School of Earth and Environment

£750k funding signals lift-off for satellite data firm

31.05.2018 - 14:34

Pictured (L-R): Prof Tim Wright, Richard Jackson of Unipart, Lisa Ward of Mercia Fund Managers, Prof Andy Hooper and Andy Duley, director of commercialisation at the University of Leeds

Two University of Leeds professors, who have developed software that detects subsidence using satellite data, have secured £750,000 seed funding to launch the new spin out company SatSense. The investment comes from NPIF - Mercia Equity Finance which is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, Unipart Rail and the University of Leeds.

Professors Tim Wright and Andy Hooper from the University of Leeds have spent more than ten years developing the SatSense algorithms to extract usable and reliable measurements of ground motion from satellite radar images. The investment will allow them to bring the technology to market and recruit a managing director for the business, as well as to expand the development team.

The SatSense approach can precisely measure changes in ground movement down to as little as 1mm per year. These changes can be used to establish the cause of subsidence – for example, tree roots, shallow landslides or pumping of water from the ground. The SatSense results are more accurate, compared to other systems currently on the market, and can provide updates within hours, instead of days or months.

Subsidence data is relied upon by home buyers, surveyors, mortgage lenders and insurers. Satsense results could also have a much wider use in the continuous monitoring of critical infrastructure such as bridges, railways, dams, as well as oil and gas production sites. The company has already received strong interest from a number of potential clients and partners.

Lisa Ward, Investment Director with Mercia Fund Managers, which manages NPIF - Mercia Equity Finance, said:

“While SatSense is a very early stage company, its technology represents a step change in resolution and accuracy over anything that is currently on the market. The team have actively engaged with potential customers and clearly have a product that is in demand. The funding will allow them to take the first step into what is potentially a huge worldwide market.”

Andy Duley, Director of Innovation Commercialisation at the University of Leeds, said: “SatSense is the latest example of converting research expertise into a valuable service which directly benefits industry. The University has an established track record in working with private sector investors and leveraging its own funds to launch successful spin-out companies.

“We are delighted to support SatSense, not only through investment by the University but by facilitating easy access for business and industry to this new technology. The launch of Nexus, our new innovation centre, will build on this success by providing easier access for business and industry to the University’s world-leading academic expertise. It will bring together a vibrant community of innovators to make collaboration and commercialisation easier.”

Noel Travers, Managing Director of Unipart Rail, said:

“Satsense presents an exciting investment for Unipart Rail. The emerging Earth Observation market provides scope for considerable growth over the next decade and Satsense is now well placed to capitalise on this. The resolution and accuracy of Satsense’s Software creates new opportunities to better monitor and manage critical infrastructure. Satsense allows cost-effective continuous and real time monitoring of large disparate asset bases, such as rail networks, in way not possible before. We are delighted to be working with the Satsense team.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at British Business Bank, said:

“We are pleased to see Mercia Fund Managers collaborating with Unipart Rail and University of Leeds to support Satsense on its mission to bring their innovative and disruptive technology to market. This investment represents what can be achieved when the public and private sector work together and as NPIF moves into its second year, we hope to see even more deals like this across the Northern Powerhouse region.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.