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University of Southampton spin-out company to float on the AIM

Published: 
19 October 2005

University of Southampton spin-out company SPI Lasers is intending to float on the Alternative Investment Market (AiM) of the London Stock Exchange.

The company, which was spun out by the University's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) in 2000 with the largest-ever UK university start-up funding, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of fibre lasers and is aiming at an estimated US $2.3 billion global market.

SPI has a broad product base of industrial lasers for cutting, welding and marking applications that are set to change industry substantially. The lasers use the same optical fibre that creates the global back-bone of the Internet; some are powerful enough to cut inch-thick steel, yet are delivered in a small maintenance-free package. The wide range of applications for the lasers also includes the ability to mark fruit, making stick-on labels a thing of the past. These new applications demonstrate the extensive use to which the lasers can be used, in many different industries, together with the potential for simplifying and lowering costs for existing users of industrial lasers.

SPI is one of nine companies with roots in the ORC located in the Southampton area. Others spun out of the University recently include Mesophotonics and Stratophase, both developing innovative products with lasers; the ORC continues to work hard with the University's Centre for Enterprise and Innovation to commercialise its innovations.

Professor David Payne, Director of the ORC, commented: "We have a duty to ensure our research goes out into the world and is put to use. In our case, there wasn't an industry ready and waiting to take this on, so we've had to create one.

"In general, we are exploring new ways of collaborating with business beyond traditional consultancy roles. All of it will increase our industrial exposure and provide direct and indirect benefits for our research agenda."

Notes for editors

  1. SPI (Southampton Photonics, Inc.), was formed as a start-up company from the Optoelectronics Research Centre in June 2000, the largest university spin-out ever achieved in the UK. The company has built on the ORC's track record of research into fibre lasers and fibre-optic components. Having taken this technology forward to commercial success, SPI continues to have a very close relationship with the ORC. In early 2002, SPI opened its state-of-the-art speciality fibre manufacturing facility in Southampton, enabling it to deliver innovative products to the industrial, aerospace, communications and analytical markets. SPIs' product range includes: high-power, low-cost fiber lasers; high power amplifiers; single-frequency DFB fiber lasers for MOPA seeds as well as sensing, test and measurement applications; and precision fiber Bragg gratings.
  2. The Optoelectronics Research Centre was set up as part of an Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in 1989 by what is now the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The ORC grew out of the 30-year history of ground-breaking laser and fibre optics research at the University of Southampton. With this EPSRC funding, a coordinated research group of over 150 scientists, engineers, technicians and post-graduate students has been established. Its mission is to blend focused, application led research with fundamental studies on the generation, transmission and control of light.
    Companies that trace their origins to the ORC include: York Technologies, Fibercore, Pointsource, Fianium, Photon Kinetics and SENSA. More recent spin-outs include Mesophotonics and Stratophase. This has led to a cluster of a dozen or so companies in the Southampton area, all working on photonics.
  3. The Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI) is the focus of entrepreneurial activity within the University of Southampton. Formed in September 2000, the office encourages and supports enterprise activity across the whole University including enterprise education for students and businesses, consultancy for industry and the commercialisation of University intellectual property through the creation of start-up companies and licensing. Since 2000, the CEI has encouraged the start-up of over 25 student and arts-based businesses, supported consultancy transactions across the University and helped spin out 16 companies, two of which floated on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange in 2004.
  4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £274 million.

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