Edinburgh hyperloop team raises £1.5m to help boost Covid-19 recovery

Continuum Industries specialises in artificial intelligence tools to rapidly design new infrastructure.Continuum Industries specialises in artificial intelligence tools to rapidly design new infrastructure.
Continuum Industries specialises in artificial intelligence tools to rapidly design new infrastructure.
A technology firm set up by the Scottish team which built the UK’s first hyperloop prototype vehicle has secured £1.5 million in seed funding.

Continuum Industries, which specialises in artificial intelligence (AI) tools to rapidly design new infrastructure, said the backing would help it support planners and designers working on projects to aid the world economy recover from Covid-19.

The company, which was launched in Edinburgh in 2018 with initial backing from Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams, has developed a system to automate engineering processes and use AI to explore millions of design options.

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It believes its system can reduce the construction and operational costs of major linear infrastructure projects – such as roads and powerlines – by as much as 15 per cent.

The funding round was co-led by the UK’s Playfair Capital and Prague-based Credo Ventures with Techstart Ventures in Edinburgh, business angels Simon and Michael Blakey and other investors also taking part.

Grzegorz Marecki, co-founder and chief executive, said many governments were looking to infrastructure investment to aid economic recovery and will want to see construction start as quickly as possible.

“With current design and planning processes taking many months or years, they will need to find effective ways to fast track the process,” he said.

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“We believe that new approaches that embrace automation and AI are critical to achieving this and we will use this funding to build relationships with new customers, accelerate product development and expand to all types of linear infrastructure.”

Before founding Continuum Industries, Marecki and the company’s management led a 150-strong team at the University of Edinburgh working on hyperloop projects which could transport passengers in pods hurtling through vacuum tubes at very fast speeds.

The team built the UK’s first hyperloop prototype vehicle and successfully competed in contests run by SpaceX and Virgin Hyperloop One.

“It was the hyperloop moonshot that made us realise the socio-economic value of infrastructure and forced us to think about better ways of taking infrastructure projects from ideas to reality,” said Marecki.

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Continuum Industries’ tool enables infrastructure planning and design teams to cut the initial stages of the design process down from months to days.

Chris Smith, managing partner at Playfair Capital, said: “Even at this relatively early stage, the technology the company has built is a genuine game-changer, enabling significant time and cost savings for all parties involved in designing and constructing projects.”

Techstart Ventures focuses on investment in seed stage startups in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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