Chromacity raises £1.2 million to boost workforce

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Scottish ultrafast laser manufacturer Chromacity has completed a growth funding round of £1.2 million. 

Chromacity, which develops ultrafast fibre lasers for a wide range of scientific and industrial applications, will use the funding to expand the company’s workforce, particularly within its manufacturing and R&D divisions.

Bill Handyside, head of manufacturing at Chromacity, shared concerns of employee retention during a recent webcast organised by Electro Optics: ‘There is a growing hub of photonics companies in the central belt of Scotland, but due to the shortfall of skilled employees it’s resulted in companies competing to attract and retain talent. This is often resulting in engineers jumping between companies when they get better offers, which leaves a gap in the workforce behind.’ 

While there is more work to do regarding the encouragement of people into the relevant disciplines at university, speakers in the webcast said, this doesn’t address the more immediate problem of getting bodies into the workforce in a short period of time. 

‘Ultimately we need to expand the potential recruitment pool quite quickly, which means moving away from the traditional mode of hiring for some positions in the industry,’ said Handyside. ‘While there is still clearly a requirement for highly qualified candidates with a strong theoretical background in physics to feel more R&D oriented roles within photonics organisations, there is actually some scope to address the potential pool for production environments – like Chromacity’s – where formalised work instructions have already been established. This helps reduce the burden on background knowledge gained at university for potential recruits.’

This methodology would involve upskilling or retraining individuals with technical backgrounds that are unfamiliar with optics, but do have inherent transferable skills gained from precision engineering roles with a high attention to detail. Chromacity is therefore now working in collaboration with National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and Technology Scotland to address this issue. 

‘This project has pulled together a number of large and small entities from academia, industry and the public sector, because it’s now become recognised as a problem that’s impacting the Scottish economy,’ said Handyside. ‘A collective approach is needed to solve it [the skills shortage].’

Contributors to the company's latest funding round include existing investors, Kelvin Capital, EOS and Scottish Enterprise, as well as new investor ESM Investments.

To counteract the challenges placed on laser manufacturers by covid-19, Chromacity has developed a remote installation capability for its optical parametric oscillators (OPOs). The company is among the first to achieve this installation methodology for these complex optical systems, enabled by its novel, IP-protected laser architecture and manufacturing expertise. This has supported Chromacity in its acquisition of new customers across the world during the pandemic, and the funding will be used to accelerate this activity, particularly in Asia.

Shahida Imani, CEO of Chromacity, said: 'This new funding will enable us to expand our team and accelerate Chromacity’s growth, both commercially and technologically. We are seeing significant traction with major industrial companies in China and Japan, who are very interested in the high average power and broad wavelength coverage of our systems, and it’s important we are funded to accelerate growth and capitalise on these opportunities.

'We’re delighted that our existing investors have continued to support us in our mission to revolutionise fundamental research and industrial applications with a new generation of affordable ultrafast lasers, equipped with plug-and-play functionality. It’s also a great pleasure to welcome ESM, who will be a key investment partner in our future success.'

Having initially commenced its growth raise last year, Chromacity has now closed the round, after securing a second tranche of funding that included the new investment from ESM.

Ian Stevens, Chromacity’s non-executive chairman, said: 'Chromacity has continually demonstrated that, not only does it have the disruptive technology needed to drive new ultrafast laser applications, but that it can also innovate its business model in the face of challenging circumstances, such as a global pandemic. With this funding round, the company’s investors, both new and old, have recognised these qualities and the significant opportunity that exists to bring ultrafast laser technology into new, and as-yet untapped, markets.'   

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