Blackford Analysis Ltd

Ben Panter demonstrating Blackford Analysis technology

Originally developed for astronomy research, a cutting-edge algorithm is now being used to speed up larger data processing for medical imaging through University spin-out company, Blackford Analysis Ltd.

The cutting-edge algorithm behind the technology was originally developed to increase the image processing speed in astronomy research, and was used by Professor Alan Heavens and Dr Ben Panter the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy to determine the star formation history of the Universe.

However, they could see that the capabilities of the algorithm were not limited to astronomy and could be applied to sectors where processing large amounts of data is routine, including seismic interpretation for oil and gas surveying, and fast image analysis for defence.

The group teamed up with Dr Mark Bastin of the University’s Brain Imaging Research Centre in a collaboration that provided the basis for a Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept project to demonstrate that the technology could be applied to medical imaging.

This project – coupled with winning the 2008 Research Councils UK (RCUK) Business Plan competition and further funding from a Science and Technology Facilities Council Follow on Fund grant – led to the formation of a University of Edinburgh spin-out company with an initial six-figure investment and a SMART:SCOTLAND Feasibility Study award.

Blackford Analysis Ltd was spun out from the University in 2009 to provide real-time solutions to large data processing problems, using an algorithm that has a large number of potential application areas.

Blackford’s initial focus has been in medical imaging, where its technology can improve the diagnostic process for MRI and CT scans by automatically preparing images for radiologists.

Dr Panter, Blackford’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are extremely excited to be building our first product, and are grateful to the University and our funders for enabling this technology to be developed to the point where we could raise investment. We have discussed further application of this technology with companies in the oil and gas and security sectors, and look forward to raising a second, larger round of finance in the next year to capitalise on opportunities in these markets.”

Dr Panter won the THALES Scottish Technology Prize in 2009 for the application of this technology to Improvised Explosive Device detection, one of the many avenues where this technology could also prove useful.

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