Extreme sensors start up gains funding

The IMechE has provided investment from the Stephenson Fund to ProxiSense for the development of sensor products for use in extreme environments.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has completed a new investment, through its £2mn Stephenson Fund, into Oxford-based company Proxisense.

Proxisense is a spin-out from Oxford University’s Engineering Department developing proximity sensors and fluid contamination systems for use in extreme environments. These are used to monitor the health of turbine blades and lubrication fluids in, for example, jet engines and can extend component lifetimes, increase efficiency and reduce maintenance and downtime costs.

The Institution’s investment was made through the Stephenson Fund, launched last year to help companies overcome the investment hurdle between Research and Development and bringing a product to market.

The Fund, initially worth a total of £2 million, is in line with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ original statement of purpose set out by founder George Stephenson in 1847 to ‘give an impulse to invention likely to be useful to the world’.

Announcing the investment, Stephen Tetlow MBE, Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said, “The technology Proxisense is developing has the potential to cut maintenance and downtime costs of aircraft and other vehicles significantly, making the manufacture and maintenance more efficient and low-cost.

“It is exciting that we are in a position to support cutting-edge technologies, like those being developed by Proxisense that are, in George Stephenson’s words, ‘likely to be useful to the world’.

“The Institution wants to help companies overcome the hurdle between Research and Development and bringing a product to market, and apart from the monetary investment, this will also connect Proxisense to the vast resources and network of the Institution and its membership.”

Paul Vickery, Chairman of Proxisense, said: “I am very excited to form this new company based on the world class technology developed by Professor Chana. We have created a compelling business plan, raised launch funding from the Stephenson Fund, Oxford Sciences Innovation and Angel Investment and formed a strong leadership team led by Mark Papworth, our newly appointed CEO. I look forward to building a business that already has several sensors systems available for sale to enable sensing in extreme environments.”

Proxisense is working closely with companies such as Alstom and Rolls Royce to develop extreme environment proximity sensors for steam turbine blades as well as developing fluid contamination sensing technology which provide real-time, reliable monitoring of transport fluids and lubricants in aircraft and other vehicles. The company is based on the work of Prof Kam Chana who has over twenty years’ experience working alongside major industrial clients such as Rolls-Royce, Alstom (now GE) and Siemens.

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