CASE STUDY: Mass Spec Analytical

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Filton-based Mass Spec Analytical (MSA) was formed in 1994 and has recently undergone significant change at Board level with a view to building a high growth business to exploit a range of identified market opportunities.

Since its inception, MSA has developed the innovative use of mass spectrometry in forensics. It has introduced several breakthrough techniques including an individual banknote analysis technique that enables many thousands of individual banknotes to be analysed quickly and reliably, opening a laboratory specialising in the profiling and characterisation of drug samples, the analysis of plastics and tapes for batch comparison, and the analysis of body fluids for alcohol content.

The Mass Spec Scentinel system, developed on an ABSciex spectrometer, is highly efficient for a range of explosives and that the results it produces are quantitative (i.e. the instrument response is directly proportional to the amount of explosive present).

MSA’s Managing Director Lance Hiley has been working with Brian Prescott, SETsquared Bath’s Entrepreneur in Residence for the Advanced Engineering Business Acceleration Hub - a sector specific business support hub funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) - to finesse the company’s pitch deck and to scope out plans for University collaboration in developing new sources and methods. 

Brian has introduced MSA to Dr Anneke Lubben and Dr Shaun Reeksting who are responsible for the University’s Mass Spectrometry Department which deploys a range of spectrometers from Bruker and Agilent and which, it is hoped, will extend the range of novel rapid direct analysis applications for MSA’s innovative source technology.

MSA has already succeeded this year in winning funding support from Innovate UK for a mini-project to facilitate materials selection for commercial product development and is awaiting the result of a major bid to underpin the next phase of development.

A bespoke business acceleration programme has been designed for Mass Spec Analytical which includes support from a business consultant to offer support and help to grow the business strategy and exploit new market opportunities.  As part of the programme it has facilitated introductions to the Department of Mass Spectrometry at the University of Bath for research and funding opportunities.  


It was an amazing experience for me to learn about the extensive capabilities and knowledge your department possesses...”

At MSA, we believe that our DBD Plasma source has the potential to revolutionise how mass spectrometry is used in industry due to its unique ionisation qualities and construction. What I heard today from you both is that those are qualities that scientists like yourselves are looking for from their instruments. Hopefully we can crystallise those goals into products and get them into the hands of researchers and industry in the not-too-distant future.

— Lance Hiley, Managing Director Mass Spec Analytical Ltd

Many thanks for the match making, and your invaluable input…

It was great to meet you all and to talk through your exciting project, and how we may be able to work together to progress the developments, and expedite the product release to a few targeted markets. Both Shaun and I were excited about the potential both of the ion source and the relationship between MS Analytical and Bath, and are looking forward to exploring it further.

— Dr Anneke Lubben, Head of Material and Chemical Characterisation (MC2), University of Bath