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Skylark Lasers wins £2.3 million funding from Innovate UK

13 Jul 2023

To help develop NX Micro COTS laser system for quantum gravity gradiometry applications.

Skylark Lasers, has been awarded £2.34 million ($3 M) in investment from Innovate UK to help it develop quantum-enabled navigation and time-keeping systems.

The Edinburgh-based photonics company has been awarded almost 10% of the £25 million ($33 M) total funding available from Innovate UK’s Quantum-Enabled positioning, navigation, and timing Small Business Research Initiative 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’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 four channels with coarse tuning range of 780 to 785 nm and a detuning range of 15 GHz, ideal for rubidium interferometry.

A study by Innovate UK revealed that a Global Navigation Satellite Systems failure could cost the UK upwards of £500 million ($655 M) per day. The fund and subsequent innovation is intended to combat that. The global quantum-enabled sensor market is forecasted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 29.8%.

Dr. Ben Szutor, CEO at Skylark , commented, “This is a milestone moment for Skylark Lasers as this new funding will enable the full-scale commercialisation of our quantum portfolio

He said, “These innovations have the potential to revolutionize ship and rail navigation, civil engineering, and underground resource exploration sectors, which will have a significant influence on global supply chain efficiencies. Having previously worked with companies 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.”

PNT sensors

Skylark’s contribution to the realization of PNT sensors is the delivery of a portable, near-infrared laser system that will be integrated into a miniature gravity sensor working with both academic and industrial partners.

Professor Derryck 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 specializes 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: “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.”

Skylark Laser’s client list includes research institutions and organisations such as world-leading equipment manufacturers and academic institutions, the University of New Mexico, KAUST, Linköping University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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