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25 August, 2020 - 01:35 By Tony Quested

Sorex raises £900k and boosts top team to hit $323bn sensors market

Cambridge University spin-out Sorex Sensors has raised £900,000 to fund further development of its novel sensor technology and target a global market tipped to be worth $323 billion inside four years.

The business has also made key changes of the very pinnacle of management to steer the bid for global dominance.

Investors in the latest round include the university’s commercialisation arm Cambridge Enterprise, which matched funds raised by a set of Cambridge- and London-based investors including the Cambridge Angels, SyndicateRoom and Camvision.

In a parallel move, Sorex reveals that co-founder and former chief technology officer Dr Mario de Miguel Ramos has been appointed CEO – replacing Michael LeGoff, who has taken on the role of executive chairman. Professor Andrew Flewitt, head of electrical engineering at the University of Cambridge and also a co-founder of Sorex, has transitioned from chairman  to chief scientific officer.

The global market for sensors – valued at $153.3 billion in 2018 – is expected to increase to $323.3 billion by 2024. Sorex launched its first product based on its breakthrough film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) sensor technology last year. 

It consists of a particulate sensor along with an accompanying development kit – and is designed for use in devices for monitoring indoor air quality.

Professor Flewitt said: “The team has done a fantastic job so far and Mario will continue to work closely with Michael as we ramp up production and bring new products to market. 

“Our next step will be to release an array of sensors and we are on track with that. We are currently working on 'functionalising' the sensors to detect specific gases and plan to have a proof of concept ready later this year.”

The company’s initial focus is on improving the monitoring of indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a range of illnesses – particularly lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Indoor air can be affected by many factors, including chemicals used to clean or decorate, fuels used for heating and cooking, building and furnishing materials, and tobacco smoke. This can lead to harmful levels of substances like carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde.

The FBAR sensor developed by Sorex is extremely small, measuring less than 0.5 square millimetres. It uses microwatts for power and can detect changes in mass down to femtograms – the weight of a single virus. That makes it the most accurate and cost-effective sensor available.

Dr de Miguel Ramos said: “I am delighted to be leading our world-class team as we embark on this exciting new stage of our journey. Our initial focus is the monitoring of air quality – with our sensors acting as your eyes, ears and nose to detect any dangerous build-up of compounds before they reach harmful levels. But our innovative sensor technology has the potential to transform a whole range of industries.”

Elaine Loukes, an investment director in the seed funds team at Cambridge Enterprise, said she was delighted at the progress the team had made over the past two years. 

She said: “Improving indoor air quality is recognised as a matter of urgent importance and I believe the Sorex technology will offer a step change in the ability to detect and measure harmful compounds, leading to healthier environments at home and in the workplace.”

• Sorex Sensors manufactures high-sensitivity MEMS mass sensors to transform industrial and consumer products. The University of Cambridge spin-out is based in the Maxwell Centre at the university’s West Cambridge site. It also has research teams at the Technical University of Madrid and the University of Warwick in the UK. 

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