Active Hotels tops the Deloitte Eastern Technology Fast 50 list with 4,289% turnover growt...


The results of this year's search for East Anglia's fastest growing technology companies were announced at an awards ceremony at Tattersalls in Newmarket this week.

Cambridge-based Active Hotels Ltd, one of Europe's leading online hotel reservations providers, topped this year's rankings after recording an impressive turnover growth of 4,289% between 2000 and 2002. Dr Andrew Phillipps and Adrian Critchlow founded the company in 1999, after they identified an opportunity for an online sales and distribution channel in the highly fragmented hotel market.

Active Hotels developed an innovative system that enables hotels to sell their rooms through a wide network of partner websites, with the company receiving commission for every reservation delivered through its system.

The online travel industry is the fastest growing internet economy and Active Hotels now has over 4,000 partner hotels and 1,500 partner websites. The company currently processes over ?140million worth of bookings per year.

In second place with turnover growth of 1,172% was Cambridge-based Acambis plc, a leading developer of vaccines to prevent and treat infectious disease. Recognised internationally as the leading producer of smallpox vaccines, Acambis is developing a second-generation smallpox vaccine, which is currently undergoing clinical trials, and is manufacturing the vaccine for governments around the world to provide them with stockpiles for use in the event of a smallpox outbreak.

Z-Tech Control Systems Ltd, a provider of control systems for a range of businesses based in Dry Drayton, Cambridge, came third with an impressive 833% growth in turnover.

David Halstead, Technology, Media and Telecommunications partner at Deloitte's Cambridge office, commented: 'In a year of extraordinary adversity and when achieving growth remained the single biggest challenge faced by the technology sector, these companies have showed tremendous resilience, defied market conditions and continued growing.

'This year's winning company, Active Hotels, is power to the argument that focusing on niche markets pays dividends. Even during a period when the travel and tourism industry suffered a series of blows, among them the events of September 11th and the foot-and-mouth outbreak, Active Hotels focused on the gap in the market where there was still demand for a service.

'In doing so, the company has captured the highly lucrative online travel industry market by creating mutually beneficial partnerships that enable both hoteliers and distribution partners to benefit.

'From a broader perspective, it's fair to say that widespread reaction to the difficult economic times of late in the technology industry has been to look inwards. Given this, the tremendous success of these companies is to be applauded all the more and it is pleasing to see a good balance of sectors represented, from software to equipment manufacturing and the biotech/medical sector,' he added.

A special award for business excellence, sponsored by Bailey Fisher, was presented to i2. Thousands of commercial and law enforcement analysts and investigators around the world now use i2's industry-leading software products in the war against crime. The company was recognised for its demonstration of strong technical and engineering acumen, coupled with a global market awareness and commercial strategies. Founded in 1990, i2 has grown organically to an organisation with 160 people in the UK and distribution partners in 13 countries.

Deloitte created the Technology Fast 50 six years ago to reach out to UK technology companies and champion innovation in the sector. The programme tracks the growth rates of technology companies in seven regions across the UK and Ireland. All Fast 50 winners from these seven regions are automatically nominated for the European Fast 500, which benchmarks Europe's fastest growing public and private technology companies and culminates in a high-profile awards ceremony on 8 December 2003 at the Natural History Museum, London.

This year's event was sponsored nationally by Hewlett-Packard, the global provider of technology products and services; SCC, part of Europe's largest privately-owned technology group; and the London Stock Exchange. Locally the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bailey Fisher also sponsored the Eastern Fast 50 event.

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Deloitte & Touche LLP is the UK's fastest growing major professional services firm based in 21 UK locations, with over 10,000 staff nationwide and fee income of 1,228 million in 2002/2003. It is a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a leading professional services organisation, delivering world class audit, tax, consulting and corporate finance services, with around 120,000 people in over 140 countries. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu is a Swiss Verein, and each of its national practices is a separate and independent legal entity.

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The Deloitte Cambridge office comprises 8 Partners and over 250 staff who deliver a full range of professional services to the East Anglian region. As well as focussing on the life sciences and technology sectors for which the region has become so renowned, the office has long standing specialisms in other sectors including the professions, consumer business, food and agribusiness.

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