Industrial Impact of the Central Laser Facility
26 Mar 2018
- Emily Cooke



“Innovation is not the product of logical thought, even though the final product is tied to a logical structure.” Albert Einstein.




​A question we often ask when giving tours of the Central Laser Facility (CLF) is “Have you ever seen this grey and red box (shown below) at airports?" to which the reply is almost certainly, “Yes."


Whilst lasers that generate beams 10,000 times more powerful than the National Grid often seem more like science fiction than reality to members of the general public,  little symbols of the societal impact of the CLF – such as this airport scanner – tend to ignite a real sense of familiarity.

The box in question? A table-top device which is used to identify liquids within bottles. Currently in operation at 75 airports throughout Europe and Asia-Pacific, Insight100 was created by Cobalt, a spin-off company which originated in the CLF. Like all of the research completed here, the CLF is very proud of it.  Through spin-offs like Cobalt, the CLF strives to illustrate the value of industrial partnerships. After-all, we believe that strong relations between academia and industry really do increase the feasibility of tackling some of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.

Recently, this theme of partnerships between Industry and the CLF was a driving force behind the organisation of a pioneering Industry Focus Day by Business Development Manager Ric Allott in July 2017. On a warm summers day, 30 representatives from a wide variety of companies including Rolls Royce and Stirling Dynamics, travelled to RAL to learn about the capabilities of the CLF, highlight industrial requirements and discuss solutions to major industrial and societal challenges.

The CLF takes great pride in its innovative collaborations with Industry, the NHS, MoD and the Home Office, to name just a few. Just like our lasers, the technology developed using them make a long-lasting impression.  The Cobalt spin-off company responsible for the Insight100 (pictured above) is a prime example. Cobalt Light Systems Ltd received the Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2015, the UK's highest accolade for business success, and the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Award in 2014. In 2015 Cobalt was placed at the top of the SME Export Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain's private small and medium-sized enterprises with the fastest-growing international sales. If that wasn't enough, back in July 2017, Cobalt was acquired by US tech giant, Agilent Technologies, for £40 Million pounds.

However, Cobalt isn't the only industrial by-product of the CLF. In fact, over the last 40 years, 6 spin-off companies have been established, depicted in the infographic below.


​Together, the CLF and its industrial partners, invent new technologies, innovate markets and inspire the next generation. From the use of lasers for damage and radiation hardness testing to radiobiology and radioisotope generation, these multi-sector collaborations have long had a large impact on society. We are certain that this will continue in the years to come.

To learn more about the CLF and its industrial collaborations, please follow this link.​

Contact: Cooke, Emily (STFC,RAL,ISIS)