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2016 - A year of new business creation and growth in photonics and sensing


For almost three decades now, VTT has been providing R&D services to Finnish and international customers in optical measurements and high-performance sensing. Today, VTT continues to conduct world-leading applied research in these areas. During recent years, VTT has also put a strong emphasis on new venture creation to enhance commercialisation of research results. The hard work and effort has paid off and the year 2016 has been a highly successful year for companies that have close a relationship with VTT.

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New venture creation

Two new VTT spin-off companies, Grainsense Ltd and Dispelix Ltd, secured significant seed-stage equity funding rounds. In February, Grainsense, the and supplier of the world's first truly hand-held device for grain protein measurement, announced EUR 1.4 M in equity financing to accelerate the commercialization of the company's cloud-based service offering and handheld device.

In March, Dispelix, the designer and supplier of optical see-through near-to-the-eye displays for AR and MR eyewear applications was spun off and secured EUR 1.7 M in equity financing. "Dispelix makes thin AR displays with a broad field of view, matching and exceeding what is available today. Our lenses are manufactured in large quantities and have price points that allow mass-market consumer products, unlike existing technologies," commented Antti Sunnari, CEO and co-founder, at the time.

Expansion, awards and acquisitions

The year 2016 has been a major step forward for VTT's spin-off FocalSpec Ltd. The company utilizes the Lateral Chromatic Imaging technique in providing quality control systems and devices for industrial customers. FocalSpec announced the launch of a wholly-owned US subsidiary. The new US operation is FocalSpec's response to its market research, existing relations with North American early adopters, and higher customer interest that the company has recently experienced in the area.

Furthermore, other companies with backgrounds in world-class scientific research carried out at VTT are experiencing strong growth. Specim Ltd, a global leader in hyperspectral imaging, is accelerating its international growth. Advacam Ltd, the provider of advanced color X-ray imaging cameras and related micropackaging and sensor manufacturing services, is on a strong growth path. Similarly, Asqella Ltd, Timegate Instruments Ltd and Helmee Imaging Ltd have completed the development phase of their first products and are active in bringing their solutions to market.

The year 2016 has also been a time of great recognition. VTT's spin-off Spectral Engines, the developer and manufacturer of miniaturized spectral sensors, won the 2016 Photonics Prism Award, referred to as the "Oscars of Photonics". Spectral Engines became the first Finnish company to have received the Photonics Prism Award, awarded by International Society for Optics and Photonics and Photonics Media. The winning product innovation, Wireless IR Analyzer, was revealed and the award was presented to Spectral Engines at the Photonics West exhibition in San Francisco.

Upon the arrival of Finnish Midsummer, more exciting news surfaced. Senop Ltd, a company part of the Patria Group, announced the acquisition of Rikola Ltd. Rikola, a company specialized in optical spectroscopy components and devices, was originally formed by a former VTT research scientists and is a close partner of VTT. Following the acquisition of Rikola, Senop is expanding its operations in the field of optoelectronics, and the new acquisition creates new business opportunities both in Finland and abroad.

The good work continues

While certain companies have been spun out of VTT, we continue our world-class research in optical measurements and high-performance sensing to solve our customers' problems. The other stories in this newsletter are opening some of those developments e.g. hyperspectral imaging in mobile phone and isotope spectroscopy based medical diagnostics.

We are also finding new ways to increase cooperation with startups and SMEs companies. VTT has excellent capabilities to evaluate the technical feasibility and support the development of revolutionary optics and sensing products to important end user application needs. In the public research domain, we have started networked R&D projects with companies, where startup and SME companies' sensing technologies are evaluated against some big business needs provided by large-sized companies.