Case Study – Cobalt Light Systems

Cobalt - 750x350


Insight From Light

Cobalt Light Systems develops innovative instruments and technologies for non-invasive, rapid analysis of materials. This technology has applications in airport security to screen liquid contents; pharmaceutical materials analysis of capsules, tablets, gels or solutions; and handheld detection devices to analyse hazardous materials, explosives and narcotics.

Founded in 2008, Cobalt is a spinout from UKI2S partner STFC. The company is based in Milton Park, UK and in  July 2018 was sold to Agilent.

Keeping Airports Safer

Cobalt bottle scanner

Heathrow, Gatwick, Charles de Gaulle, Hong Kong International: across Europe and Asia’s busiest and most prestigious airports, Cobalt’s Insight systems are installed into security checkpoint operations to rapidly screen liquids for explosives and other potential threat materials. Cobalt’s best-in-class detection performance also carries the lowest false alarm rate of any ECAC-approved scanner, all without opening the bottle.

What’s In There?

Cobalt’s spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS) technology is a revolutionary tool for verifying raw materials through unopened containers, including multi-layered paper, plastic sacks and opaque bottles and coloured glass, without exposing staff to dangerous chemicals and risking contamination. Cobalt’s rapid transmission Raman spectroscopy (TRS) technology is also used in Pharma; both sensitive and fast, TRS technology can analyse a full tray of 100-200 pharmaceutical tablets or capsules within minutes. Much faster than conventional wet-chemistry methods, customers can release product faster and reduce working capital.

From The Lab To The Market: Investing In Innovation

When the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund team met Professor Pavel Matousek, now Cobalt’s Chief Scientific Officer, at UKI2S partner lab Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in 2005, they could see that his fundamental research known as Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy was a genuinely innovative way of analysing materials.

While the technology was compelling, there was not a management team with market experience in place, nor was it clear which industry applications should be the first addressed. UKI2S provided the capital for Cobalt’s initial proof-of-concept experiments on pharmaceutical tablets two years before the company was formed – impossible for nearly all other venture capital funds. Further investment on the back of those tests, alongside later investors, led to the TRS100 product, which went on to be the mainstay of the business for its first five years.

With UKI2S’ additional background expertise in photonics, the Fund helped with early instrumentation development and procurement.

UKI2S then supported Cobalt and the other investors in the recruitment of an experienced management team and spurred Cobalt to raise additional capital to pursue the airport security market which resulted in a 5-fold growth in revenue between 2013 and 2014.

In 2016 Cobalt launched Resolve, a hand-held through-barrier Raman instrument for identifying hazardous materials through sealed containers for applications in Hazmat incident management, military EOD, first response, search & law enforcement, and screening at ports & borders.

In July 2018 the company was sold to Agilent and became the new global centre for Agilent’s Raman Spectroscopy business.

Industry Recognition

Cobalt Macrobert award 2014

Cobalt’s technology has garnered both The 2014 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, the UK’s most prestigious prize for innovation in engineering and the

Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade 2015. Cobalt was placed the top of the 2015 Sunday Times SME Export Track 100 ranking of UK companies with fastest-growing exports, as well as being listed within the top ten on the 2014 Tech Track 100, which ranks the UK’s fastest-growing technology companies.



Cobalt Milestones


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