Weekly Tech Round-Up #26

Here is all the tech news you need to know from the past week, sign up for our newsletter to receive this in your inbox every week. We also do a South West tech news update.

There are 100 UK tech unicorns, a third are fintech

The UK joined the US and China as the only nations to have more than 100 privately held companies that have achieved ‘unicorn’ status by being valued at more than $1bn, according to new data form Dealroom and Tech Nation. Out of these 100 firms, just over a third, 34, are fintech companies.

Tractable, an AI startup building computer vision tools, was the 100th firm when it raised a $60m Series D round last week. So far in 2021, 13 UK tech unicorns have already been created, compared to 7 in the whole of 2020. Collectively, the UK’s 100 tech unicorns have raised almost $32bn (€28.9bn) in VC investment.

These high levels of tech unicorn creation reflect the continued strength of the UK tech sector, which reached record highs in the first half of this year. UK tech startups have raised €13.2bn ($14.5bn) since the start of the year, beating the previous record of €8.1B ($8.9bn) (H2 2020), with two weeks still left to go.

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Funding Boost Supports UK Tech Companies

UKRI has provided a £10m funding boost to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund, which supports early-stage businesses arising from scientific research in the UK.

The UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (UKI2s) is a £37m fund which invests in early-stage, high-risk, long-term capital for high potential, early-stage businesses.  

It aims to boost the UK’s competitiveness and productivity from commercialisation of many areas of publicly-funded research, including healthcare, clean energy, artificial intelligence, software and space technology. The new £10m funding injection enables the UKI2S to increase the number of new UK businesses it can support. 

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Google AI tool can help patients identify skin conditions

Google has unveiled a tool that uses artificial intelligence to help spot skin, hair and nail conditions, based on images uploaded by patients. A trial of the “dermatology assist tool”, unveiled at the tech giant’s annual developer conference, Google IO, should launch later this year, it said. The app has been awarded a CEO mark for use us a medical tool in Europe. A cancer expert said AI advances could enable doctors to provide more tailored treatment to patients.

The AI can recognize 288 skin conditions but is not designed to be a substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment, the firm said. It has taken three years to develop, and has been trained on a dataset of 65,000 images of diagnosed conditions.

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Velocys welcomes technology ‘validation’ as first flight is powered using green fuel

The developer behind a green jet fuel plant on the Humber has welcomed the first commercial flight using the technology it aims to deploy.

A Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo to Sapporo used a 25 per cent blend of sustainable aviation fuel produced from Velocys’ Fischer Tropsch technology. Woody biomass residue feedstock was used to fuel the 500-mile trip in the Airbus A350.

Velocys’ Altalto Immingham plant, a joint venture with British Airways, will use domestic waste to produce fuel, applying the same technology.

Henrik Wareborn, chief executive, said: “Velocys is pleased to announce the validation of SAF derived from woody biomass as evidenced by the use of 25 per cent SAF blend in this first in the world commercial flight using wood-chips derived jet fuel.

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