Chromosol, a spinout company from Queen Mary University of London has been announced as a winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry Emerging Technologies Competition.
The company won the ‘Enabling Technologies’ category, beating four other finalists to the prestigious award.
As a winner Chromosol receives £20,000 prize money, as well as 12 months’ one-on-one support from a specially assigned Royal Society of Chemistry mentor.
The company was cofounded by Dr Peter Wyatt, a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and Professor William Gillin, from Queen Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
Commenting on the award, Dr Peter Wyat, said: “I was immensely proud that Chromosol won this prestigious award, especially as it came from the Royal Society of Chemistry, an organisation for which I have enormous respect. Chromosol was competing against a strong field of innovative technologies.”
William Gillin, Chief Technology Officer of Chromosol, said: “Our work is at the interface of physics, engineering and chemistry, and this award shows how important the latter is to developing our technology. The recognition of the Royal Society of Chemistry will help us promote to the chemistry industry just how vital this work is in support of other areas.”
Professor Wen Wang, Vice-Principal and Executive Dean for Science and Engineering at Queen Mary, added: “This award recognises the incredible potential of Chromosol’s innovative technology to revolutionize data transfer. The company is a great example of collaboration between academics across Queen Mary, and showcases our strengths as a University in converting promising research ideas into commercial reality.”
In total, twenty-three finalists pitched to the competition’s esteemed panels of judges at a virtual event to gain a share of £160,000 funding and support to accelerate their work.
Andrew Muir, Investment Director at the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, and a competition judge in the Enabling Technologies category, said: “We were treated to a grand tour of chemistry’s reach into so many industries and our daily lives in this year’s pitches. As always, it was a difficult decision but there was one clear winner. Chromosol presented us with a clear vision for the future of communications in bite-sized chunks of focus, with a really broad IP position and a strong blend of academic and commercial experience.”
More efficient data transfer
Chromosol is developing a novel approach to integrating laser materials directly on to silicon chips, allowing them to communicate via pulses of light rather than electrical signals.
The technology has the potential to vastly increase the speed of data transfer and could form the basis of next-generation computer systems.
Existing data transfer technology consumes about three per cent of the world’s electricity generation and is responsible for around two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. It is hoped that Chromosol’s approach will also lead to reduced power usage, by offering a more energy efficient technology.
Peter Wyatt added, “I would like to see a future in which it becomes possible to process and transmit huge quantities of data rapidly while also using energy responsibly and efficiently. My involvement with Chromosol provides a personal opportunity to contribute towards reaching that goal.”
Chromosol is supported by Queen Mary Innovation Ltd Queen Mary’s wholly-owned technology transfer company, which is responsible for the commercialisation and management of the University's intellectual property and portfolio of spinout companies, and has received investment from IP Group, a developer of intellectual property-based businesses.
Identifying the most promising chemistry in the UK and Europe
The competition, now in its eighth year, is a programme identifying some of the most novel, innovative and promising chemistry in the UK and Europe. Winners from previous years have gone on to raise a combined total of over £51m in equity investment and grant funding, with one company subsequently being sold for £28m.
Like many events, circumstances this year dictated that the Royal Society of Chemistry moved the competition and celebration events to a virtual format.
Jo Reynolds, Director of Science & Communities at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “We’re delighted that this spirit and connection has continued, albeit virtually this year, and very much look forward to tracking the progress of our latest winners as they join the illustrious winners who have gone before them.”
The award will significantly help raise Chromosol's profile and aid the company’s growth by attracting investment and highlighting it as a great place to work.
Chromosol will also benefit from a special mentorship programme set up by the Royal Society of Chemistry providing the opportunity to receive advice from large, multinational, science-based UK companies who are partners in this programme.
How did Chromosol come about?
Peter Wyatt and Bill Gillin have been collaborating on photonic materials since 2006. As a chemist, Peter was able to design completely new molecules to provide a particular function (in this case light absorption and emission) and then go into the research lab and make them.
After establishing that they had achieved light amplification at wavelengths that are optimal for telecommunications, they protected the intellectual property through a patent before publishing the results in Nature Materials. Setting up Chromosol then allowed them to develop these ideas further with a small, but growing, team of first-class young scientists, including some QMUL graduates.