Helping start-ups access world-class machining facilities

STFC’s Innovation Technology Access Centre (I-TAC) provides flexible, affordable access to state-of-the-art machining facilities, which have enabled Oxfordshire SME Oxsensis to reduce their R&D costs and further grow the business.

The challenge

When an SME needs only a few parts for a prototype, they are often forced to mass produce due to the reluctance of manufacturers to produce one-off parts or small batches, when the set up costs for machining the product will equal or even exceed their profit margin. Producing more parts than required, however, wastes energy and raw materials and, perhaps more importantly, the cost to the SME per prototype can soar, putting a strain on an already tight R&D budget.

Oxsensis is an STFC spin-out that produces bespoke sensors for use in extremely high temperatures and pressures in industries as varied as nuclear power, aerospace and oil and gas. The sensors are made by micro-machining super-resistant materials such as single crystal sapphire, and incorporate fibre optic interrogation techniques to provide extreme sensitivity and resistance to electro-magnetic interference. As Oxsensis continually develop new prototypes for different customers, mass production methods exceed their demand, resulting in large quantities of costly wasted products.

The solution

Taking advantage of I-TAC’s lab and office space alongside the high-tech equipment in the centre’s machine shop, has enabled the company to create their prototype products on a small-scale and with great precision; significantly reducing the manufacturing costs as well as the amount of wastage. Their location at the heart of STFC has also facilitated access to vibration tables and metallurgy equipment, which were used to intensively test and validate their products.

The benefits

By reducing the time and costs spent on R&D through I-TAC’s small scale manufacturing facilities, Oxsensis were able to put those resources back into the company and continue to grow, making £2m in revenue in 2013. The company has increased from a single employee in 2004, to a 20-strong workforce, which has contributed sustainable highly skilled jobs to the local economy. In addition to the high-tech facilities, Oxsensis has enjoyed the vibrant campus at Harwell Campus which has helped them get funding from the EU and Innovate UK. By coming to I-TAC, Oxsensis has been able to focus their time and energy on growing the business as efficiently as possible.

Work with us

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) keeps the UK at the forefront of international science and tackles some of the most significant challenges facing society and industry.

We collaborate with industry, the research community and government to develop business opportunities arising from our world-leading science and technology.

With our facilities, capabilities and expertise, we are perfectly placed to solve your high-tech innovation challenges and enhance your competitiveness - whether you are an established global corporation or an entrepreneur with a great business idea.

For more information about how your business could benefit from access to I-TAC:

Tel: +44 (0)1925 603708

Email: Innovations

Twitter: @STFC_B2B

Read the full Case Study

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000