Karma Kamelian: Scottish firm reborn as Amphotonix

The semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) product line of the recently liquidated UK company Kamelian has been reborn.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - The semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) product line of the recently liquidated UK company Kamelian has been reborn. Amphotonix has acquired the Kamelian brand, along with the intellectual property, stock and key equipment of the original company. The new company has been founded by two of the co-founders of Kamelian, Craig Tombling and Tony Kelly, and will return the Kamelian line from Oxford to its roots in Glasgow.

Amphotonix has received investment from EDP, a European venture capital company, and from Scottish Enterprise, the main regional development agency for Scotland. It has also accepted a regional selective assistance grant offer of £55,000 (US$100,000) from the Scottish Executive. The combined funding package of £800,000 (US$1.45 million) is intended to take the company through to a break-even position. Previously Kamelian had raised £22 million (US$40 million) from investors including 3i, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Goldman Sachs. It has been reported that Scottish Enterprise defended the decision to put taxpayers’ money into a company that had failed once by suggesting that sometimes the best people to back are the people who have learned from their mistakes. And indeed Amphotonix has a very different business strategy from Kamelian.

Kamelian Limited was founded in Glasgow in 2000 to develop an SOA product portfolio. The company later invested in a full manufacturing plant in Oxford, UK. At its peak, Kamelian employed 47 staff, but the collapse of the optical communications market left the company with large, fixed facility overheads which forced its closure in July 2004. Amphotonix is using chips manufactured by Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global Limited of Glasgow, while module assembly is provided by Optocap Limited of Livingston, Scotland. Shipping to customers has already started.

“We have been able to re-start the excellent Kamelian product line in an outsource business model,” said Craig Tombling, co-founder and COO of Amphotonix explained. “We have already re-established the product line and are currently taking orders. To some extent, we are back to our roots in working with Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global; together with Optocap, these are our primary outsource partners.”

Kamelian’s revival comes amid signs of improvement in the market for optoelectronic equipment. Chris Gracie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Optoelectronics Association is upbeat about the future.

“We are quite optimistic at the moment; global markets for Optoelectronics are growing at about 9%,” he said. “In 2004 we saw increased investment into Scottish start-ups and over the last 12 months I am aware of 6 new company formations. There are also major moves like the BT contract placed last month which although not helpful to Marconi certainly heralds activity which component manufacturers can lock into.”

-Bridget K. Marx

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