Six tech startups to watch in 2022

Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, has chosen six technology startups as the ‘ones to watch’ for 2022 at this year’s Digital Catapult Awards. These innovative small businesses are leading the way in the development and application of advanced and emerging digital technologies across the UK economy, and were selected as trailblazing examples of the strength and innovation of the vibrant UK tech startup ecosystem. 

Digital Catapult has worked with over 540 businesses this year, from which 60 were chosen for the Awards longlist. An illustrious panel of judges from across the manufacturing and creative industries whittled this list down to the 15 finalists, with six winners selected on the night. 

The Digital Catapult Awards celebrate world-class technology startups who have achieved the most market traction, secured the most investment and have produced the best new product or service ideas set to accelerate the digital future. The winners’ innovations range from AI-powered technology to optimise recycling processes, to fully immersive, workplace collaboration tools. 

189 companies have raised over £369.5m in investment after being part of Digital Catapult accelerator programmes and innovation activities, highlighting just how successful small businesses and entrepreneurs have been as a result of Digital Catpault’s interventions and support - from major programmes such as Machine Intelligence Garage, Augmentor, CreativeXR and 5G Testbed Accelerator Programme, to industry-leading projects like WeatherLedger, Made Smarter Technology Accelerator and 5PRING. 

Unveiled at the Awards was Digital Catapult’s new acceleration framework for supporting UK startups and scaleups - FutureScope. Designed to support companies with specific expertise at different stages of their lifecycle, FutureScope will help early stage startups just entering the market, to those who are focused on pushing the limits of their tech capability, right the way up to later stage companies looking at Series A+ investment and beyond. 

Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult, said: “We’re thrilled to unveil this group of six ambitious early stage companies that are having a positive, ethical and sustainable impact on the economy and wider society, as our ones to watch in 2022. 

“We are very proud to have been a part of the growth journey of these exceptional companies - they show how rich and talented the UK tech ecosystem is and we’re proud to recognise their achievements. Digital Catapult has engaged with over 540 companies this year, so the task the judges faced in deciding which of our 15 incredible finalists took home an award was immense.”

The Digital Catapult Awards brought together a wide range of guests from across the UK’s digital technology community, hosted by storyteller, advisor, futurist and mentor Suki Fuller. 

Suki Fuller commented: “It’s an honour to stand here tonight and celebrate some of the UK’s shining startup stars. The tech community has been through so much in recent times, and these are small businesses who have not only survived but thrived in the face of adversity. 

“Digital Catapult supports businesses right at the cutting-edge of developments in advanced technology - those making real world impact - and this event has been testimony to that.”

The winners are: 

Ascalia is using AI and IoT to help factories improve their efficiency - reducing resources and energy waste. It’s AI-enabled quality control capabilities are improving overall quality inspection in the food industry, streamlining safety inspections.

Greyparrot is moving us towards a circular economy by transforming the way we manage waste at scale. Its technology automates and optimises recycling processes using AI-powered computer vision to rapidly recognise, audit and sort large waste flows at scale, unlocking the financial value of waste.

Keyless offer unmatched device security while reducing risk. Its technology enhances the security of organisations through a personal identity management platform that combines multi-modal biometrics and advanced cryptography.

Fracture Reality is encouraging more widespread use of mixed reality by building collaboration tools. Its solutions leverage virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology for teamwork across enterprises. Its virtual meeting platform, JoinXR, lets non-expert users browse, manipulate and discuss data such as building plans, product designs or 3D scans. 

  • Charisma (Responsible & Ethical Tech Pioneer

Charisma AI is leading the way in interactive storytelling, bringing audiences and characters closer together than ever. With the latest natural language processing technology, it uses the language of storytelling, with built-in features like emotion, memory, scenes and subplots to bring stories to life. 

Forest Tribe uses augmented reality (AR), 5G, haptics and AI to create bespoke immersive entertainment for live events that is inclusive, diverse and supports health and wellbeing. Its approach is purely artistic-led to create risk-taking and disruptive immersive experiences for new audiences, particularly those with complex learning needs. 

The 15 finalists were (in alphabetical order):

  • Alice Camera (From Growth to Scale)
  • Alice SI Ltd (Responsible and Ethical Tech Pioneer)
  • Arcade (Responsible and Ethical Tech Pioneer)
  • Ascalia (From Idea to Reality)
  • Charisma Entertainment (Responsible and Ethical Tech Pioneer)
  • DeepReel (Transforming Industry) 
  • EHAB (Transforming Industry) 
  • Fat Red Bird (From Growth to Scale)
  • Fine Energy Operations Ltd (From Idea to Reality)
  • Forest Tribe (Game Changing Application) 
  • Fracture Reality (Transforming Industry) 
  • Greyparrot (From Growth to Scale)
  • Keyless Technologies (Game Changing Application) 
  • Luffy AI (Game Changing Application) 
  • Riscon Solutions Ltd (From Idea to Reality) 

Speaking on their victories some of the winners gave a comment...

Guy Gadney, co-founder and CEO of Charisma, said: “We’re so pleased with this recognition from Digital Catapult this evening. Walking shoulder to shoulder with them into larger-scale opportunities is of significant value to us. We’re going from strength to strength  - now working with companies like Warner Brothers and creating our own mind blowing, immersive experiences across TV and gaming - and can’t wait to continue on this journey.”

Marin Bek, co-founder and CEO of Ascalia, said: “Digital Catapult’s Made Smarter Technology Accelerator has been a fantastic support for us, and as a business we’ve come on an exciting journey from just an idea, to landing a major, multi-million pound commercial contract. It’s brilliant to get a nod from Digital Catapult in the shape of this award and reflect on how far we’ve come.”

Alisa Pritchard, Head of Marketing and Operations, Greyparrot, said: “Digital Catapult has been a huge part of our careers, driving invaluable leads for us that have helped facilitate our success - so it’s a pleasure to receive this award this evening. We’re now present in 10 countries, and looking forward to putting our foot to the pedal to accelerate our growth even further on a global scale.”

Rob Minson, co-founder and CTO of Fracture Reality, said: “Fracture Reality is thrilled to have received this award from Digital Catapult, which plays a key role in connecting large organisations in the UK, with small, nimble, technology-driven startups like ours. Small organisations want to get their technology into large user bases, but often the people who work in small startups haven't spent any time in large organisations, and vice versa, so the two can often speak a completely different language. Digital Catapult has been invaluable in speaking both languages to help us bridge that gap.”

Fabian Eberle, COO and co-founder of Keyless, said: “Digital Catapult is extremely well-connected and has been supportive in making introductions, sharing content, round tables and providing activities we could attend. "It’s brilliant to be recognised by them this evening as part of their awards! We're looking forward to continuing to disrupt the market with our biometric authentication solutions as we aim to make passwords a thing of the past."

Debbie Bandara, CEO of Forest Tribe, said: “It’s an honour to receive the CEO award tonight from Jeremy - and a total surprise! Looking forward, 2022 is going to take us another step towards creating a diverse and inclusive entertainment platform, and we thank Digital Catapult for helping us pivot our work.”