Suffolk Business Awards 2021: meet the Disruptor of the Year finalists

Stow Healthcare patients and nurses with balloons

Stow Healthcare acquires care homes with low ratings and transforms them into top-quality facilities - Credit: Stow Healthcare 

The Disruptor of the Year Award, sponsored by the University of Suffolk, recognises local companies demonstrating innovation and a commitment to environmental sustainability. 

Stow Healthcare Group 

Stow Healthcare Group effectively highlights how disruption does not necessarily have to come from cutting-edge technology. Its unique and effective approach to the care sector involves acquiring care homes with low ratings and difficult histories and transforming them into top-quality facilities. 

With its Suffolk based headquarters, this family-owned and operated business now comprises six homes. Three of these are rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission – a feat achieved by only 5% of care homes. Supported by over 450 dedicated staff, Stow Healthcare has a deserved reputation for high quality and award-winning care across East Anglia. The company is committed to the development of its apprentices and also retrains individuals from other industries to become top-quality carers.  

The judges said: “Stow Healthcare Group are a worthy finalist in this category. More evidence of this disruptive approach to the sector is evidenced in the new Maple Memory Centre at Brandon Park. The centre is dedicated solely to memory care provision and uses Montessori principles based on the ‘procedural learning system’.”

N2S circuit board

N2S contributes significantly to the circular economy by maximising the lifecycle of business IT equipment - Credit: N2S 


Based in Bury St Edmunds, N2S has developed a successful business model in an area of technology that is relatively unknown, but is vital to improve the sustainability of the technology equipment we all use. Founded 20 years ago, N2S contributes significantly to the circular economy by maximising the lifecycle of business IT equipment. 

In collaboration with academic and other partners, N2S has developed and deployed revolutionary new processes for recycling waste computer, IT and cloud equipment – including mobile phones and tablets. Each year N2S recycles around 1,000 tonnes of electric waste using a 100% sustainable biological process to recover precious metals, with the rest of the materials being recycled for other uses. The metals are then sold back to the manufacturers, creating a circularity of materials.   

The judges said: “N2S is a true local asset and a deserving finalist in this sector.” 

Olthem Payments apps graphic

Based in Stowmarket, Olthem Payments is a technology company facilitating business-to-business payments using open banking - Credit: Olthem Payments

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Olthem Payments 

Founded in 2017, Olthem Payments is a technology company creating apps that facilitate business-to-business payments using open banking. Based at the Innovation Labs in Stowmarket, the company’s innovative solutions help businesses get paid faster – and at a fraction of the cost of taking card payments.   

Olthem Payments has developed an ingenious solution for the wholesale payments market with its mobile app, EchoPay, which is the first to use open banking in the wholesale sector for business-to-business payments. This allows customers to save money on card processing fees, while ensuring the transaction is deposited instantly into their account, thereby improving cash flow. The service is revolutionary for the wholesale sector, as transactions previously relied almost exclusively on card transactions, which had a three-day settlement and fees levied.  

The judges said: “Olthem Payments is a local success story and a true disruptor.” 

PCE Automation factory equipment

PCE Automation is a global leader in the supply of advanced automated manufacturing systems - Credit: PCE Automation

PCE Automation  

Founded in 1961, PCE Automation has constantly been at the forefront of new and emerging technologies. From its two manufacturing sites in Suffolk and the East Midlands, the company is a global leader in the supply of advanced automated manufacturing systems.  

PCE Automation demonstrates a commitment to endless innovation, with a fierce desire to adapt and grow. Using the skills and knowledge honed over many years serving different industries, PCE Automation displays a disruptive approach in developing excellence in new industries, such as ocular technologies and pharmaceuticals.  

The judges said: “PCE Automation is well on the path to its goal of being one of the most highly respected automation solutions providers globally and a fine entrant into the Disruptor category.”