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Cash injection for artificial intelligence

Jun 1 2004

By Enterprise North East


A fast-growing, North-East software development company has received a major cash injection to develop its groundbreaking technology.

Newcastle-based Ridge Media is developing an artificial intelligence product that promises to have a major impact on the games development industry.

Prospects are so positive for the product that Ridge Media has just received a 60,000 boost from NStar, the region's early-stage technology finance company. This coincides with an expansion into new premises and a recruitment drive.

The investment, made under NStar's recently-launched Proof of Concept Fund, will enable Ridge Media to test out its software product with a view to bringing it to the gaming market within the next 18 months.

This would also provide proof that the technology can be commercialised for other sectors such as finance, defence and bioinformatics.

Last year, the company was awarded a Smart Award from the Government's Small Business Service to undertake a feasibility study into its innovative technology, Generic AI (artificial intelligence). Ridge Media was introduced to NStar by Codeworks, the region's digital media Centre of Excellence.

Dr Richard Exley, who manages NStar's pilot Proof of Concept fund, reports that the Ridge Media proposition hit all the marks.

"Our job is to help really good technology-based propositions with early stage finance," he says. "This is an ideal opportunity to assist the development of a new and much-needed AI technology in the region.""

Mike Hendy, managing director at Ridge Media, says: "This is a crucial investment to take the software forward. This type of development is high risk and requires massive investment in time and resource - although the returns could be enormous for us and the whole games development community."

The Generic AI product will be aimed at games developers, providing them with the most advanced technology available on the market. Games developers currently buy in a range of tools such as graphics and other components - known as middleware products - to make their ideas and programmes work.

Mike Hendy and his team say that success in this sector would be used as a springboard for expansion into other areas. Ridge Media aims to employ a team of 11 designers, programmers and multi-media developers by the end of 2004.

The emerging product represents a diversification for the company, which typically develops database-driven websites, intranets and bespoke software projects for a wide range of businesses, from Barclays, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Swiss Re, Tower 42 and Watson Burton Solicitors.


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