Sofant secures 2 million euro of EU funding for smart antenna
Pioneering Scottish smart antenna designers, Sofant Technologies Ltd, has secured 1.97 million Euros (£1.54 million) of European funding.
The investment, part of the 3 billion euro Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme will be used to take Sofant’s patented technology to market, potentially doubling the battery life of mobile devices and greatly reduces antenna energy usage.
Sofant has developed three core technologies comprising RF MEMS, antenna and software. This powerful combination will provide a steerable and focussed antenna – SmartAntennaTM – that can lock onto the best signal available at any given time.
This technology will be equipped for the new 60GHz Wi-Fi (WiGig) and 5G, with plans to commence development of the network in Scotland in 2017.
Sofant COO, Ahmed El-Rayis said the innovative antenna has potential to vastly extend the reach of Wi-Fi signal, improving connectivity without draining the battery.
“We call this a smart antenna because it has been designed to seek out the strongest signal and focus on it, rather than the current model that constantly radiates energy in all directions,” Dr El-Rayis said.
“We have been researching and planning this project for 10 years to perfect the design. This funding will enable us to take the product to foundry and we’re currently asking for tenders.
“We’re very excited about this new funding and see it as a real opportunity to impact on the future direction of the global smart phone industry and to create a market-leading company.
“We aim to have this product available to mobile phone manufacturers by 2018.”
The new funding allows Sofant to develop its smart antenna to meet substantial international demand for smart antenna technology, a rapidly growing market estimated to be worth more than $2.5 billion by 2020.
Head of the SME Instrument Unit in the EU’s Executive Agency for SMEs, Dr Bernd Reichert said the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 2 funding targets disruptively innovative businesses that increase competition and stimulate the economy through the creation of jobs and growth.
“We aim to support businesses with their innovation activities with the ultimate objective of the successful introduction of their products to the relevant market,” he said.
“Sofant’s technology is a prime example of disruptive innovation. They have identified a need in the market within a sector willing to pay for an added value product.”
As design features of smart phones become more advanced, increased pressure is placed on battery life with 50 per cent of smart phone charge consumed by the antenna while the screen is off, and a staggering 80 per cent during a call.
Antenna technology has not kept pace with the advances in functionality and performance of smartphones, resulting in dropped calls, lost signals, weak connections, slow internet and battery drain.
Sofant’s technology was born out of a �1m space programme to develop miniaturised satellites – small, light and highly reliable with powerful and flexible communication capabilities.
The European Commission received 5,388 project proposals under the SME Instrument Phase 2 funding since 2014.
A total of 325 entries were made successful with Sofant being one of five Scottish proposals to be awarded the funding.
The information and communications technology sector was the most competitive with only 3.65 per cent success rate from proposals