deal Roundup features new investment and funding for Ryse Hydrogen, Trojan Energy, Aveni and FinTech Scotland.

Investment

Ryse Hydrogen

Ryse Hydrogen has pledged to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities to make Aberdeen a world leader in hydrogen.

It comes as an announcement for the £62 million Energy Transition Fund support package to help deliver a net-zero future, including a hydrogen hub in Aberdeen.

Jo Bamford, Executive Chairman of Ryse Hydrogen, commented: “We praise the Scottish Government on its investment in zero-carbon energy, and particularly its pledge to fund a hydrogen hub at Aberdeen.

“The Energy Transition Fund will be critical in attracting private investment in exciting new technologies. Ryse Hydrogen is exploring numerous opportunities to set up a green hydrogen production plant in the Aberdeen area, and our partners Wrightbus are already committed to delivering hydrogen-powered buses to the city later this year.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and local authorities to make the North East of Scotland a world leader in hydrogen.”

Earlier this year Bamford announced his vision to deliver 3,000 state-of-the-art hydrogen-powered buses across the UK by 2024, which he believes will kick start the green hydrogen economy, potentially creating 1,000 green jobs.


H2Tec and Logan Energy

Clean energy solutions provider, H2Tec Limited, has been chosen to perform key upgrades to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC)’s hydrogen production plant in Orkney.

H2Tec, which is a subsidiary of Edinburgh-based hydrogen tech firm, Logan Energy, will perform the programme upgrades as part of the €11.7 million projects, Integrating Tidal Energy into the European Grid (ITEG), funded by the European Union’s regional development body, Interreg North-West Europe.

The scope of work in the contract awarded to H2Tec includes improvements to the efficiency of the system by procuring, installing, pressure testing and commissioning an essential pipework control panel to connect newly generated hydrogen to on-site storage tanks.

H2Tec’s programme upgrades will support this effort by optimising new and existing equipment to improve efficiency between the hydrogen production plant and storage facilities at the Caldale site on Eday.

Commenting on the contract win, Bill Ireland, CEO of Logan Energy and H2Tec said: “The Orkney Islands, and the sea around them, possess fantastic natural energy resources, which cannot be fully utilised at present because of the islands’ limited grid connection with mainland Scotland.

“Oftentimes, capacity restrictions in power cables lead to wind energy production being capped, in a process known as curtailment but hydrogen generation from renewables can offer a solution by storing energy that would otherwise be wasted.

“Orkney already generates over 100% of its electricity demand from renewables every year, but the grid limitations confine Orkney’s export potential. It is important that we ensure the full potential of our renewable alternatives are being harnessed, and that operational challenges are overcome.

“Taking the necessary safety precautions at this time, we are committed to maintaining operations at our Wallyford base, continuing to support centres such as EMEC to make positive steps towards net-zero targets and pioneer the growth of renewable hydrogen production on an industrial scale.”

 


Aveni

The newly-rebranded Aveni, previously known at Hatch-AI, has raised £520,000 ahead of the launch of its Aveni Connect technology for the financial and legal sectors. The product is designed to take video conferencing to the next level as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in the use of services such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

The investment has been led by TRICAPITAL, a syndicate of more than 40 angel investors based predominantly in east-central Scotland and the Borders. Stirling-based Wallace Equity, Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital – the University of Edinburgh’s in-house investment fund – also supported the fundraising.

“If you throw in multiple investors and a global pandemic, then yes, it has been a very interesting funding round,” Aveni chief executive Joseph Twigg said. “But we were also lucky in a way with the timing.”

Aveni Connect will initially be available in a free-to-use version like existing video conferencing platforms. This will be followed by an off-the-shelf version for SMEs that includes additional features such as the capacity for digital signatures, GDPR compliant data storage, digital witnessing and secured sharing of documents.

The latter is already being trialled by several professional advisors and is expected to become widely available in the next few weeks.

Aveni has also been working with a national bank for the past nine months on a tailored version with AI and natural language abilities to help rapidly identify customers at risk who need immediate assistance, or situations where financial crime could be taking place. When this is the case, advisors receive an immediate prompt to take further action.

Mr Twigg said this augments the human by allowing the advisor to focus on the client’s requirements, rather than dividing attention with the need to also detect signs of irregularities.

“We believe these general-purpose video conferencing products you see like Microsoft Teams or Zoom will evolve into ‘Zoom for Advisors’ or ‘Zoom for Legal Services’, and that is where we are positioning ourselves,” he explained.

The fresh funding will allow Aveni to raise its headcount by four people to 15 as the firm gears up for what Mr Twigg believes will a permanent shift towards a blend of physical and digital meetings between professional advisors and their clients.

“A large number of the changes that have happened over the last couple of months will find a degree a permanence in our new methods of operation,” he said.

“The transition to a hybrid advice model is the way I see it. That has huge implications for the industry.”


Rasa Technologies

California-headquartered Rasa Technologies, which develops open-source conversational AI software for a host of top global firms, will open a new site after raising $26 million (£20.6 million) in its latest funding round.

The investment takes Rasa’s total funding to $40 million since early 2019. The firm said it will be used to boost the company’s AI research, developer, and community education and to better serve its “growing commercial customer base”.

Adam Lopez, a researcher from the University of Edinburgh, has also been brought on board at Rasa and will lead the launch of the new tech hub – which is expected to focus on research and product development.

Lopez holds more than two decades of experience in solving problems with natural language processing (NLP).

Commenting on the announcement, Lopez said: “I was first drawn to Rasa’s outstanding research programme but decided to join the company because I believe in the mission.

“Rasa is making the best conversational AI technology available to everyone while ensuring data can remain private. I look forward to building a team in Edinburgh to further that mission.”

In the past 14 months, Rasa has seen significant growth in product usage, with 6x growth in software downloads to more than three million. The firm has also tripled its community membership.

Alex Weidauer, CEO & Co-founder of Rasa, commented: “Rasa is committed to supporting the developer in creating robust, mission-critical bot applications, through better research, investment in open source software, superior developer tools and education, and flexible on-prem or cloud deployment.”

To read the full story, click here.


FinTech Scotland

Scotland’s fintech cluster has been given a further £22.5 million boost in innovation funding to establish a Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) in the Edinburgh and Central Belt region.

FinTech Scotland said the new research and development (R&D) centre will help to develop innovative solutions aimed at delivering social and economic benefits through open banking and financial data.

The Government research funding agency, UK Research and Innovation confirmed the centre as one of seven proposals being funded by the Strength in Places Fund, which supports innovation and economic growth across Scotland.

The initiative will enable research into public earning, spending and saving to help create citizen-focused financial services, as well as helping policymakers to understand the economic and social impact of policies and regulations.

Stephen Ingledew, Chief Executive of FinTech Scotland welcomed the funding announcement and hailed it as a positive step toward bolstering collaboration in Scotland’s technology sector.

He said: “The news reinforces the value of cluster collaboration between the diverse range of entrepreneurial enterprises, academics, large institutions, government and citizen groups in embracing the role of data in driving financial innovation to benefit all.

“With engagement across Scotland, UK and globally, the initiative will further reinforce the inclusive international approach in developing the fintech cluster which is focused on delivering better consumer financial outcomes and sustainable economic growth through innovation.”

For the full story click here.


iomart Group

Managed services provider iomart, which is headquartered in Glasgow, has just announced its final results for the year with revenues up 9%.

This is the twelfth consecutive year of growth for iomart since its transition to cloud services in 2008 with the acquisition of its first data centres.

Since that time, revenues and profits have grown, with revenue reaching £112.6 million, through the combination of continued organic growth and acquisitions.

iomart CEO Angus MacSween commented: “Together we have built a strong, resilient business, providing mission-critical infrastructure to a widespread of customers across diverse industries. This resilience will serve us well as we progress through the months ahead.

“The switch to remote working across the world has only accelerated the move to the cloud which we believe will be a growth driver for our business over the longer term.

“Our high levels of recurring revenues, breadth of customer base, industry-leading profit margins and strong cash generation, mean we are confident iomart is well-positioned to withstand the current challenges and deliver long-term growth.”


Trojan Energy

DIGIT Deal Roundup

Aberdeen-based green-tech start-up, Trojan Energy, has secured £4.1 million in funding to support the roll-out of its on-street ‘flat and flush’ electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

The firm hopes to solve the issue of charging for vehicle owners without access to off-street parking; which is currently a major barrier for electric vehicle uptake, particularly in urban areas.

The company’s funding round comprises £1 million investment led by business angel syndicate Equity Gap, SIS Ventures, Aberdeen-based investment syndicate Alba Equity and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise.

SIS Ventures will also help the business to lock in its social mission of democratising the transition to low carbon energy. The equity funding unlocks a further £3.1 million from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Ian Mackenzie, CEO at Trojan Energy, commented: “This is such an important milestone for Trojan Energy. Ever since we started this business, we have wanted to ensure that the benefits of the low carbon transition can be realised by everyone and not just those with a driveway.

“With this investment, our vision has moved a step closer. The rewards for our customers and our planet will be massive and prove the point that a big idea and great engineering can change the world.”

Trojan is aiming to install the first 200 units in Brent and Camden Councils by early 2021. The company also says it plans to follow the roll-out of its on-street product with a similar driveway product for homeowners, eliminating the need for posts or wall boxes to charge at home.

Fraser Lusty, director at Equity Gap, said: “We are pleased to back Trojan Energy and its strong Scottish team who have brought their expertise from the Oil & Gas sector to partner with industry, energy suppliers and councils to help accelerate the adoption of EV usage in dense urban areas where the technology is needed most.

“Their technology is pivotal to the greater adoption of EV’s, the future decarbonising of our transport infrastructure and central to the UK government’s target for net-zero emissions.”

While the UK remains Trojan Energy’s immediate focus, longer-term the business plans to export to Europe, India and China, aiming to capture a large part of the emerging global on-street charging market.

Rob Halliday, fund manager, SIS Ventures said: “SIS Ventures believes that in the wake of Covid-19 there is an opportunity for Scotland to re-build an impact economy.

“As Scotland’s leading impact investor, we are delighted to be playing our part in supporting this innovative mission-led business in its ambition to deliver growth and impact at scale. Trojan Energy is the step change urban EV charging desperately needs.”

John Duncan, Alba Equity said “We are delighted to bring together local investors to support the team at Trojan Energy.

“Our members were attracted by the strength of the team and the innovative nature of their technology and we believe that the business has the potential to play a significant role in increasing EV usage, which will benefit all through lower emissions.”

To read the full story, click here.


InGAME

DIGIT Deal Roundup

A multi-million-pound ‘voucher’ programme is aiming to increase the size and value of the Dundee games development industry.

InGAME, a research and development (R&D) centre based in Dundee and led by Abertay University, has announced the second set of funded collaborations designed to help boost the city’s gaming sector.

The £11.5 million centre is aiming to help grow and provide academic expertise, resources, and support to the industry.

Originally launched in September 2019, the voucher scheme allows individual games professionals, games companies, media companies and other organisations seeking to develop new products or services that engage games development or games developers.

Project Director of InGAME, Sean Taylor, said: “The response to the R&D Voucher Scheme since it launched last year has been fantastic. We now have thirteen projects underway in the InGAME R&D Centre, all of which bring unique opportunities to the Dundee Games Cluster.

“We want to de-risk experimentation and drive innovation within the city and are delighted with the diversity and potential of the projects awarded funding in this round.

He said: “We look forward to working with the recipients in the coming months and welcome interest from local games studios and businesses ahead of the next round.”

For the full story, click here.


Manus Neurodynamica

DIGIT Deal Roundup

Manus Neurodynamica, a medical technology firm based in Edinburgh, has secured £750,000 in funding for its digital pen technology which provides an early warning of Parkinson’s disease.

The company says it intends to use the funding to grow its business, grow its product list, expand its team, and move towards US clinical trials.

This funding round was led by Par Equity alongside Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital.

Manus chief executive Dr Rutger Zietsma commented: “We are excited to be working with Par Equity and our other new shareholders to accelerate the commercialisation of our neuromotor assessment technology.

“From our very first meeting, it was obvious that we and Par Equity shared a vision of the global potential for the product, not just in Parkinson’s disease but in many other clinical indications.”

Par Equity partner Robert Higginson said: “Par Equity first invested in Manus Neurodynamica in 2018 and we are delighted to continue supporting it as one of Scotland’s up and coming healthtech start-ups.

“The Company has developed a platform that dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the Parkinson’s disease diagnosis pathway in both primary and secondary care. The technology also has potential applications in adjacent fields in neurology.

“Manus is well placed to execute on this strategy and through our EIS Fund, our private investor network, the British Business Investments and the Scottish Investment Bank, we are able to draw on a breadth of firepower to support our portfolio.”

Scottish Investment Bank director Kerry Sharp added: “Manus Neurodynamica has enjoyed positive outcomes in clinical trials at home and internationally, and we are happy to provide continued support to the company through the next stage of its growth plans.”

To read the full story, click here.


Bellrock Technology

Glasgow-based data analytics firm Bellrock Technology secured £1 million in funding from its long-term investors in June.

This investment will allow the company to double its workforce to 16 people and accelerate the next stage release of the Lumen software platform.

Steve Langmead, who also joined the company board alongside the investment, insisted the sum was a vote of confidence in Bellrock Technology and the direction it is going.

Already, the company has secured partnerships with organisations include energy giant EDF, which subscribed to Lumen to help improve the monitoring of its UK nuclear reactors and supporting equipment.

He said: “I believe Bellrock Technology has the opportunity to become a pivotal player in a huge range of sectors, not just energy but financial services, smart cities and smart manufacturing.”

Kerry Sharp, Director of the Scottish Investment Bank, one of Bellrock’s long-term investors, commented: “With our continued support, we believe Bellrock Technology and Lumen will provide huge value not just to businesses in Scotland but across the UK and around the world.”

Steven Morris, the owner of Stirling-based ESM Investments and Bellrock board member, added: “Data analytics is becoming increasingly important to fast-growing businesses across all sectors. ESM Investments has always seen the huge value of the Lumen product, and looks forward to seeing this value come to fruition.”


Deals

Modulr and Soar

DIGIT Deal Roundup

Fintech disruptor Soar has teamed up with Modulr to deliver a real-time payments solution to support responsible lenders in Scotland.

Their new system, powered using Modulr’s 24-hour API platform, will enable Soar to build digital banking solutions for organisations such as credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

Modulr’s platform delivers a digital alternative to processing payments via traditional business and corporate banking that can be fully integrated.

In May 2020, Modulr raised £18.9 million in growth funding to develop its payment platform, invest in new products, and expand into Europe; bringing the total funding received to £53.3 million.

The new collaboration between Soar and Modulr will help organisations to build out the payments side of their solution and launch new services quickly.

Andrew Duncan, CEO at Soar, commented: “Our partnership with Modulr is going to make a huge difference to the responsible lending organisations we work with. It’s going to enhance the payments side of our product, bringing us much closer to providing a complete solution to our customers.

“With Modulr’s support, we’ll be able to drum up further interest in the market and grow our business.

“We’re hoping to expand our reach, enter new markets and soon be serving millions of consumers in the UK. We have an exciting roadmap planned and we’re looking forward to achieving some great milestones this year and beyond. Modulr will be key to helping us realise our vision.”

In the future, Soar hopes to further expand the service provided to lenders– using Modulr’s technology to offer current accounts and eventually provide a full agency banking experience.

Myles Stephenson, CEO of Modulr, says: “We’re proud to be supporting a fellow Scottish FinTech like Soar, as they strive to provide responsible lenders with access to innovative technology. Their vision is to help these organisations get funds quickly to those who need it most.

“With our reliable payments infrastructure powering their banking technology, we’re excited to help them realise this goal.”

To read the full story, click here.


Eggplant

DIGIT Deal Roundup

A software company founded by Scottish entrepreneur George Mackintosh has been acquired by California-based tech group Keysight Technologies.

Eggplant’s Digital Automation Intelligence platform uses artificial intelligence and analytics to test technology on any device, operating system, or browser.

Eggplant, an intelligent software testing platform specialist, was acquired for $330 million (£267 million). Headquartered in London, the software firm has been majority-owned by global investment firm The Carlyle Group since 2016.

Inverness-born Mackintosh, who is now based in Edinburgh, founded Eggplant in the UK before establishing the firm’s US headquarters in Boulder, Colorado in 2010. The firm has since expanded its operations to Germany and Japan and employs more than 200 staff globally.

Mackintosh served as CEO at the firm from 2008 to 2017, remained on the board until the acquisition was completed earlier this month and was the single largest private shareholders at the time of the deal.

Commenting on the deal, a spokesperson for Mackintosh said: “The pace of digitisation has only increased in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and Eggplant is one of many tech players to have benefited from this trend.

“George has founded and managed equity-backed technology companies for the last 28 years and is highly skilled in software, services and hardware sales to global businesses in Europe, North America and Asia.”

The spokesperson added: “The combination of market vision and that level of expertise in sales is arguably at the heart of the success he has had to date.

“It will be interesting to see what George does next and there are certainly some interesting new ventures and projects in the pipeline.”

To read the full story, click here.


Zumo and Modulr

DIGIT Deal Roundup

Edinburgh-based cryptocurrency wallet and exchange platform, Zumo, announced last month an exciting new partnership with fintech scale-up Modulr.

The partnership will enable Zumo to begin development of a seamless fiat-to-crypto currency payments system complete with a sterling (GBP) functionality.

Digital payments platform Modulr confirmed it will provide the underlying payments infrastructure to enable Zumo to further-develop its customer offering.

From mid-July, Zumo users in the UK will be able to hold GBP funds within the firm’s wallet platform, as well as buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether.

Commenting on the partnership, Zumo founder Nick Jones said: “We are delighted to partner with an exciting brand like Modulr, who shares our vision to solve the problems of access in traditional banking.

“Zumo is on a mission to radically improve the security, cost and speed of payments globally, and the addition of GBP alongside cryptocurrencies takes us one step closer.”

Jones said the new functionality will provide users with greater control of the currencies they hold within their cryptowallets. The measures, which are designed to increase user control over their finances, will be followed by the addition of a stablecoin to the Zumo platform in the coming weeks.

The Modulr partnership follows two high-profile announcements by Zumo in recent months. The firm revealed the backing of Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman and Murray Capital’s David Murray.

The Edinburgh firm also announced it plans to introduce a convertible contactless debit card and an ultra-secure messaging service to accompany its platform.

Myles Stephenson, chief executive and founder of Modulr said: “We are delighted to power the innovation that Zumo is bringing to the market and the UK economy.

“We are proud to provide the underlying GBP payments infrastructure upon which Zumo builds and enhances its services.”

Last month, Modulr raised a further £18.9 million in growth funding from Highland Europe, bringing the total funds received by the fintech scale-up to just over £53.3 million since 2016.

In March, the firm also announced it had joined the global payments network, Visa, as a principal issuing member.

To read the full story, click here.


Volunteer Edinburgh and Yoti

Volunteer Edinburgh is set to use a digital identity platform to remotely issue volunteers with digital ID cards.

The Edinburgh charity is working with Yoti on the project to safeguard recipients of the charity’s support and comes as part of Yoti’s pledge to assist organisations tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paul Wilson, Chief Officer at Volunteer Edinburgh, said: “Yoti’s contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic response has been invaluable.

“Their support for Volunteer Edinburgh has allowed us to augment our already robust onboarding process for volunteers and means we can deploy our volunteers with greater safety and security.”

He added: “Being able to badge our authorised volunteers remotely and with such control is vital and gives the people we are supporting greater confidence in our volunteers and Volunteer Edinburgh.”

Gordon Scobbie, Scotland Commercial Director at Yoti, commented: “Yoti is delighted to help Volunteer Edinburgh deploy their volunteers into the community with confidence and safeguard the vulnerable from fraudsters and scammers looking to exploit the current Covid-19 crisis.

“It’s been a pleasure to help the volunteering effort in Scotland and we look forward to helping out more organisations who need this kind of innovative digital solution.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Yoti fast-tracked the NHS digital staff ID cards for NHS England & Improvement, which have since been rolled out to NHSX and NHS Digital.

The firm has also issued digital ID cards to AgeUK, HelpMyStreet, Nottingham City Council and Volunteering Matters.

To read the full story, click here.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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