UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund Portfolio Company, Cobalt Light Systems, Acquired by Agilent for £40m


Chemical detection innovator secures access to global markets

Early-stage investor UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund today announces that Oxfordshire-based Cobalt, a provider of highly differentiated Raman spectroscopic instruments, has been acquired by Agilent Technologies Inc.

Cobalt, a spin-out from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory which was funded from the earliest stages by UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, produces innovative products for non-invasive, through-barrier chemical analysis, for applications in airport security, hazardous chemical ID and pharmaceutical QC, using a technologically advanced Raman spectroscopy technique.

Cobalt’s CEO Paul Loeffen will remain with Agilent as the Director of Raman Spectroscopy. The former Cobalt HQ, on the rapidly growing Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire UK, will become Agilent’s global centre for Raman spectroscopy.

Privately held and ranked as one of the UK’s fastest-growing technology companies in 2014, Cobalt’s customers include 21 of the world’s 25 largest pharmaceutical companies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and more than 75 airports across Europe and Asia-Pacific, including eight of the 10 largest European airports, with over 500 devices deployed at airport checkpoints. Recently, Cobalt has entered environmental screening markets such as law enforcement, customs and borders, and first responders its handheld platform.

Ian Taylor, Chairman of UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, commented, “As a seed investor in innovations from the UK’s science base, UKI2S enables scientists to commercialise their innovations. The acquisition of Cobalt demonstrates our objective to leverage private capital to validate, invest and grow leading UK science. The successful sale of Cobalt gives UKI2S additional funds to re-invest in ideas emerging from the UK’s world-leading research base.”

“As the first investor, more than a decade ago” said Dr Andrew Muir, Investment Director of the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, “we are proud of Cobalt’s path from research origins at UKI2S partner STFC to a global market and this successful outcome demonstrates our strategy of providing very early investment to validate and develop research with high-growth potential.”

About Cobalt

Cobalt develops innovative products and technologies for non-invasive, through-barrier chemical analysis, for applications in airport security, hazardous-chemical identification and pharmaceutical QC. Cobalt’s instruments can rapidly and accurately identify materials hidden inside objects or through opaque barriers such as plastic, coloured glass, paper and skin, or can measure the concentrations of materials in mixtures, with a high degree of accuracy.

Headquartered in Oxfordshire, UK, with offices in Reston, Virginia, and Hong Kong, Cobalt was founded in 2008 as a spin-out from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and funded by UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, NESTA, Longwall Ventures and private investors.

Previous recognition for Cobalt Light Systems includes:

  • The Sunday Times BT Business SME Export Track 100 (2015)
  • Ranked in the top ten in The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 (2014)
  • Cobalt received the 2014 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, the UK’s most prestigious prize for innovation in engineering for the Insight100™product, which identifies explosive threat materials inside containers in seconds without opening them.

Video content – demonstrating Cobalt’s current detection products is available here. For more information, visit