COLLABORATION

Driverless cars are coming to Edinburgh with Sense Photonics collaboration

SOURCE: Christof Stache/AFP
A Vision M Next concept vehicle is revealed during an event of German car producer BMW in Munich, southern Germany, on June 25, 2019.

An American technology company, Sense Photonics, leaders in the next generation of sensor solutions for driverless cars and robots, is expanding its R&D operations in Scotland following a £1.9 million grant from Scottish Enterprise.

The firm teamed up with the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Integrated Micro and Nano Systems following the opening of its small research base in the city a year ago.

Since then the relationship has proven productive and has produced one of the best-advanced sensor development teams in the world, according to Sense Photonics CEO, Scott Burroughs, who looks forward to “expanding rapidly with this new support.”

The new project will be a boost to Edinburgh, with 38 high-value jobs expected to be created and a boost to the city’s reputation as a photonics hub.

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“Sense Photonics decision to locate their new base in Edinburgh reflects Scotland’s long and distinguished history in the field of photonics, punching above its weight in a globally competitive market for over a century,” said Scottish Government Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee,

“This new base will add to Scotland’s existing billion-pound photonics sector, which supports 4,000 highly skilled jobs at a value added per employee that is three times the national average.”

Founded in 2016, Sense Photonics’ cutting-edge, fully solid-state LiDAR (light detection and ranging) system aims to revolutionise the world of advanced 3D imaging technology for automotive and industrial applications, including autonomous cars and robotic systems.

While traditional systems use complex scanning solutions to create an image pixel-by-pixel, Sense Photonics captures the entire frame at once, similar to a camera. Flash LiDAR, as the company calls it is the new era of 3D imaging, delivering high-performance 3D sensing that is simple, modular, scalable and reliable.

Sense Photonics’ plans include opening an Advanced LiDAR Research and Development Centre in Edinburgh where they will build on their progress in the field. They do so with the support of Scottish Enterprise, the national economic agency for Scotland.

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The agency identifies innovative companies and startups that can boost the country’s economy, create new employment opportunities and protect existing jobs. They support these organisations through financial grants, business development advice, and educating new business on trade laws.

Scottish Enterprise’s recently launched strategic framework, Building Scotland’s Future Today, focuses on innovation, making it a key priority for the agency when attracting inward investment to Scotland.

“The decision by Sense Photonics to grow their presence in Edinburgh has the potential to put Scotland at the centre of the fast-growing LiDAR technology industry,” said the Director of Scottish Enterprise, Mark Hallan.

“Scotland is already home to the University of Edinburgh’s pioneering Institute of Integrated Micro and Nano Systems, so there is a real opportunity to develop an ecosystem of talent in this sector here.”