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St Andrews-based Razorbill Instruments wins Mercia Fund Management's Q1 Business Plan Competition

Mercia Fund Management (MFM) is pleased to announce Razorbill Instruments, a spin-out from the University of St Andrews that specialises in nanopositioning technology, as the winner of its 2015 Q1 Business Plan Competition. The announcement further enhances Mercia’s support of technology driven growth enterprise in Scotland.


The Razorbill team, who presented their pitch to the investment team at Mercia’s Midlands-based headquarters in Warwickshire, will receive a £3000 cash prize. Razorbill aims to develop their product for launch in Spring 2016.


MFM, one of the leading technology investors in the UK, already has strong partnerships with nine UK universities based in the Midlands, which offer an enviable source of pipeline investment opportunities, as well as technological expertise.

Mercia is now looking forward to strengthening its partnerships with universities and businesses across Scotland and the north of England.


Nicola Broughton, Investment Director; Head of University Technology Transfer at Mercia, said:


“We are very pleased to announce Razorbill as the winner of our Business Plan competition.


“Mercia continues to work with university spinouts in its core geographical areas of the Midlands, North and Scotland, and this is a great example of how we can provide early stage support as we seek to strengthen our relationship with key Scottish universities, which include St Andrews.”


Razorbill is developing nanopositioning technology that can deliver precise and reliable nanoscale movement, which will have a wide range of microscopy and nanofabrication applications. It was founded in 2014 by three St Andrews scientists: Alexander Ward, Jack Barraclough and Clifford Hicks. They currently have a proof-of-concept prototype, and are also continuing to develop and test their product, whilst hoping for a potential product launch in Spring 2016.


The nano-tools market is currently worth £4 billion and has uses in academic research, scanning probe microscopy, biomedical & aerospace sectors, and nanofabrication. Put simply, it allows tiny objects to be moved to form complex parts, such as computer processors. However, current technologies similar to Razorbill’s nanopositioner prototype are slow, imprecise, wear down with use, and are unreliable, particularly in low temperatures. This is even more problematic considering that key industrial processes such as circuit manufacture are shifting towards nano-manipulation.


Razorbill believes that its product will provide a solution to this problem, as it is compact, reliable, and resilient against long-term wear and extremes of temperature.


Last year Razorbill was awarded third place in the Converge Challenge 2014, a national competition aimed at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship amongst academics.


Alexander Ward, Razorbill’s Managing Director, who recently successfully tendered a £94,000 grant from Scottish Enterprise, said:


“We are delighted to win £3000 in Mercia’s business plan competition, which will go towards capital for a pre-production prototype.


“Competition was tough, but we believe that our development of a novel technology for providing reliable, high-force, vibration free movement will prove vital for both academic research and technological development, especially in microelectronics, a cornerstone of the global economy.


“We intend to meet current market demand with a product that can deliver higher forces with better resilience to long term wear than our competitors. Our aim is to be the trusted workhouse of industrial nanomanipulation.


“However, we don’t want Razorbill to be a one-trick pony! Over the next five years, we want to grow the business and produce other high value, high tech, positioning-based products. Our hope is that, five years along the line, people will recognise Razorbill as the core developer of a family of high quality research tools.”


Ewan Chirnside, Director of the Knowledge Transfer Centre from the University of St Andrews said:


“I am delighted that an excellent company prospect based on the results of fundamental research undertaken at the University of St Andrews continues to be a success”.

For more information on Razorbill Instruments, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.