Published May 5, 2022
The Advemto team have opened the door to greater scientific insights with an ultrafast spectroscopy tool. The team recognised the need for powerful turnkey instruments and have been working on solutions with Wellington UniVentures for the last decade, recognising that the idea needed to be protected as the technology developed. Advemto is now the latest venture to spin out of Wellington UniVentures, taking the product to the academic market.
Spectroscopy is used in virtually all fields of science and technology to investigate and explore things that are too small to be seen through a microscope. Ultrafast spectroscopy uses extremely short light pulses to measure fast dynamics – it’s similar to strobe photography, but works on femtoseconds, which is the natural dynamic timescale of atoms and electrons in functional materials and molecules. Ultrafast spectrometers are currently only found in specialist laboratories because they are complex, slow, and only operated by expert users. This is not only time-consuming, but limits the analysis that can be carried out, and limits the research fields that can access these tools.
Professor Justin Hodgkiss and Dr Kai Chen at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and the MacDiarmid Institute have developed a suite of turnkey spectrometers based on ultrafast fluorescence and transient absorption spectroscopy. These spectrometers enable scientists to collect full colour spectra on ultrafast timescales – integrating multiple spectroscopy experiments into just one. Their spectrometers reduce the time it takes to collect data from many hours or days down to just minutes, while opening up the means to measure dynamics in proteins, as well as solar cells, LEDs, and photonics materials.
The journey to impact
The rapid spectroscopy tool is a project that Wellington UniVentures has been involved in for a number of years. Anne Barnett, Wellington UniVentures’ CEO worked on the project when she first joined as Senior Commercialisation Manager. “There was a time gap in development while laser miniaturisation technology caught up with the project’s requirements, but we knew the importance of ensuring that the idea was protected. We were happy to play the long game as the project developed,” explained Anne. Patents were filed while prototypes were created to prove that it could be a truly commercialisable product.
Professor Justin Hodgkiss says that the team carefully balanced the imperative to protect their IP with the need to validate and share their technology in peer-reviewed academic literature. Justin explains, “after patenting the invention and then publishing, we found that it attracted considerable attention from labs around the world. A whole bunch of collaborations and publications followed, and that was a great place to start our commercial journey from.”
When Senior Commercialisation Manager Peter Lai came on to the project in 2020, he worked with the team to understand the best application for the tool. The market research carried out by Wellington UniVentures, backed up by sales to early adopter customers through a relationship with leading international distributor, CohPros Ltd proved that the academic market could be a huge opportunity. Putting the customer at the heart of the innovation, the team developed the tool into the complete turnkey instrument that it is today.
In 2022, the company spun out to form Advemto. With business support from Wellington UniVentures, the Advemto team have gone from building instruments to building a business. Partnering with CohPros Ltd, and working closely with component manufacturers and software engineers, they have been able to successfully bring the instrument to market. The unique and patented instrument is considered a premium product—the first turnkey solution for ultrafast spectrometer technologies.
The application in ultrafast spectroscopy has almost doubled since 2010. Now the Advemto technology is being sold to academic markets, a pathway is being mapped out to access potential industrial applications too.
“Justin and Kai have really taken leadership roles in the growth of this project, embracing the challenges that come with a more business-oriented discovery,” explained Peter Lai. “Advemto’s solution has been recognised by the likes of Matu and Quidnet Ventures and the products available will put New Zealand at the forefront of new nano material characterisation. We look forward to seeing the expansion of the products globally.”