M Squared’s innovation journey through EU projects

M Squared is a multi-award-winning photonics and quantum technology company. For over a decade, it has provided the world’s purest light to enable scientific progress and power industry – helping to address some of society’s greatest challenges.

Posted on: 19/10/2020

M Squared is a multi-award-winning photonics and quantum technology company, helping to address some of society’s greatest challenges.

For over a decade, it has provided the world’s purest light to enable scientific progress and power industry. Its laser and photonic systems are working to realise the potential of the coming quantum age, improve healthcare and provide the scientific understanding to help halt climate change.

EU Funding Journey

In 2008, M Squared joined its first EU consortium in a project that secured funding under the European Commission’s FP7 Framework Programme. The company’s involvement not only enabled the company to become part of a large integrated project, it also helped it to gain the first-hand experience of what it means to be a partner in a collaborative European research and development programme. M Squared went on to exploit the new technology that emerged as a result of this project and developed several new relationships that would result in future collaborations.

This first EU project had a profound impact on M Squared. The company learned the value of collaboration first-hand and it cemented the idea that leveraging collective expertise in science, research and industry was indeed a powerful tool for making significant progress in commercial applications for the greater good.

Subsequently, M Squared took a more focused and strategic approach to identify and participate in collaborative projects, successfully applying for ‘Research for the Benefit of SMEs’ grants as well as Marie Sklodowska-Curie projects. These projects brought unique technical demands and new challenges, sometimes with hidden benefits. For example, organising the transnational movement of researchers was initially testing, but solving this problem ultimately enabled M Squared to build a solid pan-European network of contacts, which helped to accelerate its product development plans. The Marie Sklodowska-Curie scheme proved to be a strong recruitment tool – numerous researchers, each of whom started out as Marie-Curie Fellows, went on to become full-time M Squared employees. One of the Fellows from Germany went on to establish M Squared’s Berlin office to offer sales and support for the company’s growing European customer base and to extend ongoing R&D and collaborative efforts to strengthen partnerships and collaborations across Europe.

Talking about some of the lessons learned along the way, M Squared’s Innovation Programme Manager, Dr James Bain, commented: “Planning and preparing proposals is time-consuming, so my advice is… be organised and plan ahead. At the start of the process, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the demands of the project, but don’t lose sight of what’s important for your business.”

James also pointed out that there are ways to get involved in shaping challenges and influencing the agenda of future calls through European Technology Platforms such as Photonics21 or relevant initiatives like the Quantum Flagship.

Outcomes to date

M Squared is a regular participant in KTN’s Photonics and Quantum information and networking events (UK and EU related). James commented that these events have been particularly helpful to M Squared, “We’ve met potential collaborators, identified funding opportunities and made useful business connections.” James also said that he likes the fact that the can, “just pick up the phone to a KTN expert and ask for advice.”

Over the years, M Squared has coordinated four projects in FP7 and four projects in H2020 and partnered in several others. These projects have been instrumental in helping M Squared to broaden its network, advance its technology, and has contributed to the company’s growth. For example, in 2012, due in part to the company’s active participation in collaborative projects, M Squared established a dedicated innovation division, which both oversees the company’s longer-term research projects and feeds into the company’s wider product development initiatives.

Today, M Squared is a £20M turnover business and is still growing fast with 120 members of staff serving its global customer and partner base. M Squared has established itself as one of the UK’s most innovative, disruptive technology businesses. Recognised by the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 and The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 and Export Track 100 and awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation and International Trade. Founded in Scotland, M Squared employs more than 120 people and has offices throughout the UK, Europe and the USA.

Visit the European Programmes page below for more information on Horizon 2020 funding and other relevant opportunities.


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