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University spin-out Ultrahaptics announces £10.1 million funding

Steve Cliffe, CEO of Ultrahaptics, with Tom Carter, its Chief Technology Officer Ultrahaptics

A touchless button being used to operate a laptop Ultrahaptics

Press release issued: 2 November 2015

A leading developer of technology that uses ultrasound to create tactile sensations in mid-air has been awarded £10.1 million to grow its business globally.

The new investment, led by Woodford Investment Management, will allow Bristol-based Ultrahaptics to work with manufacturers in different markets as well as reaching new markets and customers.

Ultrahaptics, a spin-out company based on research developed at the University of Bristol by PhD student Tom Carter, has developed a unique technology that brings back the sense of touch to touchless interfaces by feeling without touching. 

The system uses ultrasound to project sensations through the air and directly onto the user, revolutionising how people interact with computers, automobiles and consumer goods. Users can feel touchless buttons, get feedback for mid-air gestures or interact with virtual objects.

The start-up company’s ultrasonic haptic technology is being licensed into various markets including consumer electronics, household appliances and the car industry. The company already has several leading businesses enrolled onto its evaluation programme.

Steve Cliffe, CEO of Ultrahaptics, said: "The company is engaged with Tier 1 manufacturers in multiple markets and the investment from Woodford Investment Management will allow us to fulfil this demand and address additional markets and customers. Our technology completes gesture control by re-introducing the sense of touch."

The company's early commercialisation efforts were supported by the University's Research and Enterprise Development team and funded from the University's EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account.

Ultrahaptics joined the Bristol SETsquared Centre - the University's award-winning business incubator - hot on the heels of winning the University's New Enterprise Competition two years ago.

SETsquared in now based in Engine Shed and Ultrahaptics has gone from strength to strength, expanding from one desk to 24 and occupying the biggest office.

Invest Bristol and Bath have supported Ultrahaptics in finding the right office space in the Enterprise Zone for next year, ensuring they stay in the region.

Nick Sturge, Director of the Bristol SETsquared Centre, said: "Ultrahaptics joined the Bristol SETsquared Centre in November 2013 and has grown rapidly in the centre, here in Engine Shed, to a team of over 20 people. We are hugely excited to be working with them and being a part of their journey.

"This could be one of the most exciting stars coming out of the Bristol and Bath ecosystem and we look forward to the ride. Their success reflects the ambition in the city-region and the complimentary activities of the University of Bristol, SETsquared and Invest Bristol & Bath, who are helping them with their growth plans in the city."

Mark Reilly of existing shareholder IP Group plc (LSE:IPO) added: "We have been involved with Ultrahaptics from the very beginning and have been delighted with both the technical and commercial progress achieved to date. We are extremely excited to participate in this Series A funding and the company’s continued development."

Further information

About Ultrahaptics

Ultrahaptics is the world’s leading mid-air haptics company. The company has developed a unique technology that enables users to receive tactile feedback without needing to wear or touch anything. The technology uses ultrasound to project sensations through the air and directly onto the user. Users can 'feel' touch-less buttons get feedback for mid-air gestures or interact with virtual objects.

About Woodford Investment Management

Woodford Investment Management LLP is a fast-growing asset management company built on a founding philosophy of transparency and simplicity. Launched in May 2014, the company has more than £12.5bn assets under management.

About IP Group

IP Group is a leading UK intellectual property commercialisation company, developing technology innovations primarily from its research intensive partner universities. The Group offers more than traditional venture capital, providing its companies with access to business building expertise, networks, recruitment and business support.

IP Group's portfolio comprises holdings in around 90 early stage to mature businesses across the Healthcare, Biotech, Cleantech and Technology sectors. These businesses include Oxford Nanopore Technologies, the DNA sequencing development company, Revolymer, best known for its removable chewing gum and Xeros, which has received many accolades for its revolutionary clothes washing techniques with a much reduced requirement for water.

About Bristol SETsquared

The Bristol SETsquared Centre, now located within the Engine Shed in the heart of Bristol's Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, supports 64 members who between them employ over 840 people globally. Since 2007, companies supported by Bristol SETsquared have raised over £188m and an aggregate turnover, in that period, of over £155m. It has contributed to the success of Engine Shed, which opened in December 2013 and is credited with powering economic growth in Bristol and the West of England, adding £8m to the local economy in its first year.

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