August 7, 2008

Technology Firm to Float Its Crime-Fighting Efforts

By Christopher Knox

THE new chief executive of a company that develops fingerprint technology to help catch criminals has said it is poised to float on the stock market.

Sedgefield-based ROAR Particles believes it could become a plc before the end of the year after working with police forces across the world to develop its product.

In September, it will hear the results of police trials in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland, which it hopes will provide the springboard it needs to become a multi-million pound business.

The technology can scan people's fingerprints and detect immediately whether they have been handling explosives or other substances, such as Class A drugs.

The technique uses far finer particles than the dust used in traditional fingerprinting, and lifts trace chemicals from the prints to find a much greater degree of accurate information.

ROAR chief executive Mike Pitkethly hopes to speed up the commercialisation of the firm, which was spun out of Sunderland University in 2006. Pitkethly worked for 16 years as the head of Farnborough-based nanotechnology firm Qinetiq before moving to the North East to help found industry body the Centre for Process Innovation, which was set up by regional development agency One NorthEast.

He says the company's float had been stalled by the recent purchase of American defence business Armor Holdings by BAE Systems, which has delayed a possible deal between ROAR and the American firm.

He said: "We are at the latter stages of a number of trials and have already heard a number of positive comments from forces around the world. Our technology will without a doubt revolutionise forensic examination.

"We still intend to float by the end of the year as well as work with Armor, but are aware of the current economic climate, which could see us put the date back until early next year."

The firm, which employs 23 staff at its three sites in Sedgefield, Worcestershire and Singapore, has made a number of improvements to the sophisticated fingerprint technology in recent months, which can now detect the gender and ethnicity of users.

It is hoped to develop these to open up other sides of the business.

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