IT firms top in UK innovation awards

Two IT companies were among three winners at annual UK innovation competition Best of British Innovation.

Two IT companies were among three winners at annual UK innovation competition Best of British Innovation.

The two companies were showcased at the annual Venturefest 2010 event in Oxford. At the event, 19 start-ups were exposed to angel investors, innovators and business people.

The Best of British Innovation competition has been running since April and was launched to attract businesses from across the UK. Venturefest is a 12-year-old programme set up by Oxford University, local businesses in Oxford and the local council.

SmartKem took the gold prize. The company has developed a plastic substance that can be used to replace silicon in the manufacture of microchips. This is advantageous because the material is cheaper than silicon and is flexible.

The bronze medal was taken by RealTime Health, a company that has created software which health services can use to reduce the time it takes to complete a patients treatment.

SmartKem is an 18-month-old company with four employees. CEO Steve Kelly said there is huge demand for plastic-based microelectronics from display manufacturers, mainly based in East Asia.

He said the company's competition in this market comes from large chemical companies. But Kelly said SmartKem has an advantage with its niche skills and flexible business model.

"We have an advantage because these companies do not want to focus on the niche expertise required in this market and they do not want to license out the technology," he said.

SmartKem will focus on developing the chemicals for plastic-based micro electronics and will allow manufactures to buy licences to use and make the chemicals themselves.

RealTime Health is also small, with seven employees.

The company was the result of the coming together of a doctor and a healthcare informatics guru, said CEO Jim Gabriel.

Its software monitors the whole process of taking a patient on the entire journey through the medical system. It has an online analytics processing engine sitting behind the software.

The company already boasts Cambridge University and Scarborough and NE Yorkshire hospitals as customers.

Gabriel said NHS cost cutting could drive demand for the software.

"We are about improving performance," he said.

"A rolling back of the NHS National Programme for IT will benefit us because hospitals all over the country were holding back investment in their own IT initiatives."

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