Harnessing The Power of Technology to Enhance People’s Lives
ABGI is delighted to have been involved in judging the Scotland and Wales regional applications for this year’s Super Connect for Good competition.
17 November 2021
This UK-wide competition seeks to discover and connect the best emerging start-ups and scale-ups that are using technology to create positive social impact and enhance people’s lives.
We're especially proud to be part of this project since we are huge advocates of the positive power of innovation for UK business. And we’ve always been very vocal in encouraging companies to look at all available ways they can accelerate their innovation activity to boost growth and business success.
BUT technological innovation doesn't just bring economic benefits to our society. There are many opportunities to use the power of technology to help us solve some of our major social challenges.
According to the Tech Nation “Tech for Social Good” report, the UK is a global centre for socially responsible technology innovation. ‘Tech for social good’ companies were worth £2.3 billion in 2018, with a turnover of £732 million – larger than the amount generated by the manufacture of consumer electronics in the UK (£634 million).
Profit with purpose technology
A rising number of companies are working hard on developing amazingly innovative technology for social good, and there is a growing demand from customers for "profit with purpose technology" that helps facilitate positive societal change.
Take for example IGS Limited, the winner of the “Super Connect for Good” - Scotland & Wales region, and CanSense, the regional runner up.
IGS Limited is a Scottish agritech innovator delivering vertical farming solutions to customers across the world. Founded in 2013, IGS brought together decades of farming and engineering experience to create a tech business with the vision to revolutionise the indoor growing market addressing the issues of responsible production and consumption. Feeding an exponentially growing global population whilst reducing the dramatic negative impact food production has on our climate, is a fundamental challenge. Vertical farming technology aims to address food security issues, mitigate environmental concerns and develop sustainable methods of production.
While the runner up, Swansea-based CanSense utilises cutting-edge data analytics and machine learning to maximise the performance of their cancer diagnostic which it hopes will provide an affordable healthcare solution to early-stage cancer detection using one standard blood sample, with an aim to significantly reduce the high levels of cancer mortality. CanSense believe they are going to make a significant positive global impact on society by dramatically improving people’s lives by helping diagnose cancer early, when it is treatable and curable.
Finding the funds to make a difference in the world
Many of the entrants of the Super Connect for Good competition are small start-up businesses with big visions of how they can combine strong social impact with a business success and profitability.
As with the industrial revolution of the 18th Century, which saw a flourishing of privately funded healthcare and education programmes, so the current wave of socially responsible entrepreneurs eagerly anticipates seeing these companies grow into strong profitable businesses with the power to deliver incredible social impact.
The fact these businesses are driven by a stronger motive than profit doesn’t make them any less susceptible to the challenges of every early-stage high-growth business, such as:
- Proving that both technology AND the core business model are viable;
- Securing the funding necessary to take the business through proof of concept, to technology development and all the way to market launch;
- With the added challenge of overcoming the misconceptions and an already dubious market…
As highlighted in the Tech Nation “Tech for social good” report, there is considerable drop off in company numbers at venture, growth and established stage. This could suggest a wide range of things but may be linked to the funding landscape. The need for follow-up funding is vital for these companies to scale, yet it is often stated that companies with a more purpose-driven mission are less investable. It’s a Catch-22 situation.
Securing funding will be a significant challenge for many.
The good news is that there is help out there to get businesses through the challenges of developing the technology and getting the business up and running. From early-stage grants to commercial funding (such as loans, asset finance or equity investment), through to R&D tax relief and finally Patent Box for companies developing formal IP, there are many ways to meet the financial risk posed to innovative SMEs.