The South West has firmly established itself as a powerhouse for technology. Each year, organisations across the region illustrate the sheer volume of talent, potential and expertise incubated in the tech and digital industry, tucked away in the bottom corner of the UK. Now widely known as Silicon Gorge, the South West is consistently sending ripples of innovation throughout the country. 

Bristol and Bath lie at the heart of this thriving ecosystem. The cities are home to 4,894 (and growing) of the 17,500 tech companies in the West of England. These businesses have significant impact; Beauhurst reports that Bristol tech companies account for 36% of the city’s high-growth businesses. These 208 startups and scaleups achieved a combined turnover of £4.69b in their latest financials and employ over 13,000 people. Following this, in 2022 Bristol was named the 2nd best city in the UK for tech recruitment.

Altogether in 2022, the South West raised just over £918m in equity investment. This marks our second best on record, falling just behind the boom of £1.2bn in 2021. With award-winning organisations such as SETsquared accompanying a multitude of notable tech incubators, alongside dedicated initiatives such as the Investment Activator Programme (IAP), we’re eager to see what 2023 will bring. 

After a flurry of investments, product launches and milestones reached last year, we’ve compiled a list of startups and scaleups we anticipate will be delivering big things in the next 12 months. From across the region, these companies are actively shaping the standards of innovation throughout the tech sector.

Self proclaimed as the first clearing bank in the UK in 250 years, ClearBank is disrupting the fintech market. With the ambition to improve efficiency and transparency in the banking industry, the team has built a new set of cloud-based financial rails that allows banks and other customers real-time clearance on payment transactions and other financial services. 

ClearBank believes that banking infrastructure shouldn’t slow down processes. Instead, it should be a catalyst that unlocks the potential to innovate, adapting to cater to a differing needs in order to unlock a new era for fintech.

Its services are disrupting the larger incumbents, and investors are noticing. In March 2022, ClearBank raised a staggering £175 million ($230 million at today’s conversion rates), from a single investor, the PE firm Apax Partners. This took the scaleup’s equity investment total to £351m, on top of receiving two large innovation grants worth £85m. The recent investment is planned to be used to scale into Europe and the US. 

Emm, a Bristol-based biotech startup, is bringing a first-of-its-kind biowearable smart menstrual cup to market that has the potential to revolutionise female health research and outcomes.

Founded in 2020 by Jenny Button, Emm has already successfully secured more than $1m in pre-seed funding as well as a partnership with the University of Cambridge and is officially a Google For Startups alumnus. Big things are set to come as the waitlist for consumers is now open as the product enters the next phase of Beta testing.

Emm uses sensing technology within a patent-pending, uniquely-engineered device for use during the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cup is able to monitor and analyse specific biometrics related to female health, empowering and informing the user through unique health insights and data. 

The data Emm captures – automatically syncing with its proprietary smartphone app – will provide a clear, accurate, record of any reproductive health irregularities or issues people may experience whilst improving the path to diagnosis and treatment. On top of this, Emm comes with a compact carry case, a cleaner that allows you to sterilise the cup on the go, and an applicator that closely resembles a tampon, providing much needed innovation to the menstrual cup. 

Speaking on the ambitions of the startup, Jenny tells us, “There is so much as-yet-untapped information we can get from monitoring and analysing menstrual fluid using our smart sensor technology. Emm has the potential to radically change the way health research is conducted, and ultimately to change health outcomes for the better, revolutionising a consumer goods market that is currently worth $25bn and has been long overdue for cutting edge biotechnology and engineering development.”

LatchAid’s pioneering app uses cutting-edge 3D interactive technology and 3D avatars to help new mothers intuitively learn breastfeeding skills. The app also connects breastfeeding mothers to virtual networks to provide close-knit peer-to-peer support groups.

These features, together with support from a highly empathetic AI-powered virtual chatbot, and live 1-2-1 support from human experts, provide breastfeeding mothers with personalised expertise and companionship, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, at what can be a challenging and difficult time.

To mark World Breastfeeding Week LatchAid revealed how it has helped increase the number of breastfeeding mothers. Since launching in July 2021, LatchAid, the ground-breaking breastfeeding and early parenthood support application, has gained more than 7,000 users across 94 countries.

Early results show that mothers who are using the app are far more likely to continue breastfeeding for longer. A six-month NHS trial found that, amongst the 271 UK-based survey respondents using the app, 49% were exclusively breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks, compared to a national average of 24%.

“Traditionally, the UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world, with the vast majority of women giving up before they want to,” says Dr Chen Mao Davies, Founder, LatchAid.

Yet again, investors have spotted the startups potential. Back in April, LatchAid reported successfully closing a £1m funding round to expedite Chen’s mission.

Moneyhub is a staple in the Bristol fintech scene. It is the marketing leading Open Finance, Open Data and payments platform that set out to improve financial wellbing.

Moneyhub empowers clients to accelerate their unique capabilities and strategic aims. With the upcoming Consumer Duty and Pension Dashboard legislation, Moneyhub’s capabilities are perfectly placed to support clients to benefit from and comply with these new opportunities, as well as support consumers through the cost-of-living crisis. 

The pertinence of these functions hasn’t gone unnoticed by investors, as the platform has just announced the completion of its largest fundraise to date, totalling £55m. Commenting on this next exciting era, Samantha Seaton, CEO of Moneyhub says, “Since the beginning, Moneyhub has been a trailblazer and at the vanguard of the data and payments revolution. Our market leading Open Data solutions have the ability to help businesses with their growth objectives, while in turn improving the financial lives of their customers.

“I am proud to work with a large team of some of the most talented individuals in the sector that have helped us get to where we are today, and excited for all the possibilities and developments that lie ahead.”

The overall investment will support the acceleration of the ongoing development of Moneyhub’s solutions and expedite the internationalisation of its highly scalable and border agnostic technology.

OKKO Health, founded in 2018, has developed a range of sight monitoring apps focussing on the monitoring of macular degeneration. Macular disease is the leading cause of sight loss in developed nations. It affects over 1.5 million people in the UK alone. OKKO’s apps provide patients with the ability to self-monitor their condition through a simple interactive smartphone game.

Played regularly, the game can inform clinicians, and patients, of changes in visual acuity, sensitivity to contrast, distortion, and colour vision. These data points become cues for clinical intervention. The funding supports the creation of new aggregate datasets, providing opportunities to better understand how to target treatments for macular degeneration through the deployment of AI in the form of machine learning algorithms. The ultimate aim is to make precision ophthalmology a reality, and protect sight.

The Bristol-based startup recently announced they’ve successfully raised a £2m pre-seed round to support the launch of its eye health monitoring app in Germany. The round was led by Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures (DvH Ventures), based in Cologne, Germany, from its Digital Health Fund.

Fabian von Trotha from DvH Ventures says, “OKKO doesn’t simply replicate the eye chart on a smartphone, it’s a whole new way of measuring sight. And the team has shown excellent traction to date, partly testament to its clinical experience. OKKO’s founder, Dr. Stephanie Campbell, has both clinical and vision science expertise, and this gives her deep, first-hand, market understanding which is hugely valuable in the digital health space.”

Open Bionics is a purpose driven company with a mission to make bionic technology more accessible to those that need it. Its first product was the Hero Arm for people living with a below-elbow limb difference, with the ambition to turn disabilities into superpowers. 

The Hero Arm is an advanced prosthetic arm for adults and children and the world’s most affordable multi-grip prosthetic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics. Samantha Payne, co-founder of Open Bionics explains, “Our hand is super light, easy to make, open source and dexterous.” 

Excitingly Open Bionics, has just closed a crowdfunding campaign with Crowdcube. As expected, their £1m target was quickly exceeded. Funds from this raise will be used to fund operations, management positions and further R&D, contributing to a product roadmap aiming to serve other upper limb differences over the next 5 years.

The prosthetics and orthotics market is worth upwards of $10bn, with the robotics segment growing at a CAGR of 9.2%and NHS England have recently approved multi-grip bionic hands for routine commissioning. We can’t wait to see what more life changing impacts Open Bionics is set to make.

A Cheltenham-headquartered business which specialises in technology-enabled medical equipment has secured investment from CVC Capital Partners in a deal which values the company at up to £1bn. Spectrum Medical Group and CVC Capital Partners VIII have signed a definitive partnership agreement to support the continued growth of the company.

In 2005, Spectrum Medical entered the global medical device market with the launch of its non-invasive diagnostic System M technologies. In the intervening years, and to this present day, Spectrum Medical has shown its commitment to building global leadership in both PERFUSION SYSTEMS for a range of extracorporeal therapies and Health Informatics solutions for the high acuity healthcare space.

Today, Spectrum Medical is focused on the development of becoming a single “solutions provider” of a platform of high-performance technologies that include Quantum Informatics, Quantum Technologies and Quantum Sterile, Single-Use Technologies. The combination of these world leading technologies will lead to greater patient safety, improved patient outcomes and significantly improved health economics. 

With its commitment to new technologies, clinician support, training and the revolutionary Sentinel customer support program Spectrum Medical continues to earn the trust of clinicians and patients in over 60 countries.

Founded in 2014, Bath-based Truespeed delivers full fibre broadband to hard to reach homes and businesses. By building a brand new infrastructure, the firm is able to deliver 10 gigabit-capable full fibre broadband directly into premises, providing a high-performance, highly reliable connection, and future-proofed connectivity.

The team is working tirelessly to fulfil this mission, and recently announced plans for a  £22m investment project across multiple South West locations as it continues to accelerate the rollout of its ultrafast full fibre broadband throughout the region.

There is a strongly held shared belief in the importance of connectivity across the South West, demonstrated in Truespeed’s impressive funding rounds. Since securing a £75 million investment from Aviva Investors followed by a £100 million second tranche of funding, Truespeed hit a milestone this summer as it connected 300 businesses with its ultrafast network.

At a significant benefit to the region’s residents and businesses, Truespeed has added 12 new areas to its full fibre rollout plan. For the first time, Truespeed is expanding its network to South Gloucestershire areas where it has added Thornbury, Almondsbury, Bradley Stoke, Patchway, Stoke Gifford and Chipping Sodbury to its remit. In Bath, Truespeed is expanding its footprint in Bathwick, Widcombe and Combe Down. Alongside this, Truespeed is also adding the North Somerset areas of Uphill, Banwell and Sandford which are located to the South and East of Weston Super Mare.

xigxag puts listeners at the heart of everything they do – all by innovating digital reading and shaping the future of books. The digital reading app boasts a proprietary listen-and-read x-book® concept, market-first features and a community platform for listener-readers. Xigxag promises a richer, more social, multi-mode digital experience which will ensure sustainable book consumption.

We caught up with founders Keli Fairbrother and Mark Chaplin to learn more about the innovative product early last year. Keli outlines that “We’re leading the biggest ever innovation in digital reading and shaping the future books.” They’re doing this through a mobile app and sophisticated content platform, which gives users access to 33,000 titles. She adds, “Our ambition is to make reading more accessible, more engaging, easier and more sustainable.”

The Cornwall-based audiobook platform successfully secured £500k equity investment this year from the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF), as part of a larger £1m funding round in which they crowdfunded £550k. The funding will enable the company to expand the capacity of its development team and broaden its marketing channels with the recruitment of 17 team members over the next three years.

Commenting on the investment, John Acornley, LEP non-executive director and chair of the CIOSIF Advisory Board, says, “xigxag is another example of a disruptive Cornish tech company using innovation to break new ground in global markets. They are reinventing the digital book concept and giving customers much more flexibility in how they access and enjoy digital content.”

Keep up with the latest news on techSPARK to have your finger on the pulse for all things tech in the West. There are a few dates to mark in your 2023 diary, namely The SPARKies awards will be back on 13th July as part of Bath Digital Festival (more info coming very soon). The Bristol Technology Festival and Bristol & Bath Cyber Conf will both be returning this autumn; in the meantime come say hi at South West Founders, Third Thursday or Cyber Tuesday.