This has been an unprecedented year on every level with the appearance of Covid-19. Individuals, families, countries, institutions, companies, big and small, have all been impacted and the world has had to pull together to get through one of the most difficult times in modern history. At Downing Ventures, we work with some of the best technology companies that have inspired us with their innovation this year. We have been astounded at the efforts that the following have shown to keep their businesses, or others, operating and delivering to their customers.
- Touchlight is a remarkable company that has been revolutionising DNA since 2008, advancing genetic medicine to improve the treatment of disease with their unique synthetic DNA vectors. What this means in current day terms is that they are leveraging their technology platform to develop the next generation of DNA vaccines, including the one for Covid-19.
Joint School App
- The Joint School App, developed by My Recovery, offers information, exercises and tools for people awaiting hip and knee replacements. Free to use, it has been developed with partners across the orthopaedic community for those in the UK whose procedures have been postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19, alleviating the pain for many. Since launching in April, a growing number of NHS hospitals have added the Joint School App to their recommended resources and the President of The British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) has named it as one of ‘the best examples’ of support for people awaiting surgery.
- As the world digitises at a rapid pace, increased computational power is required to deal with the higher amount of bigger data loads. Cornelis Networks spun out of Intel’s Omni-Path Architecture business this year with their scale-out interconnect, which is becoming a critical component for many artificial intelligence-led technologies across scientific, commercial and government organisations, including the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA). In collaboration with one of the DOE’s laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Cornelis Networks, with other partners, have created the ‘Mammoth cluster’ and ‘Ruby Supercomputer’, that offer computing efficiency optimised for data-intensive Covid-19 research and pandemic response. This included reducing the time needed for genomic analysis "from a few days to a few hours," say scientists already working on the cluster. Both are examples of how deep technology is fundamental to scientific advancement and playing a crucial role in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
- Business finance aggregator, FUNDING XCHANGE, helps businesses navigate finance options and make the best of alternative funding innovation. During the pandemic, FUNDING XCHANGE has been an accredited lender distributing the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Bounce Back loans helping to keep businesses going.
- Trouva has become one of the UK’s best-loved consumer brands supporting independent retailers to sell products online. While many traditional retailers have crumbled under the almost impossible conditions for a bricks-and-mortal operations, Trouva enabled 70% of its boutique partners across Europe to continue trading during lockdown, not only allowing small businesses to continue thriving but proving consumers still want to purchase quality goods from independent suppliers.
- This year, thousands upon thousands of couples had their marriage plans blown to the wind as restrictions forced wedding dates to be changed. One of the UK’s leading stationery brands, Papier, offered half-price reprints of wedding invitations if event details had to rescheduled taking some of the weight off for soon-to-be-weds.
- Empiribox is a science education specialist provider that helps create ‘wow’ moments for primary school pupils. The company achieves its goal of equipping its teachers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver outstanding practical science lessons by including all the equipment, curriculum materials and support services that schools and teachers need as a complete solution. When schools closed, practical science lessons were instantly challenging to deliver on a remote basis to children learning from home. Empiribox set out to help close this learning gap in a safe and engaging way by introducing a new and twice award-winning digital service, Empiribox @ Home. This innovative service provides access to a complete library of curriculum-aligned and engaging interactive science lessons that include interactive videos, supporting resources and adaptable hands-on activities. Teachers can assign any lesson to pupils to complete using readily available components found around the home. Empiribox @ Home service has ensured that the learning objectives of the national curriculum programmes of study for science can continue in a safe, fun and engaging way even if schools are not open. Parents and carers love it too!
- Firefly is a platform for parent engagement and learning continuity, connecting schools and homes, extending school life beyond the classroom: an aspect which has been so important this year so that parents have been able to facilitate home learning as effectively as possible when school learning wasn’t possible. This year, they have focused on helping schools operate remotely and introduced the Parent Portal, which brings school leaders, teachers, students and families into one seamless ecosystem, meeting the modern digital requirements of today.
- Third Space Learning (TSL)’s mission has always been to ensure the pupils who need maths tuition support most have access to targeted one-to-one support that helps to raise attainment and build confidence, something that is needed now more than ever, as the pandemic had increased the learning gap for many children. This year TSL was selected as an approved National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partner. The NTP makes this kind of support more accessible for even more pupils. On the flip side, recruiting tutors in emerging markets such as India and Sri Lanka has enabled TSL to provide scalable, high-quality and accessible online tuition to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in UK state primary schools.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
ABOUT DOWNING VENTURES
Downing Ventures is an evergreen fund investing in seed to Series A companies, with the possibility of follow-on investments. We invest in a variety of technology sectors including Healthcare, Deep Tech, Industry 4.0/Mobility, FinTech and Enterprise. We have a portfolio of 71 companies as of September 2020. We work alongside a number of investment partners and accelerator programmes and incubators, including the London Co-Investment Fund. www.downingventures.com
ABOUT DOWNING LLP
Downing Ventures is a division of Downing LLP, a London-based investment management firm. We help UK businesses grow by investing in them via our range of venture capital trusts (VCT), enterprise investment schemes (EIS), inheritance tax (IHT), individual savings account (ISA) and open-ended investment company (OEIC) products. So far, over 35,000 investors have been a part of what we do and we are proud to have raised over £1.7 billion into businesses across a range of sectors, from renewable energy, care homes, health clubs, and children's nurseries, to technology and sports nutrition.