Longwall Ventures has led a $2.8m seed round for University of Oxford’s newest spinout, quantum technologies-based sensor technology developer Oxford HighQ.

University of Oxford today spun out UK-based quantum technologies developer Oxford HighQ with £2.1m ($2.8m) in seed funding led by investment fund Longwall Ventures.

The spinout, together with the university, has also been awarded a $1.1m government grant.

Oxford HighQ is working on chemical and nanoparticle sensors that use so-called microresonators, a technology originally developed for use in quantum technologies, which require precise control over the interaction between light and matter at microscopic length scales.

The spinout’s sensors are up to 10,000 times more sensitive than current alternatives and have applications in a wide range of sectors from environmental monitoring to medical diagnostics and nanomedicine.

Oxford HighQ will use the money to develop a nanoparticle characterisation scientific instrument for industries including research and development and process control.

The microresonators were developed by Prof Jason Smith at the Department of Materials and Prof Claire Vallance in the Department of Chemistry, with support from postdoctoral researchers Aurélien Trichet and Dean James.

Smith continues to lead research into using the microresonators in quantum computing at the UK Hub in Networked Quantum Information Technology, coordinated by University of Oxford and one of four hubs in the National Quantum Technologies Program.

Smith said: “The benefits of using optical microresonators for sensing has been known for a long time, but the realisation of practical devices has been hampered by difficulties in fabrication and in engineering the surrounding systems.

“We believe that Oxford HighQ’s sensors provide a solution that will deliver step changes in performance across a wide range of applications where high sensitivity and compact devices are important.”

Jeremy Warren, co-founder and chief executive of Oxford HighQ, said: “We expect that HighQ’s ability to design, fabricate and operate optical microcavities will deliver profound advances in the sensing of nanoparticles and chemicals in fluids.

“Early applications will be in laboratory instruments but the potential for compact devices relevant to several market sectors is clear.”