Collaborative R&D project will enhance Scotland's global sensor capabilities

Nell Walker
- Technology - Feb 17, 2016

A groundbreaking new collaborative research and development project will place Scotland at the forefront of the £7 billion global sensors and imaging systems market, deliver significant economic growth, and onshore 41 highly skilled research and manufacturing jobs from Asia.

The initiative - the first of its kind in Scotland and backed by Scottish Enterprise and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems - will bring together companies and organisations to collaborate on the production of materials integral to manufacturing a variety of goods that use sensors, ranging from asthma inhalers to infrared cameras.

Four companies - Cascade Technologies (lead company partner), Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global (CSTG), Gas Sensing Solutions Ltd (GSS), Amethyst Research Ltd - and the Research Division of Electronics and Nanoscale Engineering at The University of Glasgow will combine their expertise in different aspects of manufacturing next-generation sensing technologies to produce a wide range of products for different end markets. The project will also see high performance III-V infrared detector specialist, Amethyst Research Ltd, continue to locate its operations in Scotland to gain access to Europe.

Aiming to cumulatively boost turnover for the businesses by £135 million over the next 10 years, and cut production costs by up to 50%, the project will give them a critical competitive edge in the global mid-IR sensors1 market. The project is expected to deliver £56 million to the Scottish economy over the next 10 years.

Dr Lena Wilson, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, said: “This ground breaking project is further evidence of Scotland’s global competitiveness. The companies involved are great examples of the innovative supply chain in Scotland, highlighting why we continue to be an attractive location for technology manufacturing investment.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “This project is an excellent example of how collaborative working can support the development of advanced manufacturing technologies, boosting productivity and driving growth. Innovation Centres have a unique role to play in engaging with businesses to identify new solutions and we would like to see more of these types of projects develop in the future.”

The project will provide the organisations with access to III-V semiconductors2, allowing the companies involved to create cutting-edge, quality mid-IR sensors in high volumes with greater sensitivity, lower cost, reduced energy use and a longer lifespan than existing products. These can be employed in a wealth of applications including: gas analysers, methane sensors, distributed feedback lasers3 and a vast array of industrial processes.

Working at locations across central Scotland, each company will bring expertise in the growth of these materials and play an important collaborative role in the supply chain. The businesses will then take the materials and produce a variety of different products relevant to their specific end markets – none of them will compete with each other.

Bringing significant production capability back to the UK, access to these materials and the technology used to produce them will help to develop Scotland’s technical skills in advanced sensors and imaging systems. This will also allow further innovation and breakthroughs with the materials through continuing collaborative research and the sharing of expertise

Combined with the dozens of indigenous companies which could make use of the facility and Glasgow’s academic landscape, the project presents a globally unique proposition for manufacturing mid-IR sensor devices.

The project is supported with almost £6 million in funding over the next three years, comprising £2.8 million from the companies participating, £2.6 million from Scottish Enterprise’s collaborative R&D support and £241,000 plus capital equipment provided by CENSIS.

Ian Reid, Chief Executive of CENSIS, said: “This project will have a momentous impact on Scottish industry and is a game-changer for collaborative R&D. Not only will it underpin the development of Scotland’s sensors and imaging sector, which already accounts for £2.6 billion in annual revenues, but it will also provide the academic community with access to cutting edge technology; allowing further innovation and collaboration.

“Scotland has the potential to be at the forefront of the global sensors and imaging systems sector, and this project could make that a reality. We have the opportunity to innovate continually from the design and growth of the materials, right through to the wide variety of products which can be manufactured and their extensive applications.

“Collaboration between these companies and the academic community will put both of these groups at the forefront of global trends and in a unique position to access new markets, ultimately creating a globally competitive supply chain of businesses.”

 

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