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5 August, 2010 - 12:38 By Tony Quested

CRFS in the throes of global expansion

CRFS chief executive Alistair Massarella

When Business Weekly launched its inaugural Killer 50 last September to identify the most disruptive and exciting technology companies in the region, the name of CRFS was the first we put down.

The company, based at IQ Cambridge, is now in the throes of global expansion in the UK, the United States and further afield, with Asia on the radar.CRFS develops and manufactures innovative real-time spectral monitoring and signal analysis systems targeting the burgeoning markets of regulatory, homeland security and defence.Two recent product upgrades have further extended the company’s technology capabilities and enhanced the proposition to international clients. Its technology has certainly hit a sweet spot in the United States where respected campaigners such as Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, are driving regulatory reform.CRFS’s time has clearly come. Chief executive Alistair Massarella has been in the States following through on new opportunities for the business and confesses himself “excited” at the upcoming prospects.He confirmed that CRFS was recruiting at its European headquarters in Cambridge and negotiating with landlord SEGRO for additional space there – although the company won’t want for alternative suitors in the Cambridge region if a deal can’t be struck.It is also looking to expand into the US and set up an office – possibly in Washington – to better exploit one of the most dynamic regulatory regimes on the planet.CRFS is also seeing major opportunities for expansion in Asia and Australasia. One of its great strengths is the adaptabilty of its technology; it is able to target different variants of its core technology to individual and different markets.CRFS couldn’t be in better hands. Massarella helped steer the fortunes of the formative Cambridge Broadband and built Adaptive Broadband into a target so attractive it was acquired by a US admirer. He was one of Andy Hopper’s trusted lieutenants in the world-renowned Olivetti Lab in Cambridge.He and wireless supremo David Cleevely founded CRFS in 2007 and the first product was a distributed GPS-based interference measure-ment system that can survey radio spectrum. As the range of its technology has broadened, so has its prospects of joining the pantheon of the all-time greats of the Cambridge Technology sector. It has just released a Block Down Converter to extend the frequency range of its RFeye spectrum monitoring node to 18 GHz. Extending the frequency range broadens the use of the RFeye system to include monitoring of microwave point-point links and satellite transmissions, both to confirm correct system operation and diagnose system failures or interference issues.And in June, it launched a new VPX Spectrum/Signal Analyser Module based on RFeye spectrum. This allows the capabilities of RFeye to be leveraged into VPX (VITA 46) systems for embedded applications in the Mil/Aerospace sector.RFeye is a fully integrated frequency monitoring and management system, based around low cost, broadband, intelligent, GPS-equipped real-time RFeye spectrum analyser nodes coupled to sophisticated data management and analysis tools.Analysis of the data collected allows easy visualisation of spectral power and spatial utilisation at any given frequency, allowing the user to formulate a clear view of spectral usage on a country-wide basis or at any desired level of resolution.Applications for RFeye systems include interference detection, spectrum usage mapping, license enforcement, identification and location of illegal transmissions, border monitoring and spectrum clearance.In May, CRFS completed a project to generate a detailed spectrum survey of the UK for telecoms regulator Ofcom. CRFS equipped a fleet of vehicles to build a detailed picture of radio spectrum use in key frequency bands (100 MHz to 5 GHz) across the UK, whilst the vehicles travelled about their normal business. The project used the RFeye distributed real-time spectral analysis system, designed by CRFS for the purpose of mobile and fixed location spectrum monitoring.Data was analysed by sophisticated data analysis tools to provide a detailed breakdown of spectrum utilisation across the country.During the five-month test campaign, more than 4.2 million individual spectrum measure-ments were collected, and the total distance covered by the vehicles was in excess of 65,000 km.Ofcom is evaluating the results of the survey and assessing how it can be used in future spectrum allocation.Succès Europe, a Sophia Antipolis based European investment holding created by and for entrepreneurs, became one of the first major investors in CRFS.  It was one of just 21 companies chosen for investment out of more than 200 candidates across Europe in the fields of CleanTech, MedTech, ICT, and B2B.Candace Johnson, president of Succès Europe, said: “The company’s management, business plan, innovation, technology, progress to date and addressable market thoroughly convinced us of their potential and ability to become a world-class company.”Alistair Massarella is proud of the fact the CRFS has managed its early growth spurt organically. “We are under no pressure to return to the market for more funds in the immediate future. We have excellent angel investors and believe we have spent their money well. “Nor are we under any pressure from them to build towards an IPO. The strategy we started out with is being followed through in a focused manner; we have a terrific team in Cambridge and if you have people this good, it is easier to manage growth in your own territory and elsewhere.“We intend to build on this model of growing CRFS globally from Cambridge while replicating this success in the US and identifying strategic opportunities for the business elsewhere.”• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: CRFS chief executive Alistair Massarella

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