A collaborative project using quantum technology to detect natural gas leaks from industrial plants has been given new support by COVID-19 continuity funding from Innovate UK with help from Enterprise Europe Network.
Bristol start-up QLM Tech had won provisional funding for development of a prototype through the Quantum Technologies Challenge and had lined up BP and the National Grid among its partners.
Leaks of natural gas (methane) from well-heads and pipelines cost the industry more than $6 billion a year. QLM’s answer is a quantum-enabled optical gas sensor packaged in a miniaturised detection and imaging system, able to be used at short or long range or even on a drone.
But the COVID crisis forced the withdrawal of a partner crucial to delivery of the project while a freeze on private investment left the consortium facing problems with cashflow and potential delays.
COVID-19 business support package
Time was pressing and final confirmation of the Challenge funding had not been received from Innovate UK so EEN adviser Natalie Collard urged QLM Tech and other eligible partners to apply for a COVID continuity grant from Innovate UK.
On 16 June, they were delighted to hear Science Minister Amanda Solloway confirm at the Quantum Tech Digital Congress that QLM Tech had been awarded the Challenge grant.
QLM Tech has also received its continuity grant, which will bridge the next six months and allow extra private investment to be consolidated.
Natalie has sourced further assistance for QLM through a COVID-19 business support package. It includes access to finance, IP support, mentoring, Global Business Innovation Programme opportunities and help in finding international partners.
Collaborative grant funding
Murray Reed, CEO of QLM, said: “EEN has been very supportive of QLM as we have firmly established our new business during the COVID crisis.”
Natalie added: “I am delighted that QLM have been awarded this significant collaborative grant during the COVID crisis and that EEN has been able to support QLM Tech in securing continuity grant funding.”
QLM’s founder, Dr Xiao Ai, started the business during a fellowship with the Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre (QTEC) in Bristol where he a undertook a year-long entrepreneurship training programme.
With the support of the programme he secured some Innovate UK funding and brought in Murray Reed and chairman Yuri Andersson who share 50 years’ experience in this field. Since then they have been working with a number of partners to develop a robust and user-friendly gas camera that they expect to ship next year.
COVID-19 support from Enterprise Europe Network
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