5 tech start-ups to watch in Cambridge’s Silicon Fen

29 Aug 2019

Cambridge. Image: © offcaania/Stock.adobe.com

After London, Cambridge is the UK location seeing the most scale-up tech investment in recent years. Here’s a taste of some of the start-up activity in the Silicon Fen.

Cambridge is emerging as one of the top hubs for tech companies in the UK, and even Europe, thanks to its world-class science and innovation.

According to research by the Digital Economy Council, over half of Cambridge’s population works in the technology sector, which becoming one of the biggest employers in the UK.

Located at the southern tip of the English Fenland, Cambridge has been dubbed ‘Silicon Fen’ – Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley – thanks to a cluster of tech companies focused on software, adtech, fintech, electronics and biotechnology. This Cambridge cluster is formed from the university’s long tradition of entrepreneurial researchers, with academics joining Cambridge tech start-ups while still feeding back into academia.

The significance of this ‘culture of ideas’ is a tradition of being both an academic and an entrepreneur and having a network to support this path. Some of the top tech companies globally are a part of this Cambridge hotbed, including Cambridge-born businesses ARM and Illumina, as well as Apple and Microsoft, which relocated to be a part of this community.

According to Tech Nation’s 2018 report, the Cambridge cluster had a £152,000 digital tech turnover per employee compared to the UK average of £99,000. The 2019 report highlighted how Cambridge comes second (following London) for scale-up tech investment in the UK, with a healthy £583m in the period from 2015 to 2018. Additional research undertaken by Global University Venturing found that Cambridge University raised the highest capital investment from its spin-out companies among the world’s universities.

With all of this in mind, here are five exciting tech companies bubbling out of Cambridge’s Silicon Fen.


In 2018, Healx raised $10m in Series A funding. With an estimated 400m people globally affected by rare diseases, this company is using groundbreaking AI and machine learning technology alongside deep pharmacological expertise to accelerate the discovery and development of treatments at scale. Healx claims to have revolutionised the conventional drug discovery model, cutting typical development timelines by 80pc and reducing costs by 90pc.

Before starting Healx, CEO and co-founder Dr Tim Guilliams obtained his PhD at the University of Cambridge in the field of biophysics and neuroscience, developing nanobody technology for Parkinson’s disease. He is also the co-founder and trustee of the Cambridge Rare Disease Network.


VividQ develops software solutions for diffractive holography and 3D point cloud data processing. Its digital light-shaping technology makes 3D holographic screens a viable commercial display solution in gaming, consumer electronics and immersive simulation. These displays can offer an absorbing 3D experience without the need for optical tricks, turning sci-fi dreams into reality.

Founded in 2017 in Cambridge, the technical co-founders of VividQ include engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists from the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of St Andrews.


Bringing together great minds in AI, engineering and mobility, FiveAI aims to deliver a fully autonomous shared transport service for Europe’s cities. Reducing air pollution and safety risks, this autonomous transport system can complement and enhance existing methods on a continental scale.

The company was founded in 2015 in Cambridge. Its CEO, Stan Boland, was co-founder and CEO of two of Europe’s most successful companies for software and silicon communications tech, Element 14 and Icera. In April, FiveAI’s autonomous cars took to the London roads in supervised trials.


Based on a mathematically principled and practical approach, Prowler.io has combined three different branches of mathematics to create an AI platform for general purpose decision-making. The company believes that, by 2025, principled decision-making using autonomous AI agents will drive the world economy.

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Cambridge, Prowler.io prides itself on having drawn talented people from 27 different nations all over the globe to become a part of this team. Earlier this year, the company raised $24m from new and existing investors, and reached a $100m valuation.

Audio Analytic

Audio Analytic has built a commercially exploitable audio dataset for machine learning called Alexandria. Containing millions of labelled, relevant sound events and acoustic scene data, Alexandria is used to train sound-recognition algorithms. Combining Alexandria with a highly specialised deep neural network, Audio Analytic also created AI3, a flexible software platform bringing accurate sound recognition to consumer electronics.

Cambridge-founded and headquartered, Audio Analytic has received investment from Cambridge Innovation Capital, IQ Capital, Rockspring, Cambridge Angels and Martlet. Its latest Series B round raised $12m, including “significant” new investment from Silicon Valley-based National Grid Partners.

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