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Tucson Tech: UA-focused venture fund invests in optics firm
Tucson Tech

Tucson Tech: UA-focused venture fund invests in optics firm

A venture-capital fund dedicated to backing University of Arizona technology spinoff companies has made its sixth investment and the first for its second venture fund.

UA Venture Capital Fund has invested an undisclosed amount in EARDG Photonics, Inc., whose technology for “enhanced augmented reality display glasses,” was developed by researchers within the UA College of Optical Sciences.

EARDG plans to use the money to further develop the technology into wearable glasses giving users a dual view — one through the glasses as normal and simultaneously, an augmented display field of view.

Related to virtual reality technology, augmented reality creates a real-world environment augmented by computer-generated perceptual information like images, sounds or touch.

The startup company was founded in January by longtime UA optics professor Nasser Peyghambarian, who founded specialty-laser maker NP Photonics at the UA Tech Park in 1998.

Fletcher McCusker, CEO and co-founder of UA Venture Capital, said the fund is thrilled to support EARDG, noting that the UA optics school is noted for its “state-of-the-art optics programs and curriculum, and world-renown researchers and scientists.”

“(UA) President Robert Robbins has enhanced the environment of commercialization throughout our university and UAVC is proud to support his initiatives,” McCusker said.

Peyghambarian serves as a director of EARDG along with Lloyd LaComb, a UA optics research professor and optics industry executive. LaComb also is vice president of TIPD LLC, another optics company Peyghambarian launched to develop optics technology including 3-D holographic displays.

Founded in 2017, UA Venture Capital raised $20 million for its first fund and invested in six startup companies based on UA technology or started by UA students.

In January, McCusker announced that UA Venture Capital had begun raising money toward a target of $100 million for a second fund.

While the size of the latest investment was not disclosed, UAVenture’s individual investments have averaged about $2 million.

Hexagon acquires local firm

Hexagon Mining, a mining tech firm that opened an expanded global headquarters in downtown Tucson last year, has acquired a mining technology company founded more than 20 years ago by UA mining and geological engineering staffers.

Split Engineering LLC, which provides systems to measure coarse rock to the mining industry, will complement Hexagon’s mine planning, production and safety software business.

Terms of the deal were not released.

“Split Engineering’s fragmentation analysis capabilities expand our life-of-mine vision from pit to plant,” Hexagon Mining division president Josh Weiss said in a news release. “It closes the loop on drill and blast design by allowing sites to quantify the effectiveness of their blast, bridging the gap between planning and operations.”

Split Engineering has continuously developed its software while opening offices in Chile, Peru, South Africa and Australia to service its worldwide customer base, Hexagon noted.

Split Engineering’s co-founders include Tom BoBo, who got his undergrad and master’s degrees in geological and geophysical engineering from the UA while playing on the school’s “Desert Swarm” football squads of the mid-1990s.

BoBo said Split’s automated digital analysis systems make a “great fit” with Hexagon’s digital mine planning and production tools.

Other co-founders and partners in Split Engineering are John Kemeny, UA department head of Mining and Geological Engineering, and Brian Norton, who got his MBA in entrepreneurship and management information systems from the UA in 1997.

Hexagon Mining, a division of the Sweden-based tech company Hexagon AB, moved into its new headquarters at City Park, 40 E. Congress St., last July and has about 200 employees.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook:

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