Skylark Lasers has secured £2.3 million investment from Innovate UK to develop quantum-enabled navigation and time-keeping systems.

The Edinburgh photonics company, formerly known as UniKlasers, has been awarded almost 10% of the £25m total funding available from Innovate UK’s quantum-enabled positioning, navigation and timing 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.

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 this.

“We are excited to continue our development efforts within the fields of quantum technologies,” said Dr Ben Szutor, CEO at Skylark Lasers. “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.”

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Skylark Lasers’ significant contribution to the realisation 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 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 Szutor as its new CEO to guide its long-term growth vision.

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.”

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