Skylark Lasers, has been awarded £2.34 million in investment from Innovate UK to help develop the next generation quantum-enabled navigation and time-keeping systems.
The Edinburgh-based photonics company has been awarded almost 10% of the £25 million total funding available from Innovate UK’s Quantum-Enabled positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition fund.
The money will be invested in establishing and scaling the production of quantum gravity sensors to accelerate advancements in the autonomous navigation of shipping vessels and provide next-generation navigational precision to tankers on the open seas, where GPS and satellite navigation are poor.
Skylark Lasers is the UK’s efforts to commercialise business-led inventions in the quantum technology market. The photonics company has secured the largest single amount awarded for quantum investment in Scotland to date. A study by Innovate UK revealed that a Global Navigation Satellite Systems failure could cost the UK upwards of £500m per day. The fund and subsequent innovation seek to combat that. The global quantum-enabled sensor market is forecasted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 29.8%.
Commenting on the funding win, Dr. Ben Szutor, CEO at Skylark Lasers, said: “We are excited to continue our development efforts within the fields of quantum technologies. This is a milestone moment for Skylark Lasers as this new funding will enable the full-scale commercialisation of our quantum portfolio. These innovations have the potential to revolutionise the ship & rail navigation, civil engineering, and underground resource exploration sectors which will have a significant influence on global supply chain efficiencies. Having previously worked with industry leaders such as Qinetiq and RSK, this funding will provide the vital push to create production-ready quantum enabled tools and propel the UK’s capabilities on a global level.
“Scotland is at the forefront of worldwide laser innovation and this funding will further excel Skylark Lasers as a pioneer in the development of quantum technologies, and allow us to grow the business in the coming years.”
Skylark Laser’s contribution to the SBRI project is the delivery of a portable laser system (NX Micro COTS laser system for quantum gravity gradiometry), with frequency-versatile switching based on DPSS technology. The system has 4 channels with coarse tuning range of 780 to 785 nm and a detuning range of 15 GHz, ideal for rubidium interferometry.
Professor Derryck T Reid from Heriot-Watt University commented: We are looking forward to working with Skylark Lasers on this exciting opportunity and to apply our new diode-pumped Ti:sapphire ultrafast laser technology that will enable the next generation of quantum sensors.
Skylark Lasers is an agile photonics company that specialises in the design and manufacture of ultra-reliable, high-performance, single-frequency DPSS lasers. It recently appointed Dr. Ben Szutor as its new CEO, to lead the business and guide its long-term growth vision.
Alastair Moore, Senior Investment Manager at Par Equity, said: “It’s brilliant to see Skylark Lasers recognised as one of the most innovative companies in the UK’s quantum technology ecosystem through the award of this transformational grant. This complements the progress that the team has delivered over the past 2 years in developing and bringing to market its high-power lasers for scientific and industrial applications.
“As a deep tech investor focused on backing the best teams and technologies in the north of the UK, it is greatly rewarding to see this progress being made with Skylark continuing to pave the way in quantum innovation and commercialisation.”
Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director Quantum Technologies at Innovate UK, said: “We’re delighted to be helping Skylark Lasers build up their portfolio of high-performance quantum products for which there is growing customer demand. Here is evidence that the UK’s technical leadership is now being translated into real industrial capability”.
Kerry Sharp, Director of Entrepreneurship & Investment at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland is enjoying a growing reputation in photonics and Skylark Lasers is a fantastic example of a company that is leading the way in the industry, which is why Scottish Enterprise has been invested since 2017 and continues to support the company.
“This Innovate UK award will support their portable laser system, which will help bring substantial improvements and accuracy to ship navigation, rail navigation, civil engineering, and underground resource exploration. We look forward to continuing our partnership and seeing Skylark Lasers grow further in the years ahead.”