Two professors from the University of Leeds have obtained £750,000 in Seed funding to form SatSense, a spin-out company using software to detect the deterioration of building foundations.

The funding came from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, (which is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund), Unipart Rail and the University of Leeds.

Professors Tim Wright and Andy Hooper will use the investment to bring their technology, which uses algorithms to extract measurements of ground motion from satellite radar images, to market. It will also enable them to recruit a managing director for the business, as well as to expand the development team.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union.

Lisa Ward, investment director with Mercia Fund Managers, which manages NPIF, said: “While SatSense is a very early-stage company, its technology represents a step change in resolution and accuracy over anything that is currently on the market.

“The team have actively engaged with potential customers and clearly have a product that is in demand. The funding will allow them to take the first step into what is potentially a huge worldwide market.”

According to the professors, the SatSense technology can measure ground movements as small as 1mm per year. Measuring this can establish the cause of subsidence –  which is the vertical, downward movement of a building foundation caused by a loss of support of the ground beneath the foundations – within hours.

The cause could be, for example, tree roots, shallow landslides or pumping of water from the ground. This data is useful for home buyers, surveyors, mortgage lenders and insurers.

Moving forward, the company aims to monitor critical infrastructure such as bridges, railways, dams, as well as oil and gas production sites.

Andy Duley, director of innovation commercialisation at the University of Leeds, said they are delighted to support SatSense. “The launch of Nexus, our new innovation centre, will build on this success by providing easier access for business and industry to the University’s world-leading academic expertise. It will bring together a vibrant community of innovators to make collaboration and commercialisation easier,” he added. 

Noel Travers, managing director of Unipart Rail, concluded: “Satsense presents an exciting investment for Unipart Rail. The emerging Earth Observation market provides scope for considerable growth over the next decade and Satsense is now well placed to capitalise on this.”