A University of Liverpool spin-out company developing patents for the world of ‘artificial sniffing’ has been recognised by the Merseyside Innovation Awards (MIA).

Founded in 2002, Q-Technologies is a specialist in mass spectrometry technology which aims to identify gases and chemicals and its technology can be used in areas such as airport security, medicine and the environment.

Director Professor Steve Taylor said that he was hoping to add an extra two staff to his six-strong payroll during 2013 and complete a major border control project over the next 18 months. “We have a number of patents, some of which we have brought into production, and we sell into companies from our own research and development,” Taylor said. “We are not a massive manufacturer at the moment and outsource some of our work. “One of our projects is aimed at replacing sniffer dogs at airports, another has environmental applications by detecting oil in water and another can sense ulcers from your breath.”

The MIAs recognise innovative companies in the Merseyside area with fewer than 50 staff. A series of monthly winners are chosen during the first part of the year and in July the overall 2013 MIA champion will be crowned. The winning company will receive £10,000 in cash and £4,000 worth of legal, business, PR, accounting or design consultancy.

If successful, Taylor said he would use the money to reward staff and invest in new welding kit. Looking ahead, he added: “I would rather we stayed as a smaller company and continued to outsource as I don’t want to be one of the businesses making hundreds of systems. “We are working on a project that’s being funding by the EU to protect European borders which is aimed at detecting explosives, drugs and people. We’re halfway through a three-year programme and it will be a big feather in our cap if we can get that to market. Believe it or not, it’s very difficult to make something which can beat a dog but our machines would be much cheaper to run.”

Sponsors of this year’s awards included: Plus8, Brabners, C-Tech Innovation, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, MC Vanguard, NatWest, the North West Fund, Kenyon Fraser, University of Liverpool and WP Thompson.

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