Private Equity

SME

5 minutes

2022-03-07

Foresight Williams leads £2.58m first round of growth capital funding for Zero Point Motion, a semiconductor start-up

Click here to read the announcement as a PDF.

London, 7 March 2022: Foresight Group (“Foresight”), a leading infrastructure and private equity investment manager listed on the London Stock Exchange, and Williams Advanced Engineering (“WAE”) are pleased to announce an investment into Zero Point Motion Limited (“ZPM” or “the Company”); an early-stage semiconductor company which is developing a chip-scale inertial measurement unit (“IMU”) for ultra-precise motion-tracking and indoor navigation.

The Company was founded in 2020 by Dr Ying Lia Li (Lia), an award winning physicist (2021 Insitute of Physics Clifford Paterson prize) who worked on photonic devices at BAE Systems and developed sensing technology during a decade-long academic career supported by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and The Royal Academy of Engineering at University College London. Lia is joined by Executive Chairman Dr Gordon Aspin, who brings over four decades of commercial expertise in cellular chipsets, and previously co-founded The Technology Partnership, TTP Communications and Cognovo.

Initially developed to detect collisions for airbag deployment, IMUs enable electronic devices to monitor their relative position, motion and acceleration. Today, these devices, based on Micro Electromechanical Systems (“MEMS”), are mass produced at low cost and embedded in a wide range of industrial and consumer electronics including smartphones, cameras, health wearables and IOT devices. Their ubiquity has resulted in an annual market size of approximately $15bn, growing at c.10% p.a.

IMUs used in consumer electronics are low cost and compact but are relatively inaccurate and suffer from excessive ‘drift’. To overcome this issue many devices rely on multiple data sources to pinpoint their position – “sensor fusion” – however, this technique increases cost and energy consumption.  Conversely, high-precision IMUs, currently used in the defence and aerospace sector, are bulky and cost tens of thousands of pounds, making them unfeasible for mass market applications.

Once fully developed, ZPM’s patent pending design will combine the low-cost benefits of MEMS devices with the mass manufacture and high sensitivity benefits of Photonic Integrated Circuit (“PIC”) chip structures. ZPM’s vision is to bring the performance of a high-precision IMU down to a price point suitable for commercial applications. Initially targeting the drone and robotics IMU markets (a combined market size of c. $1-2bn), ZPM intends to sell its products to module manufacturers, which will integrate these sensors into positioning and navigation modules. In the longer term, high-volume applications including automotive and smartphones will become addressable.

In addition to expanding its team, which will be based at Bristol University’s state-of-the-art Quantum Technologies Innovation Centre, this initial round of funding will enable the Company to create engineering samples to be assessed by initial customers and designed into their products, with a view to commercial sales commencing in 2024.

Chris Wiles, Senior Investment Manager, Foresight, commented: “Any company which develops a product for a very large and fast-growing market, which offers a 100x order of magnitude improvement in performance over the status quo, has the potential to be very successful. Combined with an outstanding and experienced founding team, we believe that Zero Point Motion has the potential to finally enable accurate positioning without the need for complex sensor fusion techniques”

Dr Ying Lia Li, Founder & CEO, Zero Point Motion, commented:  “The UK has a fantastic legacy in producing defence grade inertial sensors and strong expertise in commercialising optical devices and we’re excited to combine these capabilities to bring higher performance navigation to industrial and consumer markets. We’re ambitious to scale to high volume and transform motion capture, stabilise AR/VR and other image based systems, and increase the integrity of sensor fusion to enable indoor and autonomous navigation”

Matthew Burke, Head of Technology Ventures, Williams Advanced Engineering, adds: “We are delighted to back ZPM in the commercialisation of its high accuracy low-cost IMU technology. IMUs are used in many of the sectors WAE operates in, and we look forward to accessing our customer network to support the IMU commercialisation programme.”

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