BREAKTHROUGH technology perfected by a York company which helps to save motorists' lives will soon to be marketed in Europe.

Rapita Systems Ltd, a University of York spin-off company, is seeking a slice of a growing $44 billion global electronic control unit market with its products which detect faults in safety critical software, such as anti-lock braking systems and airbag detonators.

The technology, at first researched by University of York technologists, later became the basis for the year-old company which since last month has been at the IT Centre in York Science Park, Heslington.

Its RapiTime and VirtualTime products have a range of applications, including checking life-critical software in the avionics and telecoms industries, but there are huge commercial possibilities for car manufacturers who lose hundreds of millions of Euros each year due to problems with computer software in their vehicles.

The expansion, funded largely by a major injection of growth capital from Viking Fund and a group of private investors including Viking Club members, includes plans to hire three full-time specialist staff to target the Swedish and German markets.

Dr Guillem Bernat, chief executive of Rapita Systems, said: "We want to unlock that potential by expanding further into the Swedish and German markets where the majority of our potential clients are based.

"With the help of Science City York we have already turned our academic research into a successful business. Now with this new backing we can really start to expand.''

For the past 12 months, Rapita Systems has been supported by the Science City York business development team whose business promoter Andy Gurnell has played a crucial role in developing the company and securing cash backing.

He said: "Rapita Systems is a great success story for the scientific community in York.

"Not only has the company developed a notable list of international clients, but they are also employing graduates from the university and their success opens the way for increased cutting edge technology development in the York area in the future."

Andrew Burton, managing director of the Viking Fund, said: "We hope our financial backing will enable this exciting new technology company to continue to go from strength to strength.

"Companies like Rapita Systems have such a crucial role to play in the future economic development of the York area. We are delighted to be able to help them with their plans to expand within Europe."

Updated: 10:49 Friday, November 25, 2005