Quantum technology innovator QLM Technology has raised £3.1m in seed funding, revamped its marketing and IP strategies and won a Bloomberg climate innovation award, all with support from Innovate UK EDGE.
A Bristol-based quantum innovator has developed a pioneering proton monitoring camera that can visualise and quantify greenhouse gas emissions.
QLM Technology will use its technology to scan gas distribution stations and rapidly detect methane leaks.
Methane is 84-86 times more damaging than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period, according to a UN report. The International Environment Agency estimates that the oil and gas industry emitted 82 megatons of methane in 2019, with a significant proportion of that due to faulty seals and leaking valves.
“Many gas distribution stations are located in extreme weather environments, so things break a lot,” says Murray Reed, CEO, QLM Technology.
“To find leaks, gas companies currently rely on surveys using hand-held ‘sniffer’ devices. The surveys tend to be labour intensive, slow and worst of all, intermittent; if a piece of equipment springs a leak the day after a survey is completed, you miss it until the next one.”
QLM’s Tunable Diode Lidar (TDLidar) camera, which can be mounted on a tower or a drone, uses quantum technology to count protons and identify methane. The camera can scan large areas and not only locate a leak rapidly, but also quantify the amount of gas escaping.
“Methane’s silver lining is its shorter atmospheric lifespan, meaning if we can slash emissions now, we create an immediate and measurable impact on climate change. By tackling this low hanging fruit, we buy ourselves time to transition to renewables and deal with the bigger, more behemoth problem of CO2,” says Doug Millington-Smith, Applications Manager, QLM Technology.
Investment readiness support from Innovate UK EDGE
In January 2021, QLM began work with Innovate UK EDGE Access to Finance Specialist, Jake Ronay, who helped prepare the company for seed investment.
“Jake provided some invaluable feedback on our pitch deck and was instrumental in guiding us through our seed investment journey from beginning to end,” says Murray.
In April 2021, QLM raised £3.1 million in seed funding and is now using the funds to grow and further develop its product.
Prior to funding, QLM identified a need to tighten its IP strategy and began work with Innovate UK EDGE IP Specialist, Kate Butler.
“Investors want to kick a tyre before parting with their money and IP is one of the first things they ask about, so the IP audit with Kate was essential. She really helped us quantify progress to date and establish key patents, with more now in the pipeline,” says Murray.
QLM next began work with Innovate UK EDGE Marketing Specialist, Phil Johnston, who helped rework the company’s core message.
“With Phil’s support, we've overhauled the brand completely and revamped the messaging which now filters through all our communications channels. We really feel it has set us apart from the competition,” says Doug.
In March 2021, Phil supported QLM’s application to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Pioneers – a global award focused on new carbon neutral energy technologies. QLM was one of 12 companies selected out of 250 applicants and has subsequently presented its technology to industry leaders in New York.
“For me personally, Phil’s mentorship over the past few months has been extremely important,” adds Doug.
Identifying growth opportunities
QLM’s growth support journey has been managed by Innovate UK EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialist, Natalie Collard.
“We’re sometimes too busy to help ourselves, but Natalie spotted the gaps and was really persistent in making sure we took up the support and utilised it properly. It really has been fantastic to have senior, experienced people come in and say either you’re on track or you need to tweak things,” says Murray.
QLM will soon begin trials with BP, Total, the National Grid and other major gas distributors, testing its technology in the field.
“In the short term, the most realistic answer to climate change is to give up all the bad fossil fuels and make the best ones as good as they can possibly be,” concludes Murray. “That’s why we focus on natural gases and unnecessary methane leaks.”
Innovate UK EDGE will continue its support as this Bristol-based business helps tackle some of our most pressing climate challenges.
Jake...was instrumental in guiding us through our seed investment journey."
Doug Millington-Smith, Applications Manager, QLM Technology.