Scottish laser firm secures £12.5m as new investment bank launches

Backing of £12.5 million for a laser technology business has marked the launch today of the new Scottish National Investment Bank.

Chief executive Eilidh Mactaggart, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and chair Willie Watt mark the launch of the Scottish National Investment Bank. Picture: Nick Mailer
Chief executive Eilidh Mactaggart, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and chair Willie Watt mark the launch of the Scottish National Investment Bank. Picture: Nick Mailer

The bank, which the Scottish Government is providing £2 billion to over the next ten years, aims to provide “patient capital” to businesses and stimulate significant private sector investment.

Glasgow-based M Squared Lasers, which is involved in pioneering areas such as quantum computing, has become the first business to secure support from the bank to accelerate its growth.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “a great example of the ambitious and innovative companies we have here in Scotland that will be key to our economic recovery and future prosperity”.

“The launch of the bank is one of the most significant developments in the lifetime of this parliament, with the potential for it to transform, grow and decarbonise Scotland’s economy,” she said.

The bank’s chair Willie Watt said the launch was a key milestone which will enable it to start making “mission-led, strategic, patient investments in businesses and projects that can deliver benefits for the people of Scotland”.

“We are particularly pleased that our first investment is in M Squared which is at the cutting edge of innovation and is a recognised world-leader in its field. It is our firm belief that the bank will make many more investments that deliver positive mission impacts in the years and decades to come.”

Investments made by the bank will have to meet criteria which help the move to a net-zero emissions, high-tech economy.

The bank will be led by chief executive Eilidh Mactaggart, a former managing director of MetLife Investment Management who has held senior roles at Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ABN Amro Bank.

The bank’s non-executive directors are Tracey Ashworth-Davies, Carolyn Jameson, Peter Knott, Jason McGibbon, Nicholas Moon, Candida Morley, Dr Jacqueline Redmond and Sir Jonathan Taylor.

Former Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins was strategic advisor for the creation of the bank and said it had been a “privilege to be part of an outstanding effort to make this a reality”.

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“We could not have predicted that the current pandemic renders the need for mission-led investment even more vital to create a robust, resilient wellbeing economy in Scotland.”

M Squared focuses on the development of new technologies that take advantage of the behaviour of atomic-scale physics, including quantum sensors for measuring gravity and acceleration, quantum clocks and quantum computers.

It is involved in a project to develop the UK’s first quantum accelerometer for navigation. Unlike GPS, the system does not rely on satellite signals which can be affected by tall buildings or could be deliberately jammed or switched off.

Dr Graeme Malcolm, chief executive and founder of M Squared, said: “Scotland has a real opportunity to actively tackle climate change and benefit from the coming quantum revolution.

“We are delighted that the Scottish National Investment Bank has invested in M Squared as its very first business – our shared commitments to society and the environment makes this an ideal partnership that will enable accelerated growth and progress in frontier technologies.”

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