Laser manufacturer zeroes in on fresh funding in bid for growth

Laser manufacturer Chromacity has completed a £1.2 million funding round that will allow it to expand capacity, increase its research and development capabilities, and bring on additional staff at its facility in Edinburgh.

The fresh cash injection brings the total amount raised by the firm, a spin-out from Heriot-Watt University, to more than £2m. Existing investors Kelvin Capital, EOS and Scottish Enterprise provided follow-on funding, along with more than £200,000 from new shareholder ESM Investments.

Set up in 2013, Chromacity makes lasers that can be used to power microscopes that allow scientists to observe biological processes at a cellular level. Its lasers are also used to detect and measure the presence of specific chemicals in, for example, the atmosphere.

Founded on the work of Christopher Leburn and Carl Farrell of Heriot-Watt University, Chromacity is headed by chief executive Shahida Imani. A former finance executive at Scottish start-ups Optos and Voxar, Ms Imani said Chromacity now has the “right infrastructure in place” to boost growth.

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“We are seeing significant traction with major industrial companies in China and Japan, who are very interested in the high average power and broad wavelength coverage of our systems, and it’s important that we are funded to accelerate growth and capitalise on those opportunities,” she said.

“We are delighted that our existing investors have continued to support us in our mission to revolutionise fundamental research and industrial applications with a new generation of affordable ultrafast lasers, equipped with plug-and-play functionality. It’s also a great pleasure to welcome ESM, who will be a key investment partner in our future success.”

Based in Stirling, ESM is a syndicate of about 85 investors focused on supporting early-stage technology companies and is led by founder Steven Morris.

“Chromacity has a clear and compelling strategy,” Mr Morris said. “Route to success, contacts, distribution and, most importantly, hugely desirable products have all been clearly thought through and articulated to ESM as an exciting investment opportunity for our members.”

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After graduating in accountancy and finance from Heriot-Watt, Ms Imani joined retinal imaging specialist Optos as financial controller. During her time there, the company experienced rapid growth and was later floated on the London Stock Exchange. It is now owned by Nikon.

She then became group financial controller for Voxar, a developer of 3D imaging systems for the medical sector. Now owned by Canon, Voxar remains a centre of research and development for 3D imaging software.

Ms Imani set up her own CFO advisory service in 2008, where she gained experience across sectors including educational software, life sciences and machine vision. During this time she served as chief financial officer of Odos Imaging, which again experienced rapid growth before its eventual acquisition by Rockwell Automation.

She also served as a member of the Innovation Exploitation Board for Heriot-Watt and was a judge on the Converge Challenge entrepreneurial training programme, where she first came into contact with Chromacity’s co-founders. She initially joined the company as chief financial officer, and was appointed chief executive in 2018.

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Her focus since then has been to move the business away from developing bespoke lasers in favour of a scalable range of “plug and play” commercial products. In response to the Covid pandemic, Chromacity has also developed remote installation capability that has allowed it to gain new customers around the world.

Ian Stevens, non-executive chairman of Chromacity, said: “Chromacity has continually demonstrated that, not only does it have the disruptive technology needed to drive new ultrafast laser applications, but that it can also innovate its business model in the face of challenging circumstances such as a global pandemic.

“With this funding round, the company’s investors, both new and old, have recognised these qualities and the significant opportunity that exists to bring ultrafast laser technology into new, and as-yet untapped, markets.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992