Skylark Lasers secures funding from Innovate UK to develop quantum-enabled navigation systems

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Skylark Lasers, the Edinburgh-based photonics company, has been awarded £2.34 million in investment from Innovate UK to help develop next generation quantum-enabled navigation and time-keeping systems.

The award totals 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.

According to Skylark, 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 leading 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, “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 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 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.”

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 and to apply our new diode-pumped Ti:sapphire ultrafast laser technology that will enable the next generation of quantum sensors.”

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 Lasers specialises in the design and manufacture of ultra-reliable, high-performance, single-frequency DPSS lasers and the company’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.