Funding will 'Trace' the way ahead for opto-electronics firm

A Welsh opto-electronics company is about to revolutionise the aerospace and defence sectors with next-generation software capable of saving significant costs and time in the design and testing of fibre optic harness systems - thanks to a £600,000 funding round.

With hundreds of miles of fibre-optic cabling often used in just one large aircraft, it can take more than a year for engineers to compete installation. Trace Technologies Ltd’s new software – Photonic Interconnect System Designer (PISD) – allows this to be cut to just a few months through the use of groundbreaking software technology.

Recently located to Technium OpTIC in North Wales, and the winner of last year’s Technium Challenge, the company has secured £600,000 funding as part of a syndicated deal between Finance Wales, Geoff Andrews, a xénos Wales Business Angel Network investor, HSBC, an existing shareholder, and Regional Selective Assistance from the Welsh Assembly Government. Finance Wales and xénos investor, Geoff Andrews, have each taken equity stakes in the company as part of the package.

The deal will allow the company to fully commercialise the software and take PISD to market after already receiving orders from the likes of Airbus and other firms active in the aerospace and defence sectors. Later versions will target defence vehicles, ship builders, car manufacturers, railways and other industries utilising fibre-optic technology. The company, which was founded by Geoff Fisher and Ernie Edwards, has acquired the intellectual property rights to a programme originally developed by BAe Systems. The exclusive agreement with BAe Ventures enables Trace Technologies Ltd to further develop and market the programme worldwide.

“The funding round will allow us to actively commercialise PISD to the global market. It has huge potential in terms of reducing the significant costs associated with the design and implementation of fibre-optic systems, particularly in large-scale projects,” said Geoff Fisher of Trace Technologies Ltd.

He added: “Aerospace manufacturers are an obvious beneficiary of such a system. They have to spend thousands of man hours calculating, developing and installing such technology, often utilising hundreds of miles of fibre-optic cabling in just one aircraft. The PISD system will cut the amount of time and effort needed, thus reducing costs substantially - up to 60 per cent - in this globally competitive market.”

Andrew Davies, Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, said: “Trace Technologies Ltd has ensured innovation is at the heart of its research and development processes and to this end it has developed a unique software package capable of saving the aerospace and defence sectors millions of pounds. The future of the Welsh economy is underpinned by such innovative companies with the foresight to look beyond the barriers and provide solutions that will enable other sectors to thrive and prosper.”

Paul Lee of Finance Wales Plc, said: “The funding package arranged for Trace highlights how a syndicate involving both Finance Wales and private investors can help high growth and innovative companies. The combined investment will allow Trace to commercialise its unique software design tool and ensure it has capacity to develop the technology into other sectors and industries where opportunities exist. We are delighted to have been able to join forces with a xénos investor to complete this deal for such an innovative company. We expect to see more of these types of syndicated investments coming together in 2007/2008. It is a key area of growth for us.”

Geoff Andrews, the xénos, Wales Business Angel Network investor, said: “I am very excited about this company and delighted to have the opportunity to invest in it. My own background is in aerospace and communications and I believe the Trace product will be very attractive to the aerospace marketplace as a means of improving productivity.”