UCLQ start-up raises £2.5M seed round
7 March 2022
Zero Point Motion, founded by UCL alumna, aims to change the way we sense motion by using photonics.
Zero Point Motion, a UCL start-up fabless silicon chip company has raised a £2.58 million seed round. The round is led by Foresight-Williams Technology together with Verve Ventures and IoT/GNSS chip company u-blox. Investment will go towards a new state-of-the-art lab in Bristol and a major recruitment drive to accelerate R&D of their photonic inertial sensor chips.
Zero Point Motion uses optical sensing techniques from the research area known as ‘cavity optomechanics’ that has already revolutionized gravitational wave detection and quantum research. By integrating these techniques into the chip architecture of sensors within smartphones, cars, and game controllers, Zero Point Motion enables over 100x improved sensitivity and performance that will reduce positioning error, enable longer duration of tracking without global navigation satellite systems and increase stability in hand-held or head mounted devices.
With over a decade of academic research experience in cavity optomechanics at UCL, combined with inertial sensor expertise from the defense industry, Founder and CEO Dr Ying Lia Li (Lia) sees cavity optomechanics as a natural evolution for the $15Bn inertial sensing market. Li commented: “With proven capability to detect motion smaller than the size of a single electron, cavity optomechanical sensing has already had extraordinary benefits for fundamental physics research. Now, we are harnessing this power to improve the inertial sensing devices we’ve come to rely on, bringing untold new potential to drones, VR/AR, indoor navigation and imaging stabilization.”
Incorporated in 2020, Zero Point Motion won a UCLQ Quantum Science and Technology Institute InQuBATE grant and gained pre-seed investment from u-blox to file patents and develop their commercial roadmap. Gordon Aspin who previously co-founded chipset and software companies TTP Communications plc and Cognovo Ltd joined the founding team in 2021 as company Chairman.
Although this type of technology has never been commercialized before, the team’s vision is to bring together expertise in photonic integrated circuits (PICs), micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) engineering and application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Their strategy is simplicity: as few changes to the existing PIC, MEMS, and ASIC supply chains as possible. With their headquarters in Bristol, which has a rich history in engineering and physics, they are seeking to entice ambitious and visionary engineers to join the company and to work as part of the team developing their first commercial products.
The £2.58 million investment comes from a powerful syndicate of investors experienced in hardware and deep-tech ventures with Chris Wiles of Foresight-Williams Technology and Dr Tony Milbourn of u-blox joining the Board.
Drone with camera (Credit: Zero Point Motion)