US company to open Edinburgh R&D centre


An American technology company building the next generation of LiDAR and 3D sensor solutions for autonomous vehicles and industrial automation is set to significantly enhance its presence in Scotland, following a £1.9m grant from Scottish Enterprise.

Sense Photonics will open an Advanced LiDAR Research and Development Centre in Edinburgh, creating 38 high-value jobs in the process. The company is at the forefront of the innovative LiDAR industry, with ground-breaking technology based on more than 200 patents.

Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, Sense Photonics currently has a small research base in Edinburgh, with the company already enjoying a positive working relationship with the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Integrated Micro and Nano Systems.

Welcoming the news, Scottish Government Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee, said:  “As photonics is the key enabling technology for the 21st Century, I’m delighted that Sense Photonics has decided to set up an Advanced LiDAR Research and Development Centre in Scotland with the support of a £1.9 million Scottish Enterprise Research and Development grant.

“Sense Photonics decision to locate their new base in Edinburgh reflects Scotland’s long and distinguished history in the field of photonics, punching above its weight in a globally competitive market for over a century.

“This new base will add to Scotland’s existing billion-pound photonics sector, which supports 4,000 highly skilled jobs at a value added per employee that is three times the national average. The Scottish Government and our agencies will continue to support the sector by building on our skills and academic excellence to develop a workforce ready for the future and ensure that Scotland maximises the opportunities of the rapidly growing market – accelerated by unprecedented demand for photonics-enabled technologies.

“I am delighted that Sense Photonics will be playing a part in helping us to realise these aims and secure Scotland’s position on the future international stage.”

Founded in 2016, Sense Photonics’ cutting-edge, fully solid-state LiDAR system aims to usher in a new era of advanced 3D imaging technology for automotive and industrial applications, including autonomous cars and robotic systems.

Rather than using complex scanning solutions to create an image pixel-by-pixel, Sense Photonics captures the entire frame at once, similar to a camera. The company calls this Flash LiDAR, which delivers high performance 3D sensing that is simple, modular, scalable and reliable.

Sense Photonics will create a globally competitive research centre in Edinburgh, which will include laboratory and office space. The centralised R&D centre will bring all elements of sensor research and development within a single location, taking advantage of the deep pool of talent in the region. 

Scott Burroughs, CEO, Sense Photonics, said: “We are very excited to partner with Scottish Enterprises to build our Advanced LiDAR Research and Development Centre in Edinburgh. Working closely with the University of Edinburgh for the past year, we have already built one of the best advanced sensor development teams in the world, and we look forward to expanding rapidly with this new support.”

As the national economic agency for Scotland, Scottish Enterprise provides financial support to companies to develop the country’s economy, create new employment opportunities and protect existing jobs. 

Mark Hallan, Director, Scottish Enterprise, said: “Sense Photonics is an innovative company producing highly sophisticated technology, so I am very pleased that Scottish Enterprise has provided a £1.9m grant to support its plans for an Advanced LiDAR Research and Development Centre in Edinburgh.

“The decision by Sense Photonics to grow their presence in Edinburgh has the potential to put Scotland at the centre of the fast-growing LiDAR technology industry. Scotland is already home to the University of Edinburgh’s pioneering Institute of Integrated Micro and Nano Systems, so there is a real opportunity to develop an ecosystem of talent in this sector here.

“Providing support to entrepreneurially-minded international companies, such as Sense Photonics, to attract them to Scotland is a key priority for Scottish Enterprise as part of our recently published Strategic Framework. Scottish Enterprise looks forward to continuing to work in partnership with Sense Photonics as the company develops its presence in Scotland.”

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