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