A COMPANY founded by an Oxenhope man has secured a £2.7 million investment.

Digital mapping firm Gaist is using the money to expand its groundbreaking 'roadscape' services.

The company captures and analyses continuous, high-definition imagery of road conditions and the highways network.

It has collected more than 1.5 billion megabytes of images over the past decade, including the entire classified road network in England.

Data has been developed into software, which can be imported into the asset management systems of highways network operators, local authorities, mapping companies, major utilities and other blue-chip firms.

Its technology – known as HighwayView – and expertise has been attracting attention from countries seeking to better maintain and improve their own highways systems, including in the Middle East and Asia.

Gaist has also been working closely with the Department of Transport to develop a new approach to the identification, management and repair of potholes.

Founder and chief executive officer, Steve Birdsall, said a particularly exciting element for the business was research and development in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) – that demonstrated by machines rather than humans.

"Domestic demand for our services continues to grow and at the same time we are delighted to see our AI-driven technology gain international recognition," he said. "Both of these areas represent significant opportunities.

"While we continue to focus on working with highways departments, we are increasingly also working with private-sector organisations and utility companies which have never before been able to access the deep learning analysis that we are able to provide."

The latest investment is from BGF, which supports a range of growing companies in return for a minority, non-controlling stake.

"To date we have self-funded investment into the company and in collecting and 'productising' our data sets," added Mr Birdsall, who was born and brought-up in Oxenhope.

"Bringing BGF on board as a non-controlling investor will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and respond to the rising demand for our services and expertise."

Pinesh Mehta, for BGF, said it was delighted to be backing the company.

He added: "Improving our roads has been a burning issue in recent months but there is also a growing and longer-term requirement – from both the public and private sectors – for access to accurate and detailed data to better understand the behaviour and utilisation of our road networks.

"Gaist is at the forefront of this mapping technology, services and expertise, and has created a business with a reputation for innovation and delivery."

Earlier this year, Gaist revealed that it was setting-up its head office close to Keighley, bringing a multi-million pound investment and jobs.

The company has identified a potential site, where it hopes to be fully operational this summer.

It presently has around 230 staff, but is looking to double its UK workforce.

It is taking on technicians and boosting its research team.

Gaist – currently based in a unit on the Lancaster University campus – is growing rapidly in the UK and about to start new businesses in Japan and South America, in addition to existing operations in India.