THE founders of a university spin-out company are sitting on a potential windfall approaching £20 million because a business using technology they developed is closing in on a stock market listing.

Professor Ehud Reiter, Dr Somayajulu Sripada, Ian Davy and John Perry, of Aberdeen University, started Data2Text four years ago to commercialise research in natural language generation (NLG) being done at the institution's school of computing science.

At the time they were involved in methods to generate high-quality text for weather forecasts from numerical prediction data.

London-based Arria NLG took a minority stake in Data2Text in May last year and more recently acquired the whole business.

As part of the latter deal the Data2Text executive team were given shares in Arria.

Now Arria is heading for a listing on the Alternative Investment Market which is expected to value the company at around £100m.

Prof Reiter, Dr Sripada and Mr Davy hold 5.175% each of the shares in Arria, with Mr Perry having 2.25%.

Aberdeen University has a 4.725% stake in Arria.

It is expected the business will make its debut on the stock market at some point before December 2, with shares priced at $1.60 each.

However the Data2Text executives have lock-in periods of one year so cannot cash in straight away.

NLG is a field of artificial intelligence and involves computer programmes being set up to analyse complex sets of data then translate the numbers into readable reports.

It has applications across a wide range of industries but Arria has so far concentrated on the oil and gas sector.

One of Arria's customers, described as an oil and gas super major, is using the system to monitor large-scale industrial machinery on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico then producing real-time reports for engineers and operators in any language required.

Arria said: "These reports are typically written by experts after analysing multiple and complex data sources.

"It can take these experts more than three hours to write a single report, while Arria's NLG Engine can analyse significantly more data with greater accuracy and produce a report within 60 seconds."

Arria is also working in the meteorological industry and said its technology can write 5000 site specific three-day weather reports in one minute.

The company indicated that it is more cost-efficient and offers greater coverage than existing human-authored methods.

Arria, which has raised around $40m from investors in the past 15 months, hopes to roll out its technology to more sectors including financial services and healthcare in the coming years.

Data2Text has 17 staff based in Aberdeen.

There is also the Arria NLG Centre of the University ofAberdeen which was set up to support research and development in natural language generation.