Cleantech: hugely ambitious Leosphere raises € 20 million from Oraxys

French clean energy startup Leosphere just raised € 20 million from cleantech fund Oraxys.

Leosphere was founded in 2004 as a spinoff from Onera (Office National d’Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales) and specialises in lidar technology (light detection and ranging). The technology consists of a ray of light, that can measure the movement of particles in the air. It’s like a radar, but with a very focused beam.

Originally, founders Alexandre Sauvage and his brother Laurent wanted to use the tech to do measurements of air in the atmosphere. However, it soon became clear that the tech could also be used to optimise the positioning of wind mills and even solar installations, so the company pivoted to wind and solar lidars.

The Sauvage brothers are already eyeing at new markets. They have plans – and a contract with Seoul airport – to deploy its technology to detect turbulence better. Turbulence is not only very uncomfortable for airplane passengers, but also potentially dangerous.

And they created a joint venture with NRG Systems to work on systems that allow wind turbines to anticipate gusts of wind better – which in turn would lead to lighter (and cheaper) wind turbines.

Leosphere did about € 18 million in turnover in 2012 (up from € 350 000 in 2006!), and has the potential to become ‘an industrial group’, according to Gregory Fayolle, founder of Oraxys. Previously, Leosphere raised 725 000 from Scientipole and other investors, in addition to the € 37k seeding money that the founders invested.

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).