A range of specialist plastic electronics companies have been awarded a total of £8.4 million for research and development of products based on plastic electronics, such as conformable and rollable electronic displays, ultra-efficient lighting and low-cost, long-life solar cells.
Thirteen projects, involving more than 30 industrial and academic partners will get awards, following two competitions run by the Technology Strategy Board.
The global market for plastic electronics is now worth almost $2 billion and is forecast to grow to as much as $120 billion by 2020. The technology allows circuits to be produced at relatively low cost, by printing electronic materials onto a range of rigid or flexible surfaces. This removes many of the restrictions of conventional silicon-based electronics and will lead to the creation of a whole new range of products.
£7.4 million has gone to eight projects that will help build the UK supply chain and overcome the barriers to exploitation of plastic electronics technology. A further £1 million will fund five projects to encourage UK businesses to use plastic electronics in product development, by producing demonstrators of the technology that have a potential commercial value.
The projects range from interactive labels for high value brand authentication to interactive audio posters. Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said, “The opportunities to be a major part of a whole new manufacturing sector are very real. Very sophisticated plastic electronics technology already exists but we believe that there are huge opportunities out there for much broader incorporation of the technology into products. The challenge is to entice companies, especially those from the design sector, to work with the technology.”
As an example, one project, dubbed MORRIS, is a three year programme that aims to develop large reflective information surfaces for command/control rooms, electronic whiteboards, posters and signage, and architectural/interior design (electronic wallpaper).
The project is led by Hewlett-Packard in partnership with Timsons, and the Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC), the UK’s national design, development and prototyping facility based at Sedgefield, County Durham. The aim is to develop the specification of a pilot line and material set; projected costs and yields; demonstration devices; components; processes and equipment, and use these to secure investment in pilot and then full manufacturing.
Adrian Geisow from HP Laboratories said MORRIS, “Will be challenging to deliver, but we believe that it is well aligned with the competition’s goal of building the UK supply chain in plastic electronics, as well as being an exciting project in its own right”.