Breakthrough Victoria up to the test with $15m investment in Liquid Instruments

Breakthrough Victoria up to the test with $15m investment in Liquid Instruments

Liquid Instruments CEO and co-founder, Professor Daniel Shaddock. Photo credit: ANU.

A Canberra-born, San Diego-headquartered technology company that reduces the hardware burden of storing multiple testing instruments for different purposes has received a $15 million investment from Breakthrough Victoria, which will see Liquid Instruments set up a Melbourne office and hire dozens of people in high-tech jobs. 

Underpinned by software and its Moku line of devices, Liquid Instruments' innovations in reconfigurable instrumentation have revolutionised the way tests and measurements are done by engineers, scientists and students worldwide.

The technology is the product of research from a team of physicists and engineers at The Australian National University (ANU), where its CEO and co-founder Daniel Shaddock has been a professor for more than a decade, and is used by leading companies and institutions from NASA and CERN through to Stanford University and Google.

"We are super excited to expand into Victoria," says Shaddock.

"This investment will allow us to strengthen and grow our manufacturing partnerships in Australia and forge new collaborations with researchers from world-class institutions at the forefront of technology development, including the University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University."

Liquid Instruments has disrupted a market characterised by conventional instruments that are typically inflexible and costly, with hardware designed for single measurement tasks. These limitations often result in cumbersome equipment that cannot keep pace with rapid technological changes, leading to significant inefficiencies and increased costs in product development.

In contrast, Liquid Instruments' reconfigurable devices leverage the flexible nature of field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and a versatile software platform to create more efficient, adaptable, and cost-effective instrumentation. 

The company's products provide up to 14 different instruments accessible through a single device, ranging from standard tools like oscilloscopes to advanced offerings like lock-in amplifiers, all within a more compact and cost-effective framework.

Liquid Instruments is already collaborating with Victorian partners to manufacture its products, and the company will expand these efforts in the coming years when it releases its highly anticipated next-generation device.

Following the investment from Breakthrough Victoria, which will establish jobs in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer science and advanced manufacturing, Liquid Instruments also plans to expand its internship program, targeting students from Victorian universities.

This initiative is expected to provide undergraduate and graduate students with invaluable real-world experience, working alongside Liquid Instruments scientists and engineers to propel innovative technology development.

"The impact of Breakthrough Victoria’s investment in Liquid Instruments will be felt across various levels of the state’s innovation sector," says Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley.

"From stronger manufacturing capability in Victoria, to cost-effective lab solutions for researchers, engineers, and students in a single piece of hardware."

Dooley's sentiments are echoed by Victorian Minister for Economic Growth, Tim Pallas.

"We are growing our economy and attracting new industry by investing in companies like Liquid Instruments – creating new jobs in advanced manufacturing and artificial intelligence," Pallas says.

The latest capital injection builds on total funding of $50 million through to September 2022 when the group secured $28.5 million in new investments in a round led by Acorn Capital, drawing new participation from Lockheed Martin Ventures and Powerhouse Ventures.

The 2022 funding round also attracted follow-on investments from existing backers Spirit Super, ANU Connect Ventures, MA Growth Ventures, Significant Capital Ventures, and Boman Enterprises.

That raise was used to accelerate growth plans and expand Liquid Investments' product line, introducing novel services that connect lab measurements directly to the cloud.

"Our innovative software-first approach provides clear advantages over traditional hardware-based solutions, and this funding strongly positions us to lead this critical industry transformation," Shaddock said at the time.

"We are focused on enhancing cloud integration features for our products and scaling production of Moku:Go to help millions of undergraduate engineering students around the world unlock their full potential."

Acorn Capital CEO Robert Routley said in 2022 that Liquid Instruments' Australian-developed software-defined approach was the manifestation of an ambitious plan targeting a vital market that has suffered from a deficit of innovation and imagination.

"We see tremendous potential for their platform to continue to grow and evolve, benefitting more industries over time," he said.

"Liquid Instruments is well positioned to execute on its expansion strategy and disrupt the test and measurement sector and lead the industry through the much-needed transition from hardware to software."

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