CSTG and the University of Glasgow: how a Knowledge Transfer Partnership led to world-class advances in laser engineering

CSTG and the University of Glasgow: how a Knowledge Transfer Partnership led to world-class advances in laser engineering

The partnership has enhanced the reputations of the company, university and the individuals involved.

This case study originally appeared on page 78 of the State of the Relationship 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) is a UK-wide programme headed by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, and supported by 12 other funding organisations. Running for more than 35 years, the programme is a national success and now boasts over 800 partnerships across the country. The KTPs leverage the knowledge and skills available within universities, colleges and research organisations to help UK businesses improve competitiveness, productivity and performance.

One such partnership is between the University of Glasgow and micro-chip laser manufacturer Compound Technology Global (CSTG).

Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global (CSTG) supplies advanced semiconductor optoelectronic devices to the defence, oil and gas, telecoms and medical industries, serving clients in the UK, the US and Asia. In excess of 70 per cent of revenues are derived from high value exports.

Continued expansion of the business relied on CSTG’s ability to offer ‘high-value add’ device technology and chip fabrication processes. CSTG understood the commercial potential of Quantum Cascade Lasers as an emerging technology, but had very limited knowledge of their design and optical characterisation. Nor were there any commercially available modelling packages or turn-key equipment to address this gap in the firm’s capability.

The company became aware of the expertise available within the School of Engineering and established the KTP partnership with the Professor of Quantum Electronics, Charlie Ironside.

Their work together resulted in world-leading advances in semiconductor laser engineering, including the production of a radically new midinfrared laser called a Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL). The technology is in its commercial infancy and has the potential to displace traditional sensing technology with high resolution optical techniques. The project was named Scotland’s best KTP project in 2012 and shortlisted for the UK’s overall KTP award. It has also seen huge benefits for both bodies.

For example, turnover at CSTG has grown by 40 per cent.

“The collaboration has opened up a new spectrum for us as a business, taking us into radically new applications and markets. We have increased our order pipeline – especially in the defence and industrial markets – and rapidly established a thought leadership position in the area of mid-infrared laser technology.”
Dr Wyn Meredith, Commercial Director, CSTG

It has also yielded top-tier research publications and expert recognition for both the company and the university – in particular Dr Thomas Slight, the KTP associate on the project, whose reputation has been significantly strengthened as a result of his work. Dr Slight now gives conference talks to both technical and customer audiences in the UK, US and Europe. He has co-authored a review article on Quantum Cascade Lasers for the Institute of Physics journal Semiconductor Science, and is now employed as a Senior Engineer at CSTG.

“The project has enabled me to achieve my goal of working within a world-leading laser manufacturer and I’m delighted that I can continue to develop the skills I learned from the University of Glasgow by retaining the close partnership between CSTG and the University in ongoing and future projects,” says Dr Slight.

To find out more about KTPs, visit: www.ktponline.org.uk

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