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Caithness firm sets sights on space with NASA order

09 April 2014

An award-winning Caithness company which develops cutting edge scientific equipment used across the globe has received a significant new order from the US Government space agency.

KP Technology Ltd, based in Wick, has received an order from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for its Kelvin Probe system.

The Kelvin Probe, which is named after Lord Kelvin, is a measurement device used to characterise surface electrical properties of materials by detecting electrical changes in the top-most atomic layers. It is one of the most sensitive surface analysis techniques available.

The company’s Scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP) portfolio spans a complete range of bespoke solutions for vacuum, air and controlled gases and relative humidity. It was developed by company founder and co-owner Professor Iain Baikie.

Professor Baikie founded KP Technology 14 years ago and it now employs 13 staff in Wick, some of whom have advanced degrees in physics, electronics and engineering. The company now serves over 500 businesses and research institutes worldwide.

Economic development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has supported the business for a number of years - most recently towards a Marketing Associate currently being recruited through the ScotGrad graduate placement programme.

Professor Baikie said: “The NASA order follows another recently for our new Corrosion SKP system from the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC and strong interest from the US Army Research Laboratory in Maryland. Historically our products have sold well in the United States and Europe and we are experiencing increasing orders from the Far East. Through HIE’s development manager Sara Campbell we were able to access HIE’s specialist business advisors. PA Consultancy identified the opportunity to promote our brand and seek adjacent markets. I also eagerly await the input of the ScotGrad Marketing Associate as we aim to achieve double digit sales growth.

Sara Campbell from HIE, said: “An order from such a prestigious organisation as NASA is a real achievement for Professor Baikie and his team. We are delighted to have been in a position to give KP Technology the support it needed over a significant period towards research and development and international sales initiatives. The order received from NASA is testament to the hard work and ambition of everyone at the company. KP Technology is a local Caithness company with an international reputation as a leading supplier in a specialised industry.”

Professor Baikie said that the business was committed to its role in inspiring the next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs. He added: “I am very proud that KP Technology employs a member of staff to assist company secretary and co-owner Elena Koponen-Baikie with the highly successful annual Caithness International Science Festival. Just two weeks ago, over 700 people attended our Science Fair in Wick Assembly Rooms where Caithness firms including KP Technology, Kongsberg Marine and DSRL had stands. The support of the local business community and the Scottish Government has been greatly appreciated. I hope that this outstandingly successful event will stimulate interest in young people to launch businesses creating knowledge and targeting overseas markets.”

KP Technology’s equipment is used in a wide range of applications spanning energy, semiconductors, forensics, bio-technology basic research and defence.

The company has already won three significant awards. It has won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise twice, for International Trade in 2013 and for Innovation in 2008. The company also won the John Logie Baird – Impact through Innovation prize in 2008.


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