A company whose technology can detect and predict corrosion in pipelines has raised a further £900,000 to expand its global client base.

CorrosionRADAR, which has offices in Cranfield and Cambridge, secured the investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, as well as the government’s Future Fund and existing shareholders.

The latest funding will help the company to boost overseas sales and enter new markets in preparation for a Series A funding round later this year. Mercia has supported CorrosionRADAR since 2017 when the company was founded as a spin-out from the University of Cranfield.

Its system addresses a major challenge for oil, gas and chemical companies – how to detect corrosion under insulation in pipelines, tanks and other vessels. It uses sensors installed next to the surface of the asset, which provides real-time data on the presence of corrosion or moisture, allowing early repairs to be undertaken, reducing maintenance costs and helping to minimise risk of catastrophic failures.

The system enables operators to move away from manual on-site inspections to remote monitoring, and from reactive to predictive maintenance. It is already being used by companies including Solvay, Sitech and Reliance Industries, and in locations from Europe to the Middle East and south-east Asia,

Chiraz Ennaceur, CEO at CorrosionRADAR, said: “This funding has come at exactly the right time for us. COVID-19 has put digitalisation firmly on the agenda for asset owners and operators – remote monitoring has become even more important as it’s much more cost effective and safer than sending people out to sites.

“The ability to continuously monitor and predict corrosion onset will not only change the way industry approaches inspections and maintenance, but it will also reduce risk and save time and money. CorrosionRADAR is leading the way in using advanced digital technologies to respond to this global challenge and will continue to achieve its ambitious growth plans.”

Stephen Windsor, Investment Manager at Mercia, added: “CorrosionRADAR has the benefit of a management team with industry experience which has helped to ensure that the company has consistently met its technical and commercial milestones. Having supported the business to develop its technology, this follow-on round will help it to scale up its customer base ahead of a larger round later this year.“

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “This latest investment in CorrosionRADAR shows how the MEIF can support companies through follow-on funding rounds, enabling a technology to be developed and then commercialised. Supporting innovation is a key objective for MEIF, and it’s great to see an innovative product now being rolled out to global markets.”

Vicky Hlomuka, Growth Hub Manager at the South East Midlands LEP said: “Investing in businesses to scale-up at different stages of their business journey is integral in helping innovative companies in the area to progress. It’s crucial that we back business to secure their future in this global marketplace, particularly during this time of change.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

A company whose events software platform is used by organisers of international sports competitions has raised £400,000 to support its further growth.

Iventis has secured investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), and the government’s Future Fund. The company, which has been bucking the industry trend, is planning to use the funding to create seven new jobs.

Iventis is the leading platform of its type for large events, exhibitions and festivals. It enables large teams to collaborate online to plan and manage complex operations by bringing together mapping, architectural drawings and other data.

The company, which was founded by Joe Cusdin who had worked on the London 2012 Summer Olympics, says the pandemic has increased demand for its software. Although major events and festivals have been postponed, reorganising them while taking into account social distancing and events teams working from home has highlighted the need for online tools and more detailed planning. The latest funding round follows a £250,000 investment by MEIF last year.

Iventis Non-Executive Chairman, Keith Greetham, said:I’m delighted to see Iventis make huge leaps forward in its growth. The company is recruiting talent from within the events industry, which has suffered immensely during the pandemic. We already have high-profile early adopters of the Iventis software, many of which are relying on its capabilities to reschedule and redesign their events.”

Sandy Reid, Investment Director at Mercia, added: “Iventis is well positioned to help the events industry reorganise events and recover from the impact of the pandemic. The business continues to build relationships with top-level global event organisers and this investment will allow it to expand its team further as client numbers increase.”

Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank said: “The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is committed to ensuring Midlands’ businesses have access to the finance they need to grow. This latest investment will enable Iventis to develop its innovative software platform, whilst creating new job opportunities in the region.”

Pat Doody, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Iventis is a great example of an innovative Lincolnshire tech business and we’re very pleased to see its growth supported by this funding. The events and festivals sector has been hit hard by the pandemic and we applaud Iventis for adapting and innovating in order to support event organisers in the UK and around the world.

“It’s fantastic to see more and more businesses thriving in the emerging digital cluster we have here, and good to see that they’re being nurtured in a really supportive business environment.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

Two advertising executives who quit their jobs to develop their own 3D software have secured over £450,000 in investment to help them launch their product.

Ben Cyzer and Tim Phillips created visual effects for TV commercials for brands such as Sony, Nike and Samsung and were behind the penguin in the John Lewis adverts. They set up Artificial Artists in 2018 to find a way to make quality 3D animation more suited to the faster pace and lower budgets of digital media.

Their software platform 3dctrl reduces production time and costs by up to 80%, and allows marketing managers to make their own 3D video and images for use in digital ads, social media posts and online shopping sites.

3dctrl was developed with support from private investors. The latest funding round, which was led by Mercia’s EIS Fund with backing from Triple Point Ventures and individual investors, will allow the company to further enhance the product and bring it to market.

As 3D allows an item to be viewed from all angles, it is ideal for design-led products such as clothing, cars and electronics. 3dctrl  is currently being piloted by a number of fashion and automotive firms. The company, which employs a team of six, met Mercia after being selected as part of the Digital Catapult Augmentor investment readiness bootcamp.

Ben Cyzer, the company’s co-founder, said: “3D animation has traditionally been reserved for big budget TV commercials and is prohibitively expensive for digital channels. Our mission is to make 3D visual effects more accessible and affordable, empowering companies to generate their own 3D animation in-house, at speed and at scale.”

Chris Kilroy of Mercia added: “Artificial Artists has built a toolkit that provides content creators with the ability to quickly and easily create professional quality 3D videos and images using their brand assets. This investment round will enable the company to further develop the product and bolster its core team. I’m looking forward to working with Ben and Tim as they continue to capitalise on the opportunities available to them moving forward.”

 

An award-winning businesswoman whose software platform helps companies to manage rebate and incentive schemes has raised a further £950,000 from investors.

Leanne Bonner-Cooke MBE, who founded the e-Bate platform, secured the money from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), Mercia’s own EIS funds and the government’s Future Fund.

With the pandemic having boosted demand for the e-Bate platform, the funding will allow the Leicester-based firm to create five new jobs and further increase global sales. This latest funding round is the second investment by MEIF and brings the total raised so far by the company to over £2m.

Rebates and promotional incentives are widely used in sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and automotive, where suppliers offer big incentives to buyers to encourage them to buy more of their products. The e-Bate software platform helps companies to manage and simplify these schemes which historically have been complex and calculated manually using spreadsheets.

Leanne, who also founded Leicester’s Evolve-IT Consulting, was awarded an MBE in 2017 for her services to women in business. She explains: “Rebates can make a big difference to the net price paid and some businesses depend on them to achieve profitability. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of managing rebates more effectively. A fall in sales volumes will have affected businesses on both sides and some will be looking to renegotiate contracts, which are no longer commercially viable.  e-Bate offers greater visibility of the process and provides the data insights needed to make better commercial decisions to boost revenue recovery.”

Sandy Reid, Investment Director at Mercia, added: “Over £100 billion of rebates are processed each year in the UK alone and in industries such as food production they are used all along the supply chain. e-Bate is the only product of its type that helps companies to manage such schemes efficiently. Leanne and the team are making great progress even with the economic backdrop of COVID-19.  We are pleased to be able to continue supporting this fast-growing software business.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “It is great to see companies like e-Bate building on their initial support from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.  We saw from The Early Assessment Report into the Fund that investee businesses develop greater confidence in raising further external finance and this investment into e-Bate is a good example of that in practice. Having successfully secured further funding, e-Bate will be able to accelerate its growth.”

Kevin Harris, Chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Board of Directors, said:“Financial services are one of our key industries here in Leicester and Leicestershire, so I’m very pleased that the MEIF was able to support a business that is taking an innovative approach to helping businesses manage profitability. The LLEP is committed to supporting our businesses through COVID-19, so it’s great to see such a streamlined solution to rebates that will be of great benefit to the wider business community.”

Tom Gray, partner at Knights PLC, provided legal advice to Mercia.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

Two UK construction experts who aim to revolutionise the industry through the use of digital technology have raised £250,000 to bring their smart building software to market.

Ian Yeo and Scott Pilgrim launched Bimsense four years ago after becoming frustrated by the traditional approach to building design, construction and management. The Hull-based consultancy has advised on major developments throughout the UK and internationally and has now developed its own operations and maintenance software, Operance.

The funding from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, will allow it to commercialise the system and create 10 new jobs over the next two years.

Bimsense specialises in building information modelling (BIM), which allows construction projects to be created digitally before they are built to address issues normally identified on site or after completion. This helps save time and money, improve quality and reduce potential safety risks. The data it provides also enables building owners to operate and maintain the building efficiently over the long term.

BIM is widely accepted as the best way to achieve the government’s aim of reducing construction and operating costs by a third, and is in line with the Grenfell Tower report’s recommendation to create a digital lifecycle record. Operance help meets this challenge by creating a ‘golden thread’ – a digital audit trail covering the entire history of facilities, enabling better decision making and increased accountability.

Ian Yeo, CEO at Bimsense, said: “We’re delighted and excited to secure this investment to deliver our long-term ambition of digitising and ‘humanising’ building information to help create safer, healthier places for people to live, work and spend their leisure time.

“We know the devastating effects that poor, mismanaged information and ill-informed decisions can have on people’s lives. This funding helps us to tackle these issues, by enabling project teams to develop better quality information for end-users to access in a really easy, user-friendly way.”

Maurice Disai, Investment Associate at Mercia said: “Although construction and property management is the fourth biggest contributor to GDP, it is one of the least digitised sectors. The Operance system could have a huge impact in terms of reducing costs and improving safety and quality of life for building users.

“The proof of concept version of this software has already generated a great deal of interest within the industry by showing the cost and performance benefits of using a digital building information platform. The funding will allow Bimsense to further enhance the product and bring it to market.”

Stephen Parnaby OBE, Chair of the Humber LEP, said: “We are delighted to see another Humber business benefit from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, which continues to bring vital finance to the region’s businesses. This funding will not only create additional local employment and opportunities within the supply chain, but will also help many other construction companies through its innovative software.”

Mark Wilcockson at British Business Bank, said: “Since its launch in 2017, NPIF’s impact on businesses has been wide-ranging, providing funding to launch new products, employ new staff, enter new markets and acquire new facilities. We are pleased that NPIF is continuing to unlock the Humber’s growth potential by supporting small growing businesses with vital investment, particularly those that have the potential to revolutionise their respective sector.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

A company which develops conversational assistants capable of manning helpdesks and answering technical enquiries has raised £700,000 to help scale up its operations.

Humley secured the investment from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), Mercia’s own EIS funds and a private investor.

The funding, which follows an earlier round by private investors, brings the total raised by Humley to £1.4m and will allow the Northampton-based company to grow its customer base and revenue ahead of a planned Series A funding round next year.

Humley’s assistants can be used to help customers or employees find the information they need  – such as technical details of a product, search a database or find a research paper – or to field HR enquiries. The assistants incorporate a number of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and are easy to use. The technology also integrates with other AI solutions including robotic process automation (RPA) which many large firms are using to manage back-office processes.

Humley was established in 2017 as a spin-out from mobile payments provider Infomedia, where it was developed to support customer service. Its technology is now in use by a number of large corporates and has been taken up by two of the UK’s leading advisory firms who are deploying it within client companies.

Adam Harrold, CEO of Humley, said: This investment round represents a significant endorsement of our technology. The conversational AI market is very noisy with many big players. Our unique approach has made us the platform of choice for many global players and has allowed us to roll out our technology. This investment enables us to further establish ourselves in the market as a leading provider of conventional AI for enterprise and take the business to the next level.”

Stephen Windsor at Mercia, added: “Conversational AI assistants are a cost-effective way for companies to deliver high quality, 24/7 customer service across a range of channels. We were impressed by Humley’s platform which is much easier to use, quicker to deploy and more cost-effective than its competitors. We are excited to be supporting Adam and the team as they scale up the business ahead of the next investment round.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “Supporting innovation is one of the key objectives for the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.  This investment will enable the firm to continue on its growth trajectory and I’d encourage other SMEs in the Midlands that are looking to grow to also consider the options available through the MEIF.”

Vicky Hlomuka, Growth Hub Manager at the South East Midlands LEP, said: “Humley has shown that innovative businesses can grow and develop at a quick pace. It is important that these businesses in our area have the opportunity for investment to grow and innovate further. It is great to see the investment from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund support them in their journey to further scale up.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

 

A boss who overcame Coronavirus and went on to successfully steer his office supplies business through the lockdown has secured a £200,000 NPIF loan to support his growth plans.

Gordon Profit of Citrus Office Group has secured a CBILS-backed loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Citrus, which employs the majority of its 18 staff at its premises in Nelson, Lancashire, and has an additional office in Nottingham, supplies businesses throughout England and Scotland ranging from SMEs to large corporates and Premier League football clubs. The company has grown steadily in the past few years. However in early March, after returning from a skiing holiday in Austria , Gordon was rushed to hospital with Covid-19 and spent seven days in intensive care.

Within a week of his discharge, the lockdown was introduced and he was back at work helping the business to navigate the changes. With many workplaces closed, demand for office products initially fell sharply and to make matters worse, the supply chain was disrupted. The company reacted rapidly – delivering direct to workers’ homes, re-organising logistics, introducing a new PPE and sanitiser range and seeking out other new products and suppliers.

While many workplaces have reopened, Citrus continues to diversify including the launch of its own branded workwear range.

Gordon, who acquired the business in 2008 after a career in the industry, said: “The past few months have been a huge challenge. We’ve not only had to deal with a drop in revenue, but also disruptions to supplies and logistics. However we are now in a much stronger position and recognise that changes of this type also bring opportunities – for example to make acquisitions or win new clients as companies seek more competitive suppliers. The funding will give us a breathing space to take stock, explore new possibilities  and put our plans into action.”

Pete Sorsby, Investment Director at Mercia, added: “Citrus had been growing strongly in the period before the pandemic. Gordon and the team have shown real entrepreneurial flair in adapting to the new business landscape. This funding will provide additional working capital to help the business adjust and take advantage of expansion opportunities the changes have created.”

Steve Fogg, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership said: “The way in which Citrus has adapted to a decrease in demand from established markets and identified new diversification opportunities is a brilliant example of creativity and resilience in these challenging times. We are increasingly hearing of Lancashire businesses showing real ingenuity to find innovative solutions in the wake of Covid-19 and it is fantastic that Citrus, and others, are able to make use of schemes such as CBILS to full effect and make the most of new market opportunities.”

The deadline for CBILS loans applications has been extended to 30 November. NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance can provide loans in the North of England with a focus on Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region, York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding and the Humber.

 

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS).

 

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

Mercia is continuing its support of UK SMEs with an additional commitment to its debt funds. Over the next five years, Mercia will provide up to £40million to support the growth of regional SMEs across the UK.

Mercia SME Loans will be providing a much-needed source of finance to ambitious, regional businesses that are seeking debt finance as they move beyond the cash flow constrains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mercia’s investment team can lend between £100,000 to £1million to fund working capital, acquisitions, capital investment and management team restructures/buyouts, an area of specialism for Mercia.  The fund can invest in all areas of the UK with a focus on the North of England.

Mercia SME Loans is backed by existing investor, Greater Manchester Pension Fund. It builds on earlier investments completed into previous debt and private equity funds in a relationship which spans more than 15 years.

Mercia’s first SME Loans fund launched in 2015 and backed 52 businesses including high profile brands such as Harrogate Spring Water and polyeurathane fabricators, Rosehill Polymers.

MD of Mercia Debt Funds, Paul Taberner (pictured), explained: “Mercia SME Loans backs profitable and ambitious SMEs that are reigniting growth plans stalled during the first part of this year.  We’re already seeing a strong pipeline of new deals as the regional economies start to recover and we hope initiatives like the launch of our new fund will stimulate even more growth as the country fights back to recovery.”

 

A Sheffield company whose smart sensing technology helps industry to reduce costs has raised £1.1m from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Tribosonics embeds sensors within bearings and other moving parts to create ‘intelligent components’ which can monitor friction and wear and tear. The results help companies to extend plant life, prevent critical failures and reduce energy use. Tribosonics’ technology can be used in manufacturing, power generation and transport – for example to create smart factories, or in critical parts such as the bolts on wind turbines and the bearings within a ship’s propeller.

The investment will allow the company to expand its 23-strong team with the addition of 10 new staff over the next 12 months, and invest further in product development. As part of the deal, Sarah Sandle who is VP Strategy of Rolls-Royce, joins the company as Chair.

Tribosonics was founded by Dr Phil Harper, a specialist in tribology or the science of wear, friction and lubrication, and who is now the CTO. In 2018 he was joined by serial entrepreneur Glenn Fletcher, the CEO, who worked with him to develop and commercialise the company’s unique technology. Tribosonics has developed applications for a number of blue-chip clients.

Glenn Fletcher said: “We are delighted to receive the backing of Mercia and NPIF. Mercia has a great track record in backing innovative tech companies. We are a proud Sheffield business, flying the flag for Northern innovation, cutting edge engineering, and transformational IOT solutions.

“This investment will provide the resources to significantly enhance our technology platform and to expand our very talented team as we rapidly scale our commercial activities globally, using our unique sensing technology to create a more sustainable and valuable future.”

Will Schaffer, Investment Manager at Mercia, added: “Tribosonics is at the forefront of Industry 4.0, allowing businesses to unlock data from industrial systems. The solutions that it is developing have huge potential to advance systems design, improve productivity and reduce costs. As friction accounts for 23% of global energy use, they often have the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions. The investment will help Tribosonics to accelerate product development and to deepen customer relationships.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at British Business Bank, said: “This investment demonstrates how NPIF is able to support high-growth businesses in the North, despite the difficulties of social distancing and uncertain economic times. Investment like this is providing vital funding to enable ambitious organisations to expand and create new job opportunities. With more businesses like Tribosonics able to take up investment we should see the economy in the north rebounding strongly.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

 

A university spin-out which has developed a way to detect cancer at an early stage using a simple blood test has completed a £2.4m funding round led by Mercia’s EIS funds.

The investment will allow ClinSpec Diagnostics (ClinSpec Dx) to further develop its technology and expand its team. The Glasgow-based company was founded in 2016 to commercialise research by Dr Matthew Baker at the University of Strathclyde. Through a combination of infra-red light and artificial intelligence, its ‘drop, dry, detect’ technology provides results in minutes.

Mercia first invested in the business in 2019. The latest round – which also includes funding from the Scottish Investment Bank, SIS Ventures, EOS Advisory and the University of Strathclyde – brings the total raised by the company so far to £4m.

Studies have shown ClinSpec’s technology has potential as a multi-cancer early detection test which could also indicate the type and severity of the tumour, allowing doctors and clinicians to prioritise the most effective treatments.

The new funding will allow it to complete its second brain cancer trial, develop an algorithm covering the most common cancers and create a further five jobs, taking its total headcount to 14. The company remains open for a further £1 million to prepare the groundwork for Series A funding.

Mark Hegarty, CEO of ClinSpec Dx, said: “Worldwide, 26,000 people die from cancer each day. Early detection is critical for effective treatment, but many cancers go undetected for too long. This funding is another significant step forward for ClinSpec Dx in our mission to detect cancer earlier and help to increase patient survival and quality of life.”