Cash boost for hi-tech images firm

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Investors are pumping £3.2 million into revolutionary technology, developed in Sheffield, that creates images at higher resolutions than has ever before been possible.

Sheffield University spin-out Phase Focus overcomes the limitations of conventional lenses by using sophisticated computer software to analyse a battery of images recorded on electronic sensors.

The company’s ‘Virtual Lens’ is already being used to make detailed measurements of commercially producted contact lenses and analyse living cells in laboratories without the need to stain them, which can affect the way they behave or even kill them.

Future applications include radically increasing the magnifying power of electron and x-ray miscroscopes.

London-based investor the Ombu Group is pumping £3 million into Phase Focus, which started out in Sheffield University’s Kroto Innovation Centre and is now based at Electric Works, on Sheffield’s Digital Campus.

Fusion IP, the organisation set up to back hi-tech spin-outs from Sheffield and Cardiff universities, is investing a further £220,000.

Phase Focus’s chief executive, Dr. Ian Pykett, said: “This substantial new investment recognises the successes we have had in generating revenues and commercial traction in the markets we have already entered.

“More importantly, it allows us not only to grow these current opportunities more rapidly, but also to exploit several new technology developments, and to address in parallel a number of new markets to which we believe our technology will bring great user value.”

Ombu Group chief executive, Stephen Brooke, said: “We had tracked Phase Focus for a few years before now and had always been amazed by the technology.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with a company with remarkable technology that has just broken through into its full commercial phase.”