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Love Basingstoke chats to ioLight

Whitchurch-based technology company ioLight recently spoke to us, read on to find out more.

Tell us about ioLight

ioLight was founded in 2014 by Richard Williams and Andrew Monk. We hired our third employee in in 2023 and we have our head office in Whitchurch and manufacturing and research and development in Southampton.

We are a technology startup so our plans are to grow the company and exit, handing it on to a larger company. First we have to develop markets for our new technology and grow the business.

Can you tell us about your products?

We launched in 2016 with the only pocket microscope that can share images of cells. The rapid growth in environmentals science and recent pandemics are driving science out of the laboratory to wherever scientists work. The microscope is a scientist's most basic tool and traditional microscopes are too big and fragile to travel. Pocket microscopes are not good enough quality for professional scientists. ioLight microscopes have a resolution of 1 micron (1/1,000 of a mm) so we can produce good images of single cells displayed on the screen of a mobile phone. They are small enough to get several in your carry-on luggage.

Our products have been used in the Arctic, the Amazon Rainforest and Antarctica. In 2019 National Geographic took a microscope up Mount Everest to film the highest science on the planet.

Our biggest application is Harmful Algal Blooms. You will have seen green algae on the surface of lakes and rivers. Algae converts more carbon dioxide to oxygen than land based plants but Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), or cyanobacteria,  look very similar and can release toxins that kill fish and dogs and can make people very sick. Currently lake managers have to carefully  collect a sample and send it to a lab for analysis. With an ioLight microscope and AI software we can analyse images in a couple of minutes so that the lake can be closed to keep people safe or reopened with confidence. The microscope is so easy to use that anyone from eight years old help with citizen science projects tracking cyanobacteria or microplastics.

An ioLight folding microscope

Our new products are being used to diagnose disease and to find new treatments. A lot of life sciences research is done inside sealed incubators at 37 degrees and a damp carbon dioxide atmosphere to emulate the human body. ioLight microscopes are sealed against this atmosphere and are small enough to live inside the incubator. With the display on the outside, researchers can check on the experiment without opening the door and letting contamination in.

We have sold over 600 microscope worldwide.

An ioLight microscope

We understand you have recently completed a funding round, can you tell us about this?

Growing a new technology is expensive. We have got this far with just a million pounds of investment. This has developed a fantastic product range and a global distribution network. We are now ready to scale this to volume. Our investors are wonderfully supportive and we would love to hear from anyone who wants to invest in a global technology business in Basingstoke and Deane.

What is it like being based in Whitchurch?

We love Whitchurch. It is brilliantly located with excellent travel links to London, the north and the west. Cambridge is a bit harder but with Heathrow airport so close we can easily get to our big markets in the USA and Europe. As well as this we have immediate access to beautiful unspoilt North Wessex Downs AONB and the River Test.

Our thanks to Andrew Monk from ioLight for this guest blog. You can get in touch with them via this email. August 2023

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