We are delighted to be announcing TechSPARK’s Top 20 most influential and impactful individuals working in the South West’s tech scene today. 

Thanks to our partnership with Antidote Communications, we’ve been able to celebrate the individuals who have had a rippling impact on our community – not just in economic terms, in the ways they facilitate collaboration and personal growth throughout the region too.

So, here is the completed list of the South West Top Innovators!

20. James Vaughan, CEO at Ndemic Creation

James is an entrepreneur and former strategy consultant with a background in Economics. He is CEO and founder of Ndemic Creations, the independent game studio dedicated to making ultra high quality, intelligent and sophisticated strategy

19. Steve Cliffe, CEO Ultraleap

18. Dick Penny, Arts administrator, Consultant, and Producer

Dick is an arts administrator, consultant, and producer. He is best known as the driving force of the Watershed which he led for a number of years. He has been an advocate and leader of Bristol’s digital scene for decades.

17.James Hadley, CEO at Immersive Labs

James is CEO at Immersive Labs, the world’s first fully interactive, gamified and on-demand cyber skills platform. The platform enables businesses to rapidly develop and assess cyber talent and identify skill gaps against the MITRE ATT&CK framework. Immersive labs raised a new $75m in June.

16. Brian Allen, Chief Executive Officer at Rovco

“We throw robots into the sea while delivering industry 4.0 solutions to the energy transition space. Solving robotic autonomy, machine intelligence and data provenance issues while working out what your vehicles are doing and where they are – real-time SLAM and AI analysis in the real world, proven with successful multi £m contracts” Through the pandemic Rovco grew by almost 300%.

15. Joel Gibbard, CEO at Open Bionics

Joel has grown Open Bionics from 0 to 30+ employees, raising over £7.5m in grant and VC funding and launching products internationally. It has also been recognised with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 for services to International Trade and Engineering Technology

14. Alexander Young, Founder & CEO at Virti

Trauma and orthopedic surgeon by training and Founder/CEO Virti. Improving human performance & training for organisations by making experiential education affordable, accessible and data-driven. In June of this year Virti closed a $10m investment raise

13. Kathrine Bennett, CEO High Value Manufacturing Catapult

Katherine previously worked as the Senior Vice President at Airbus. She was awarded a CBE for services to aviation and aerospace industry and is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. She now leads the High Value Manufacturing Catapult who recently launched a new £10m programme, DETI, to better connect tech and engineering

12. Lewis Brindley, Managing Director at The Yogscast

Lewis is a broadcaster, producer and director representing some of the biggest YouTube channels in the world. He is the Managing Director of The Yogscast, an entertainment company based in Bristol that primarily produce video gaming-related videos on YouTube and Twitch, and also operate the Yogscast multi-channel network for affiliated content creators.

11. Tom Carter, Co-Founder of Ultraleap

Tom is CTO and Co-Founder of Ultraleap – formerly Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion, its mission is to redefine interaction. Tom founded Ultrahaptics as a result of his PhD at Bristol University; the technology enables users to receive tactile feedback without needing to wear or touch anything and it is now the world’s leading touchless haptics company.

10. Nick Sturge, Chartered Director and Strategic Adviser

Nick is known as the driving force behind the establishment of Engineshed and for his leadership of SETsquared Bristol. He is currently working as the Non-Executive Director at CFMS, Chair of Helastel and a Governor of Bath Spa University. He is advising on the Golden Valley scheme in Cheltenham.. In the past, Nick was honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour list for his services to the digital economy.

9. Clare Reddington, CEO of Watershed

Clare is CEO of The Watershed, Bristol’s iconic independent cinema and event space. Since joining The Watershed, Clare has established its creative technology programmes including Pervasive Media Studio and Playable City. She works with industry, academic and creative partners from around the world to champion inclusion, support talent and develop new ideas.

8. Steve WestPresident at UWE

Steve is the Vice-Chancellor, President and CEO at the University of the West of England. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to higher education and continues to enable UWE to facilitate the pioneering developments that take place at the university.

7. Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

Marvin is currently the Mayor of the City of Bristol. His career has hopped from Journalist to Local Authority Director to Charity Trustee, but now as mayor he is committed to working for a fairer world. Marvin says its his aim to get politics, society and the economy working for everyday people.

6. Stephen FitzpatrickCEO at OVO Energy

Stephen is CEO and founder of Bristol-based unicorn, OVO Energy. The green-tech company was founded locally with the goal to disrupt the UK energy market – it has since become the largest UK independent energy supplier with over 1.5 million customers.

5. Harry Destecroix, Co-Founder Science Creates

Science Creates is a Bristol-based deep tech ecosystem supported and backed by successful entrepreneurs that helps scientists and engineers accelerate their ideas and build disruptive businesses from scientific discoveries. Harry founded Life sciences business Ziylo who were acquired in a $800m deal.

4. Nigel Toon, CEO Graphcore

Nigel is CEO and co-founder of the first Bristol-born unicorn, Graphcore. The semiconductor challenger has only been in business for three years and has managed to enter a league of its own when it comes to computer processing. In January Graphcore raise $222m valuing them at $2.77bn.

3. Samantha Payne, Co-Founder of Open Bionics

Samantha is the co-founder of Open Bionics, the startup making 3D-printed, bionic prosthetic limbs. Ever since its conception, Open Bionics has been winning awards whilst changing the lives of amputees.

2. Col Needham, CEO at IMDb

Col is CEO & Founder of the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content, IMDb. From its humble beginnings as a personal database documenting one man’s obsession with film, IMDb now welcomes over 250 million unique users a month, whilst keeping its tech team in Bristol.

1. James Dyson, Chairman of Dyson 

Sir James Dyson is the chairman of Dyson. Founded in Wiltshire in 1991, the company now employs more than 5,800 engineers around the world and says it invests about $10 million a week in product development. Since Dyson’s worldwide success, James and the company has set a precedent for just how much a South West tech business can achieve and give back to its community.

Methodology for ranking the South West Top Innovators

After pulling down a 250 person longlist from the network, we whittled it down to a 100 person shortlist and eventually (with great pain) our TT50. We judged this list, with our partners, using 5 key criteria:

  • Local Impact – What have they done for the community locally, inspiration, events and connections
  • Economic Impact – What impact have they had through investing or employing people.
  • Global impact – What impact are they having globally in raising the region’s profile.
  • Reach – Public profile both in the ecosystem locally and wider.
  • Influence – How much can they shape things, can they mobilise a network? In short, how quickly would you respond to their email!

Congratulations to everyone on TechSPARK’s Top 50 list – a huge shoutout to you all for making the tech sector in the South West what it is today!