A new spinout company from University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is set to disrupt the thin film and sensor industry – currently valued at more than £2.5 billion globally.

AlbaSense, based within UWS’s Institute of Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging (ITFSI), is the third spinout company from the University and will develop low-cost, high-performance thin film optical coatings and photonic sensors, using exclusive patented processes.

Thin films are a layer of material ranging from fractions of a nanometre to several micrometres, and form a key component in a wide range of applications, including autonomous photonic-based gas sensors, medical devices such as breath analysers, non-contact thermometers and advanced imaging systems.

The company will license core IP, including three patents, from UWS on a worldwide exclusive basis.

Professor Des Gibson, AlbaSense founder and a pioneer in thin film deposition and photonic sensor technology, said: “AlbaSense is the result of world-class research and expertise, combined with previous industry experience, which has led to the identification of fundamental market needs for lower cost, thin film and sensor technology.

“We aim to provide imaging and sensor solutions in a range of areas where miniaturised high-volume, low-cost measurement is required, such as medical diagnostics, agritech, environmental monitoring and monitoring of industrial processes.


Photo: Professor Des Gibson
Photo Credit: Elaine Livingstone

“I am delighted that AlbaSense will design, develop and manufacture from within UWS’s Institute of Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging, allowing the company to retain the wide range of skills and academic expertise on offer at the University, while bringing strong industry links and economic benefits to UWS, contributing directly to Scotland’s thriving innovation economy.”

Through UWS’s Institute of Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging, AlbaSense is already working with Glenrothes-based Semefab Ltd – a leading manufacturer of microelectronics and micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS).

Allan James, Founder and CEO of Semefab, said: “I am pleased to be working with AlbaSense, who will provide unique optical coating technology for our infrared detector products, as well as precision photonic sensor technology.

“We have been fortunate to work with AlbaSense and the wider team within the Institute of Thin Films – benefiting from a wide range of skills and experience. I very much look forward to continuing to work with the team over the coming months.”

AlbaSense will benefit from two phases of funding from Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spin-Out Programme, worth a total of £528,000 over three years. Additionally, two CENSIS projects, three Innovate UK projects and an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project, worth a total of £3 million have been secured to develop end-use applications of the patented technology.


Photo: AlbaSense team: (left to Right) Alan Henderson, Dr Shigeng Song, Johnny Mone, Professor Des Gibson, Greg Mcgann, Dr David Hutson
Photo Credit: Elaine Livingston

Johnny Mone, Head of Business Innovation at UWS added: “AlbaSense is a fantastic example of the pioneering research and innovation taking place at UWS and highlights the University’s commitment to supporting enterprise.”

A recent report showcasing the UK’s world-leading research capability, highlighted that Scotland is leading the way in university spinouts.

The AlbaSense team is made up of six UWS academics with previous industry experience: Dr David Hutson, expert in research and development for thin film devices; Dr Shigeng Song, expert in thin film physics and applications; Dr Lewis Fleming, specialist in gas sensors; Dr Parag Vichare, expert in manufacturing research; Dr Ewan Waddell, expert in optical and physical modelling; and company founder and CEO, Professor Des Gibson, who has more than 30 years industry and academic experience in sensors and thin film technologies.

Headline image: Johnny Mone and Professor Des Gibson
Photo Credit: Elaine Livingston

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