From chips to telecoms innovation is the key

Nick D’Aloisio, the 18-year-old who sold his Summly app to Yahoo for $30m, was a guest at last year’s City A.M. awards

City A.M.’s Innovative Company of the Year category salutes businesses that are frontrunners in their industry, from micro-chips to car service apps.

With London being one of the leading hubs in Europe – if not the world – of innovative technology, our judges have had a hard time choosing a shortlist, let alone a winner.

This year’s shortlist includes companies that have take the extra step in making life easier for firms in the telecoms business and the hard-hit consumer in the highly competitive energy sector, as well as helping to bring down the cost of hiring a cab.

The winner will have shown a genuinely innovative approach to business, be disruptive in their industry, and have achieved key milestones this year.



Arm - led by Simon Segars (above) – is Britain’s £12.4bn chip designer whose processor designs sit at the heart of 95 per cent of smartphones sold around the world, a fact that should be the pride of Brits everywhere. This year the firm’s technology helped Apple to launch the iPhone 6, which contains a processor 50 times faster than the first iPhone from 2007. And while the explosive smartphone growth of the past few years is generally slowing, phones, tablets and smartwatches are all moving to Arm’s next generation chips that command even higher royalties. So even in the absence of unit growth Arm is set to continue seeing dramatic growth.

CityFibre is taking a leaf out of Google Fibre’s playbook from Kansas (where the search giant is rolling out its own ultrafast fibre network), or is it Google copying CityFibre? Regardless, CityFibre has started rolling out the first pure fibre competitor to BT Openreach, giving local authorities, businesses and service providers an alternative to the former state monopoly for the first time. This year, CityFibre raised over £45m from the public markets to continue getting its systems out. Most recently boss Greg Mesch (below) announced a partnership with TalkTalk and Sky to run their services to customers in York over its network, bypassing BT.

Led by Olaf Swantee (above), EE, the UK’s biggest mobile operator, this year launched the world’s fastest mobile network in Shoreditch with 300mbit speeds. The move placed Britain firmly on the map as a world-leader in mobile connectivity, trumping South Korea’s claim to having the world’s fastest mobile network. EE’s aggressive push into the latest mobile broadband technology has even left handset makers struggling to keep up, a surprising twist for an industry that has historically been led by device manufacturers. EE also claims to hold the crown as the UK’s best performing network, according to RootMetrics.

Ovo Energy this year launched an annual tariff below £1,000 and an initiative to help community groups to sell energy. Stephen Fitzpatrick (below), its outspoken founder, stirred the pot when he said that the big six energy firms were maintaining “an illusion of competitive pricing”. The upstart independent energy supplier now counts former US vice-president and climate change campaigner Al Gore among its investors. Fitz­patrick says he’s put public listing plans on ice to focus on growth, but having already more than doubled its customer base since 2013 to around 400,000, those plans could be warming up.

Uber – run in London by Jo Bertram (above) – has pulled no punches in its relentless attack on traditional taxi and private hire businesses this year. The taxi app service faces ongoing litigation, protests and disputes in the US, UK, Australia, Paris and cities across Europe. Uber is truly in the hot seat. Despite this, the company’s elegant mobile app, effective use of users’ mobile location data to improve its service, and rapid global expansion that has seen Uber arrive in more than 100 new cities this year – more than doubling its global footprint to 197 cities in 45 countries – continues to win over users.