Cobalt Light Systems Wins Royal Academy of Engineering 2014 MacRobert Award

Cobalt awardAirport security scanner could help airports lift blanket ban

Oxford – July 7, 2014 –Cobalt Light Systems,  which develops products and technologies for non-invasive sub-surface analysis, has surpassed blue-chip corporations to scoop a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) award.

Cobalt, based in Oxford, won the 2014 MacRobert Award awarded by the RAE for the development of its unique liquid scanner for airports. The award came in the same week the Government re-emphasised the importance of airport security by announcing that current safety measures would be stepped up amid fears that terrorists were planning to strike.

The Cobalt team — which beat off the likes of Rolls Royce to take top prize — has used its technology to develop an airport security scanner that can identify potential liquid explosives. The Insight100system can analyse bottles of up to three litres, in order to determine if they contain anything considered a threat, without having to open them, providing detailed and exceptionally reliable results in just five seconds. Cobalt’s Insight100 has now been installed in 65 airports across Europe, and could eventually help lift the blanket ban for passengers carrying liquids in their hand luggage.

Dr Paul Loeffen, Chief Executive Officer of Cobalt Lights Systems Limited, said “Winning the prestigious MacRobert award is a real vote of confidence in Cobalt and recognises the tireless hard work and dedication of the entire team in the company. It is very rewarding to see an innovation, which began life in a UK academic laboratory, achieve such commercial success and be so widely deployed in airports. Rainbow has been a great partner in this journey and has provided much help and support along the way.”

Cobalt Light Systems is backed by theRainbow Seed Fund (RSF) — a venture capital initiative dedicated to kick-starting promising science and technology companies. RSF has invested in every single round of funding for Cobalt, including funding some proof of concept work prior to the company’s formation nearly ten years ago.The Fund’s manager Midven has been an active participant at board level since the company’s formation.

Former science minister Ian Taylor, chair of the Rainbow Seed Fund’s advisory board, said: “Cobalt is working in an area of huge importance globally, and that innovative work is being undertaken right here in the UK. This award is further evidence that long-term relationships – where venture capital funds provide not just cash but strategic advice and experience along the way – are good for the investors but of huge benefit to the companies too.

“The Rainbow Seed Fund is playing a key and higher profile role as part of the wider framework to stimulate the process of taking ideas beyond discovery towards commercialisation.”


Established in 2002 by a group of public sector research establishments, the RSF consists of public funds privately managed with the goal of achieving positive social and economic impact as well as a financial return to support its long term future. The fund invests in very early stage companies and pre-companies to enable their initial development, and works closely with those companies to enhance sustainability through strategic support and leverage.


About Rainbow Seed Fund

The Rainbow Seed Fund is a £24m, early-stage venture capital fund dedicated to kick-starting promising technology companies developed at some of the UK’s largest publicly-funded research facilities, in the rapidly expanding science and technology campuses linked to them and in the field of synthetic biology.


Created in 2002, the Rainbow Seed Fund is backed by 10 UK publicly-funded research organisations and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The Fund, whose portfolio comprises over 30 companies, holds investments in some of the UK’s most innovative companies in areas as diverse as novel antibiotics, research into Alzheimer’s disease, “green” chemicals and airport security. The Fund’s impact in over the past decade has been recently validated by independent research showing the Fund has leveraged over £150 million of private investment from just £7 million of its own investment and helped create 172 high value technology-related jobs. It is notoriously hard for early-stage companies to move from establishment to being sustainable businesses and the first round of finance is always the hardest to find. Long-term technology development programmes, lengthy adoption cycles of highly disruptive technologies and the difficulty of raising finance all conspire to make the development of most technologies emerging from public research a lengthy process. This has led to this stage in a company’s development being tagged the ‘Valley of Death’.  It is the Rainbow Seed Fund’s role to help companies in the early stages of their journey to sustainability. It does this through investment, strategic support and leverage with private capital.


The Rainbow Seed Fund is managed by Midven, a leading venture capital firm investing in early-stage and established businesses. For more information, please visit follow @Midven on Twitter.