Direct Investments

Mercia leads £1million round into University of Birmingham spinout

Mercia Technologies PLC, the national investment group focused on the creation, funding and scaling of innovative technology businesses with high growth potential from the UK regions has lead a £1.0million investment round into Smart Antenna Technologies, a University of Birmingham spinout.

Smart Antenna Technologies has developed a ground-breaking single antenna solution for mobile and portable devices requiring multiple data connections and Mercia has backed the company since 2013, initially via third party managed funds, then latterly as a direct investment.

This latest investment round, which saw Mercia invest £250,000, was alongside the Australian developer and manufacturer of certified high-assurance encryption hardware, Senetas Corporation, and the new University of Birmingham Spinout Investment Fund.

SAT intends to use the funding to complete product development for a potential industry partner, further expand the engineering capabilities of the business and extend its core technologies.

Sampson Hu, Founder and CTO of Smart Antenna Technologies (“SAT”), said: “We’ve got a world class technical approach and team of engineers, and this investment will boost our ability to deliver high quality partnerships overtime.”

Currently smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices require often up to six antennae to achieve their full functionality, including Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and mobile network coverage such as 4G LTE. The company’s patented technology should reduce the overall number of antennae required, potentially achieving a reduction of up to 50% in the cost of materials for manufacturers, as well as improved performance, reduced size and increased battery life.

The potential market for the product is large, with global sales of smartphones to end users alone totalling 403 million units in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone according to Gartner.

Dr Mark Volanthen, Investment Director and Head of Electronics, Hardware & Materials at Mercia, said:

“SAT is a great example of the potential that spinouts from our partner universities have to grow over time into cash-generative, sustainable and valuable businesses. The University of Birmingham has demonstrated its ability to build IP that can be taken to market and adapted to multi-million sectors, such as that of smart phones and other portable devices.

“We are pleased to continue to support SAT alongside the University and Senetas, and we look forward to working with the business extensively in the coming months as it continues to grow, focused on industry engagement within its target markets.”

Dr James Wilkie, CEO of Alta Innovations, the University’s tech transfer company which manages the Spinout Investment Fund, said: “The technology developed by Smart Antenna has attracted substantial interest, and we believe that this is an exciting time to invest.”

Senetas Corporation has invested £500,000 as part of the investment round. Based in Australia, Senetas is a leading developer and manufacturer of certified high-assurance encryption hardware.

Andrew Wilson, CEO of Senetas Corporation, said:

“We believe that the company will be an extremely profitable investment for Senetas. We are very excited about the prospects for the company and we also believe that we can add substantial value through our core competency and engineering capabilities and our global distribution contacts.”