After the exhibition was officially opened by Liz Williams, president of CUTEC, the opening address was given by Dr. Aled Jones, head of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin. Dr. Jones spoke about the importance of the behavioural changes and societal shifts caused by technological change, and how at the heart of all technology are the individuals who use it. He said that a key topic to be debated at the conference was the organisation of capital flows which will allow us to transition into a green economy through technology, and how this same topic is being discussed right now at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Morning Keynote – Julie Meyer
Immediately following the opening address, the delegates were presented with the morning Keynote address by Julie Meyer, CEO of Ariadne Capital. Meyer delivered an inspirational argument that society works best when it is organised around the entrepreneur, a concept taken from her new book, Welcome to Entrepreneur Country. Historically, this has been happening throughout the ages, with Queen Isabella sponsoring Christopher Columbus on his expeditions of discovery. She quoted from Venezuelan scholar Carlota Perez that we are in the latest long cycle of a technological revolution, initially kicked off in 1971 by Intel releasing the first microprocessor.
Miss Meyer went on to describe her trademarked concept of Ecosystem Economics, explaining that a linear or hierarchical approach to business was no longer sustainable in today’s world, and that a network orientation was vital to success. The Davids – entrepreneurs, and the Goliaths – the incumbent technology companies, need to dance together in the knowledge economy of the digital infrastructure. Finally, and most importantly, she closed by explaining that entrepreneurs must engage natural allies by having the emotional intelligence necessary to find joint incentives and create pull into the market, rather than trying to push their way in. She mentioned one particular company, Beatthatquote, which utilised that approach and has just been purchased by google for a multiple of 122 times EBITDA – a previously unheard of price for a company.
If you would like to view Julie's full speech, please see the video here.
Morning Talk – Jack Lang
Following the morning keynote, the conference split into two parallel streams, with the main auditorium holding a speech by serial Cambridge entrepreneur Jack Lang, and the Umney auditorium holding a speech by Ian Taylor, Chairman of Living PlanIt.
Mr. Lang, who is one of the founders of Raspberry Pi, gave a detailed description of the journey of this product, from its conception to its ultimate extremely successful release. The initial concept came out of Mr. Lang, who is a lecturer at the Computer Science Laboratory in Cambridge, noticing that computer science applications to Cambridge had dropped drastically and that young people were not programming as much as they had done. Society was losing control of their technology, able to use it but not able to crate it. A team of academics and entrepreneurs from around Cambridge came together to fix this problem, and Raspberry Pi was born. Raspberry Pi is a $25 fully functioning and fully programmable computer – cheap enough to be purchased by anyone, and powerful enough to run any tasks required of a modern computer. To quote Mr. Lang, “computer science must not be seen as an optional extra.”
Initially the team were expecting to sell the device in the hundreds, and to manufacture it themselves. They reached out to BBC to get permission to call the device the new BBC Micro, echoing the extremely successful programmable computer of the 1980s. Although the BBC was not able to allow this, one of their top technology reporters, Rory Cellan-Jones, created a brief video about the project and posted in on YouTube. Reaching almost a million views in just a few days, the team found themselves committed to making the computer for a much greater audience.
Since then, initial prototypes have sold for up to £3,000 on Ebay, 350,000 commercially produced units have been sold, at a rate of up to 700 per second at one point, and Raspberry Pi has become a foundation which holds and licences the intellectual property to other manufacturers. Mr. Lang concluded by giving an overview of the future of the project – an official educational release, the publishing of several related books, and the launching of a number of projects and competitions based around Raspberry Pi.
Morning Talk – Ian Taylor
At the same time, the Umney auditorium held a speech by Mr. Ian Taylor, former UK Science and Technology Minister and founder and Chairman of Living PlanIt, a company that focuses on urban design. Mr. Taylor gave an overview of fascinating applications and developments of technology brought on by the industrialization of the internet. His company, Living PlanIt utilises McLaren automotive technology for the purpose of real time monitoring and data collection between vehicles and buildings to create an urban operating system.
Mr. Taylor discussed how 70% of the global population will be living in cities by 2050, putting a significant burden on the capacity and energy requirements. Credit Suisse estimates that 13 trillion dollars will need to be spent by 2020 on restructuring of resource management to keep up with this change. The Chinese government is planning to build 300 smart cities – equivalent to building the USA.
Interconnection of cities is facilitated by sensors, machine-to-machine communication technologies and smart surfaces, all being applied to eight areas as identified by Deutsche Telecom – transport and logistics, vehicle telematics, smart metering, connected consumer electronics, security, retails and commerce, industrial monitoring, automation and control, healthcare and public sector, and infrastructure.
Mr. Taylor concluded by noting that funding was currently the biggest issue. He advised that “revenue is the best form of investment capital – if you are doing it through venture capital, you are probably doing it the other way round.” Finally, he praised CUTEC by saying “the opportunities are enormous and I think CUTEC deserves huge praise for putting on this conference again and enabling people to come and exchange their ideas because exchanging ideas is absolutely critical in a sense that it is machine-to-machine transposed to human-to-human.”
Morning Panel Discussion – Cloud Computing
After the morning talks, the conference continued with two panel discussions. The main auditorium held a panel on Cloud Computing, moderated by Mr. Tom Cheshire, associate editor of WIRED magazine who were the main Media Partners for the conference. Simon Bain, chief architect at Simplexo, opened by explaining that cloud technologies were not game changing or disruptive, but in fact have been used for many years under different names. He warned of the danger of becoming too reliant on them, citing the uproar due to the failure of the NatWest online banking service that same morning. Natasa Milic-Frayling, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, argued for the need to create a digital home for our information, with an ownership structure similar to physical property. She said she feels homeless on the cloud, with various pieces of information on different services, but no centralised home and no rights over it. She explained that we currently have an amazing opportunity to redefine computing, and should be asking for much more, including new architecture and new programming languages.
Richard Horning, who heads up Corporate Practice and Venture Technology at SNR Denton in Silicon Valley, talked about Metcalfe’s Law of exponential returns to a growing network, and how we are experiencing this in cloud technology. Taking a legal viewpoint, he provided some advice to attendees – they should always read the contract, even if that seems tedious, they should plan an exit from any cloud service they use, and they should check access controls to be sure of who can see the information they put up. Doug Clark described how corporate IT was being redefined since the purchase of IT services has been completely changed by cloud technologies. He talked about major growth coming in the Software as a Service sector, and explained that even IBM was using cloud technology as part of the operations and research and development – in fact the CRM system they use is a cloud-based startup called SugarCRM.
Morning Panel Discussion – Healthcare Innovation
In parallel, the Umney auditorium held a panel on Healthcare Innovation. Moderated by Mike Johnson, Director of MRC Technology, the panel consisted of a discussion of changes to business models, development of new paradigms and examples of success stories and new opportunities. Dr. Nicholas Sireau, Chairman of AKU society, started off by describing how his organising attracted £6m in funding from the SE Commission and a further £5m in funding from UK healthcare, allowing him to become a rival to large scale pharmaceutical companies. After 5 years of running the program he has successfully researched and developed drugs to handle rare diseases, for which there is no significant funding in the UK. New paradigms have emerged during this process – most importantly that patient-led data collection has allowed for improved clinical trials and public awareness.
Dr. Allan Marchington, partner at Apposite Capital, noted that he was also aware that healthcare was becoming consumer-led and not pharmaceutical industry-led. He went on to say that capital was becoming harder to raise since original pension fund VC funding was drying up. The pharmaceutical industry is now based around contracting, outsourcing and investing in startups.
Dr. Alison Fielding, CEO of IP Group, picked up on this by explaining that scientists do not always realise the gaps between the stage their technology is at and the stage required for commercialisation. The success rate for technology commercialisation by the IP Group is about 10%, and the scale of funding required is usually in the tens of millions. She also discussed the challenges in the public market, and how the IPO strategy no longer provides an exit due to the loss of control and the expense.
The panel also included a number of examples of innovative changes in the healthcare industry. The Global Centres for Therapeutics model is a collaboration of academic groups across the USA led by Pfeizer and works like an incubator and accelerator program for the healthcare industry. Sotera Wireless have released a wireless patient monitoring system which works like an intensive care unit on the wrist. Tissue Regenics, assisted by IP Group, has developed technology to grow replacement tissue and is now commercialising it.
Exhibitions – Technology Showcase, Diamond Exhibition, Computer Museum Exhibition
Following on from the morning panel discussions, the delegates were served lunch in the main Dining Hall, which also featured both the Technology Showcase and the Diamond Exhibition.
The Technology Showcase consisted of 17 companies showcasing startup technologies. Held in the main dining hall, each stand was very busy with delegates speaking to the members of each team. The TVC was a great opportunity for contact to be made between the companies and investors, legal firms, students and potential technical partners. Blendology, one of the exhibitors, provided a tap-to-connect digital voting system so that delegates could use their badge to choose the five finalists who went on to pitch to a panel of distinguished investors.
The Diamond Exhibition was running for the second year, astonishing visitors with a line up of 8 of the largest companies in the technology world. Microsoft Research presented new applications to its Kinect device, used to transform both gaming and the research industry. Plastic Logic demonstrated their flexible, rugged plastic displays, including the new flexible colour and flexible electronic paper displays with refresh rates fast enough for video playback. Delegates were able to speak with representatives of the world’s leading semiconductor intellectual property supplier, ARM, biotechnology industry innovator MedImmune, and leading global supplier of coding solution, Domino Printing. Cambridge Network and Cambridge Enterprise were both available to offer new opportunities for networking and collaboration across the city, and to demonstrate successful spinoffs from the University, such as Eight19 which recently received a World Business and Development Award at the RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
The foyer of the Umney auditorium hosted an exhibition by the Computer Museum, showcasing computer hardware over the past few decades, ranging from a ZX Spectrum and Atari 2600 to gaming systems such as the NES and the Sega Mega Drive.
Afternoon Keynote – David S. Rose
The afternoon sessions were led by the second Keynote address by David S. Rose, CEO of Gust and Associate Founder of Singularity University. Mr. Rose delivered what can only be described as a mindblowing lecture on the exponential increase in technological power we are currently experiencing. He began by stating that “everything you think you know is wrong”, and he went on to prove this to be the case.
His talk was based around the latest concepts to be taught at Singularity University, such as the long tail – an extension of the Pareto Principle that 80% of reward comes from 20% of effort. In a lengthy and perfectly argued example of the evolution of book stores, Mr. Rose showed how small corner book shops were driven out of business by large superstores such as Barnes and Noble, able to sell far fewer copied of any one book and still be profitable, and how these were in turn driven out of business by Amazon – able to sell fewer than one copy a month of a book and still be profitable, and how Amazon had the foresight to see what would take them out of business, and do this themselves by launching the Kindle.
He went on to give further examples of such dramatic technological progress, and how Web 2.0 technologies are prevalent, but completely misunderstood by the general public. His talk concluded with an argument that by Moore’s Law, we are heading towards the Singularity – where technology becomes so powerful and so cheap, that effectively everything will become free, and that the younger generation who are able to grasp this, to make predictions based on this principle, and to act on these predictions, will be the successful entrepreneurs of the future.
After his keynote, Mr. Rose was kind enough to hold a lengthy debate with a number of CUTEC members, educating them on how to make the most of this principle, and describing his own journey with Gust. During this time, the TVC held three parallel workshops, as well as a session where startup companies pitched to the audience.
Afternoon Talk – Elizabeth Varley
Once the workshops had concluded, Delegates returned to the two auditoriums to hear talks by Elizabeth Varley, co-founder of TechHub, and Danielle Fong, co-founder of Lightsail Energy. Miss Varley described the importance of communication and networking in the high-tech community, and how projects such as TechHub facilitated this by putting a large number of intelligent people working on different technologies in one place. She described a number of companies from TechHub, including Just Ad Zero – a mobile telephone made from bamboo, Hoverkey – a security technology using near-field technology in mobile phones, Livesheets – an innovative replacement to spreadsheets for complex calculations, Novacem – a carbon-negative cement technology, and Pixelpin – a company creating a technology allowing passwords to be image-based. Miss Varley ended her talk by describing two large-scale projects being held in London. ICity is a large community being created in the Olympic Park in order to create a similar environment to TechHub, but one which is focused on hardware. Digital City Exchange is a project to bring internet entrepreneur experience to scientists and researchers who are solving problems in the physical world.
Afternoon Talk – Danielle Fong
Alongside Miss Varley’s talk, Danielle Fong described her own journey to completing a degree at the age of 17 and then dropping out of her PhD programme at Princeton to found Lightsail Energy which produces energy storage systems which are based on compressed air technology. She gave a motivational lecture, inspiring the attendees to think what is important for them and what makes them happy. Her talk was focused around three questions – what is valuable, what can you eventually do, and what are others not doing right.
To add value, Miss Fong explained that one must work with interesting people with complementary skill sets. She “had a determination to make a difference on the plant,” and to achieve this she knew she needed to leave her PhD programme at Princeton and move to Silicon Valley. She asked the audience what they found valuable, and the audience came back with a range of replies – the accessibility of energy, high quality education, portable water and a healthy diet.
Miss Fong continued to describe her journey of choosing to focus on energy conservation, creating a replacement for the battery and looking one level deeper than anyone else was doing. She advised that scientists and entrepreneurs should “build the future you want to see – you can make a difference to something you care about.”
Afternoon Panel Discussion – Global Investment
Following the afternoon talks, the auditoriums held panel discussions on Global Investment, and Cleantech. The global investment panel, moderated by Alan Barrell discussed the current climate of VC investment, and funding for start-ups in general. Mark Cheng of Ashoka commented that social enterprise was a booming sector in the uncertain economic crisis, mentioning that funding has increased for this sector. Gervais Williams of MAM Funds identified web-based services, personal healthcare and hi-tech consumer goods as areas that are continuing to see investment, whilst pharmaceutical investment was an area that VC's are shying away from. Brigitte Baumann of Go Beyond told the audience how the EU was still an excellent ground for raising funds. She agreed that whilst America is better at taking risks and is willing to put more money out, that we shouldn't see Silicon Valley as America - but as a separate, and very unique hub. Alan Barrell raised the topic of emerging markets, to which the panel agreed that China was the dominant factor here, investing across the globe to secure its financial power.
Technology Showcase Prizes
With the talks and panels concluded, the Technology Showcase finalists were given a chance to pitch to a panel of investors, prior to the winner being announced. After impressive pitches from the companies to Hugh Parnell, Chairman of Cambridge Cleantech, Charles le Strange Meaking, Partner at KPMG, Mark Horne, Director of RenewMe, Clennell Collingwood, Investment Director at TTP Ventures and Gervais Williams, Managing Director at MAM Funds, Blendology walked away with the grand prize of £10k of KPMG consultancy, £3k of SNR Denton consultancy, a 1 year ZipCar account and 6 months of hotdesk space at IdeaSpace, as well as consultancy with Jon Bradford, founder of Springboard.
With prizes given out, the conference was concluded by Liz Williams, who summarised the main takeaways from the keynotes, speeches and panels, and congratulated the winners on their prizes. Thanking the sponsors, advisors and the CUTEC team, she invited delegates to attend next year’s 10th anniversary Technology Ventures Conference, which will be bigger and better than ever.