In days past, Scotland and Northern Ireland were shipbuilding titans, with Glasgow overseeing the launch of cruise liners like the Queen Mary; and, of course, the RMS Titanic produced in Belfast. Scotland was also home to heavy industry in coal mining and steel manufacturing. But in recent decades, these regions have been home to flourishing technology sectors. This week I met with three businesses that are at the forefront of a science-driven regional revitalisation.
Amiqus applies technology to a white-collar environment – helping businesses and professionals conduct fast and easy due diligence on their cooperation partners or potential clients. Before, one’d have to take references by letter, and collect all sorts of documents, costing small businesses and individual professionals a significant amount of time and money. But Amiqus’s software, which works on all devices, can be supplied with documents and data on the go, as a client or a requesting professional. It recognises passports and IDs from over 140 countries, and is integrated with Companies House database and various international data sets. What’s even more impressive is that the entire verification process takes four minutes, on average. The reduction in business friction cannot be underestimated. But perhaps when we think of tech we more often think of the Internet of Things and ‘Smart’ things.
Here’s where See.Sense comes in. They have created a smart bike light that senses your surroundings to a) provide you with situation sensitive light (for instance a stronger beam when going around a corner); and b) feeds back data to the See.Sense community. It works like the navigation app Waze – constantly reacting to the cyclist’s surroundings and feeding back information on road quality and situation, best routes, and so on. It is this collation of data that has huge potential to disrupt, too – with a database like this, it’s conceivable that city planners can work with a far more accurate and flexible set of information for fixing roads and improving safety. Indeed, See.Sense is has already worked with city planners in Dublin and Manchester on trials to improve road safety.
Tech and data are all the craze, but Avocet Infinite does something more down-to-earth, using biotech to refine a chemical additive that will turn methane into fuel. This additive changes methane into a diesel-like fuel through using less energy than their competitors, who also burn natural gas to get the end result. In other words, Avocet creates renewable and clean diesel substitute. This fuel needs no other alterations to be used as fuel in normal diesel cars. What’s more, the philosophy of Avocet’s founders is one of self sufficiency. Though it’s really the magical additive that is patented and the money maker, Avocet is present throughout the process of creating biogas. They grow their own fodder hydroponically (entirely in liquids), which allows fodder to go from seed to feed in eight days. They own their own Piedmontese cows, an uber-muscular breed of cow, housed in so-called ‘cow palaces’ and fed with this fodder. It is also these cows that provide the raw biogas that is used to transform into fuel.
It was a stimulating few hours in the Edinburgh Grand Central hotel, and what a pleasure to meet the leaders of these companies that are making Scotland and Northern Ireland a 21st century scientific force to be reckoned with. They disrupt their industries, but also with incredible spillover impact on other industries and our wider way of life. The judges have their work cut out for them choosing one winner amongst these three, and then a UK-wide winner! Watch this space for our final decision…
Details of semi-finalists are at www.spectator.co.uk/disruptor; finalists will be announced soon. Meanwhile, warm thanks to everyone who took the time to enter or to encourage so many exciting companies to do so.