UK researcher wins Photonics21 competition to go from concept to prototype

Posted on: 16/07/2019

The winner of the Photonics21 ‘Prototype Your Idea’ competition, which is supported by KTN, has been announced.

A research student from Heriot-Watt University has beaten entrants from across Europe to scoop the top prize in the Photonics21 Prototype Your Idea competition. The competition is supported by KTN who are a Photonics21 partner company.


Calum Ross, together with Heriot-Watt Professor Robert Thomson and Brian Smith and Nick Weston from Renishaw Plc, have been developing a fibre probe that uses Raman spectroscopy to assess cells for oesophageal cancer without the need for a series of painful surgical biopsies. This technique is known as optical biopsy. It would be used during an endoscopy to provide instantaneous diagnostic feedback to the clinician.

Calum explains: “The raw materials used to make the probe are inexpensive and the probe manufacture could be automated for mass production. We‚Äôve targeted the oesophagus in this project but in fact any tissue or organ accessible via endoscope or hypodermic needle can be analysed.”

Calum was awarded the award at the recent European Photonics Venture Forum held in Munich. The prize is €5,000 together with €30,000 worth of support from the ACPHAST hub. ACTPHAST is a European photonics coordination and support platform supported under Horizon2020. It provides companies and researchers with one-stop-shop access to a wide range of existing cutting-edge photonics technology platforms from Europe’s top research centres with the aim of accelerating the transition from lab bench to a working prototype and beyond into mass manufacturing.

Calum and the team aim to commercialise the technology and will use the prize to support this. Calum says: “The support from ACTPHAST could prove extremely valuable in taking the probe from lab bench to pre-production prototype.”

Matthew Wasley, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for Photonics said:¬†”KTN, as a partner of Photonics21, were keen to encourage UK entries in this competition and we’re delighted to see Calum and the team winning the prize. We’re looking forward to supporting the team in taking this forward.”

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