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Government funding boost for ultrasonic sensor spin-out company

29 October 2015

A university spin-out company, developing wireless sensors to detect cracks and defects, has received a £489,000 funding boost from the government.

The sensors are entirely passive and the power and signal are provided when an inspection probe is brought nearby (photo: Inductosense)

Inductosense, a spin-out from the Ultrasonics and Non-Destructive Testing Group at the University of Bristol, is one of the first businesses in the UK to secure funding through a new programme designed to move ideas and innovation out of universities and into the marketplace.

Having successfully secured a £489,000 grant from Innovate UK, the team was able to set up its company with the support of the University and additional investment. Inductosense will now focus on developing novel wireless ultrasonic sensors that can be permanently fixed on structures in difficult to reach places, ready to detect any cracks or defects.

For example, the sensors have the potential to be embedded under insulation on structures at nuclear plants to eliminate the need for expensive plant downtime during inspection; and fixing sensors to the inside of wind turbine blades would enable measurements to be taken from the outside and speed up the inspection process during manufacture.

The sensors are entirely passive and the power and signal are provided when an inspection probe is brought nearby, enabling unskilled operators to take fast and reliable measurements of defects across a range of structures or products.

The team behind Inductosense joined the pilot SETsquared ICURe programme in October last year. The programme, delivered by the SETsquared Partnership, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Innovate UK, offers up to £50,000 to university researchers with commercially-promising ideas to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate their ideas in the marketplace.

"ICURe helped us to understand the market need for our technology and to identify the immediate and easier to access opportunities which subsequently fed into our business plan and during the programme we talked to over 100 companies," says Dr Chenghaun Zhong, Chief Technology Officer at Inductosense and previously a post-doc at the University of Bristol. "We also received invaluable training and support and we wouldn’t have got to where we are without it."

The team received funding, training and mentor support to determine the market potential for the technology and develop the business plan. At the end of the ICURe programme, the team pitched to a panel of investors and industry experts before being invited to apply for Innovate UK funding under the ICURe Aid for Start-Ups scheme.

"Inductosense is developing a unique technology that has the potential to solve a number of problems companies face with existing methods of inspection," says Dr Matt Butcher, managing director at Inductosense. "We are proud to be one of the first companies to receive funding like this. It will enable us to develop a product and to work with partnering companies on a range of exciting applications."

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