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Nominations are now open for the cofinitive #21toWatch Awards 2021

cofinitive is today announcing that the formal nominations window has opened to uncover the #21toWatch Top 21 in 2021.

The #21toWatch Awards are open to the inspiring people, pioneering companies and ground-breaking ‘things’ they create across Cambridge and the East of England, promising a celebration of the region’s outstanding talent across all market sectors.

Faye Holland, founder of cofinitive, and creator of #21toWatch (42242280)
Faye Holland, founder of cofinitive, and creator of #21toWatch (42242280)

The programme – which is aimed at supporting daring new ventures and individuals - receives hundreds of nominations each year.

Supported once again by the Cambridge Independent, it is open to all in East Anglia, with each submission assessed on innovation, challenge, influence, viability and memorability to ensure that #21toWatch focuses on the most exciting emerging talent. With this in mind entrants typically employ less than 50 people and if they have received funding it is generally not in excess of £15million.

Faye Holland, creator of #21toWatch and cofinitive founder, said: “The 2021 list is off to a great start – to date we have 60 qualified entrants that will be added to the 2021 lists over the coming weeks and months, and we’re excited to start seeing more nominations coming in each day.”

“In the last two years we have seen an uptick in companies in the agritech and cleantech sectors. For this cohort, following on from the impact of the pandemic over the last few months, we are looking forward to an influx of companies looking at sustainability and social impact too.”

The #21to Watch campaign was launched in 2018 and, each year, many of the Top21 have gone on to achieve great success – securing new rounds of funding, making new business connections and securing new clients.

2020 ‘People’ winner Ruchi Sharma of Stemnovate would encourage you to participate.

She said:“It’s a great initiative from cofinitive because it gives you recognition and a platform where you can take your ideas to the world.”

Tim Ramsdale, CEO of Agile Analog, winner in the ‘Companies’ category agrees “It’s been fantastic for the company, but actually for everyone that’s put their blood, sweat and tears into the Agile Analog over the last three years to build us to where we are today. It’s tremendous to have the recognition.”

To get the list started, here are the three of the first entrants to qualify for their respective list...

People – Dr Kanta Dihal

Dr Kanta Dihal, principal investigator of the Global AI Narratives project at The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, based at the University of Cambridge (42242171)
Dr Kanta Dihal, principal investigator of the Global AI Narratives project at The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, based at the University of Cambridge (42242171)

Kanta leads the Global AI Narratives project, which explores intercultural public understanding of artificial intelligence as constructed by fictional and nonfictional narratives. She is co-editor of the new book AI Narratives: A History of Imaginative Thinking About Intelligent Machines (Oxford University Press, 2020) and she is currently penning two additional books on the subject. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, Aeon, and New Scientist and she is a regular speaker in the media and at events including the World Economic Forum and New Scientist Live.

Companies – Rainbird.ai

James Duez, co-founder and CEO, Rainbird (42242111)
James Duez, co-founder and CEO, Rainbird (42242111)

Norwich-based Rainbird.ai starts the Companies listing. Rainbird is an AI-powered automated decision-making platform that allows businesses to replicate and scale their best workers. They have developed an effective way of ‘cloning’ your best employees by copying abstract know-how and representing it visually in a type of mind map. By building these visual models of a company’s smartest employees, Rainbird then uses them to automate decision making at rates typically 100x faster with 25 per cent more accuracy, preventing billions being lost due to inconsistent, uninformed decision making. Rainbird recently won the People’s Vote for Tech Innovation in the 2020 CogX awards.

Things – Spotta Bed Pods

Spotta aims to be the world leader in smart pest detection. Their core technology is an ultra-low-power, insect monitoring sensor that can detect infestations early. This allows their customers to intervene and resolve the problems earlier, more cheaply and with less environmental impact. Mentioned in the Fast Company 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards and recently secured seed funding.

What's next?

After submissions close on January 15, 2021 a shortlist is compiled. The shortlist is announced in February, and an independent expert panel will determine the Top21 who will be unveiled in a unique event on 4th March 2021 in a yet to be determined virtual, live or hybrid event.

Of this Faye said “The planned awards event for 2020 was one of the first events postponed because of the pandemic. We were also then one of the first organisers to take the event virtual with a live broadcast and we were delighted with the reach of the new event. The results show we knocked it out of the park reaching a global audience of over 70,000 the morning of the announcement – which is great news for those on the longlist, shortlist and Top21, and of course for our sponsors and partners.”

She continued “We are working on a hybrid approach for the announcement in 2021 – but whatever happens, we know we’re ready to break the mould again as we continue to raise the profile of innovation across our region with #21toWatch.”

You can make your nomination or submission for #21toWatch and find out more about the programme at www.cofinitive.com/21toWatch and by following #21toWatch.

A reminder of the top 21 from 2020

Members of the #21toWatch Top21.2020
Members of the #21toWatch Top21.2020

The Top21.2020 were:


  • Biosure founder and CEO Brigette Bard
  • Majico co-founder Serena Belluschi
  • CCG.ai co-founder and CEO John Cassidy
  • Better Origin co-founder and CEO Fotis Fotiadis
  • Microsoft Research Principal Researcher Dr Katja Hofmann
  • Stemnovate Ltd founder and CEO Ruchi Sharma
  • Junior research fellow in artificial intelligence Beth Singler


  • Agile Analog
  • Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG)
  • Cambridge Carbon Capture
  • KisanHub
  • Nu Quantum Ltd
  • Reflection Therapeutics
  • Riverlane.io


  • AudioTelligence
  • FlexEnable
  • Foundries.io
  • Herdsy
  • PBD Biotech
  • Techspert.io
  • Xampla

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