94. ioLight Limited

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Founders: Andrew Monk and Richard Williams
Founded: February 2014 (launched July 2016)
Website: iolight.co.uk/

With a Masters in Physics and a PhD in optics – both from Oxford University – Andrew Monk and Richard Williams “love building businesses based on science” and ioLight is their latest venture combining science with a commercial USP.

Having worked together in the field for 10 years, Monk and Williams found that traditional laboratory microscopes were “expensive, cumbersome and difficult to use”.

With scientists obliged to collect samples and take them back to the lab for analysis, samples can deteriorate, dry out and die during the journey and it is often difficult and expensive to return to a site to collect better samples.

The duo realised there was a gap in the market for portable lab microscopes that could analyse fresh samples in the field thus making “science more accessible to all”. And so they founded ioLight; a company specialising in laboratory-grade microscopes that fit in your pocket.

Having spent over two years developing the product, the pair’s ioLight pocket microscope allows for high quality images and videos to be recorded on a table or mobile phone anywhere. The microscope’s images have a resolution of 1 micron, only slightly less than the 0.4 micron resolution of a lab microscope, an RRP of £700 + VAT – more affordable than conventional microscopes at £3,000 to £5,000 – and doesn’t require a separate camera for images to be captured.

48 ioLight microscopes have been sold to date to customers including multi-national pharmaceutical company Bayer, Cambridge University, the Eden Project, and the Royal Veterinary College.

Backed by over £500,000 in funding and grants, including £240,000 from a successful Crowdcube round and over £150,000 from government-backed Innovate UK, Monk and Williams have ambitious targets for the ioLight microscope.

With a patent-pending, the entrepreneurs believe that the ioLight has the potential to capitalise on $340m of the $5bn microscope market and intend to ship 100 microscopes over the next 12 months.

Monk and Williams won’t stop at portable microscopes though; the pair are keen to put their expertise to good use and will be “filing further patent applications as new inventions are made”.

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