Engineering: turning ideas into reality - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

3  Plastic electronics engineering—innovation and commercialisation

The message that I picked up when I started my life as a physicist is that one should never under-estimate the power of engineering to convert something that appears not necessarily to be promising into something that is spectacularly good.[73]

Professor Sir Richard Friend, University of Cambridge


60.  Our decision to undertake this case study partly arose from comments by Professor Sir David King, former Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA), on the potential for plastic electronics to disrupt global markets for electronic devices: "In Britain we have a world-leading position in a technology that could wipe out silicon chip technology and could convert photovoltaics into easily accessible materials at a much cheaper price, and I am talking about plastic electronics".[74]

61.  As an emerging industry, the plastic electronics sector provides us with an opportunity to examine the transition of a technology from the research laboratory to the market place. Further, Professor King's assertion that plastic electronics is a sector in which the UK could lead the world provides for an opportunity to explore how the Government supports innovative industries, a discussion made all the more timely given that Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation (DIUS), has committed to leading "a serious debate about the areas of focus for this country in the future"[75]:

I think that we need to look at the global environment, we need to note that the countries with whom we are competing have made strategic choices about the areas in which they believe they are best placed to focus.

I think it would be actually good for the country to get a clear sense of what it is we think we can lead the world in over the next ten years.[76]

62.  The Prime Minister has also alluded to the potential for Government to strategically support areas of scientific and technological strength, but made clear that he did not see this as a return to the industrial policies of the 1960s and 1970s where the Government attempted to pick winners:

The picking winners strategy was about taking one company or a second company and saying that we were going to back this single company to the hilt, and it led, of course, to some of the problems of the old industrial policies. This is a policy of saying, look: there are sectors where we have got great genius. Biosciences, life sciences, is one; advanced sections of information technology is another; the creative industries are another. Let us back the development of skills and research in these sectors. That is what we are talking about.[77]

63.  We would not advocate that the Government back individual companies. However, while the Prime Minister has recognised that "it is vital that our portfolio of early-stage, high-value businesses survive the downturn to secure our long-term future competitive advantage", we are unconvinced that at the current time a disruptive technology could ever flourish in the UK. If this is to change, the Government must not only have the technical capacity to identify such innovations, but also design a mechanism for providing targeted financial support when required. We note that other nations have adopted the approach of very strong support for pre-competitive R&D via Government-funded institutions that engage closely with the industrial base at all levels and via Ministry-convened industrial consortia. This is especially true of Japan, Korea and Taiwan but is also evident within the German Fraunhofer Institutions and related consortia activities. We discuss these issues in further detail during this chapter and welcome, in principle, Lord Drayson's commitment to debate the future form and focus of UK science and engineering policy.

Plastic electronics

64.  Semiconductor devices—electronic components made of semiconductor materials—are essential in modern electronic devices (mobile phones and computers, for example). Today, an inorganic material, silicon (Si) is used to create the majority of semiconductor devices used in commercial applications (with the exception of light emitting devices where III-V semiconductors are used[78]). Professor Sir Richard Friend, University of Cambridge, told us that plastic electronics research presents an opportunity to "use materials that one would call 'plastics', that is more correctly polymers, [… to] provide the semi-conducting behaviour".[79]

65.  'Plastic electronics' can be broadly defined as the branch of electronics encompassing semiconductor devices, both organic and inorganic, fabricated by methods compatible with high throughput, and low temperature processes.[80] The difference between traditional electronics and plastic electronics is not necessarily one of electronic principles, but of materials and fabrication methods.[81] For instance, while silicon semiconductors normally need to be manufactured on rigid substrates, usually at high temperatures, plastic electronics offers the potential to print active semiconductor devices—such as thin film transistors (TFTs)—on non-conventional flexible substrates (plastic, metal or paper, for example). Professor Friend outlined the potential for increased manufacturing flexibility to impact on device functionality:

At the moment, in order to make a circuit with electronic devices in it, you really have to make it on a very stable, expensive substrate—a slice of a silicon crystal, or a sheet of very expensive glass—and that means that these are prized items that have to be placed carefully and used carefully. If, on the other hand, we can have functionality painted or printed everywhere, then there are huge ranges of applications for semi-conductors that are currently not served.[82]

66.  Increased functionality is not the only benefit that plastic electronics can offer electronic devices relative to conventional technologies. Other advantages include waste reductions during manufacture through the use of biodegradable substrates and ultra-thin layers of material, and reduced energy consumption during manufacture and device use.[83] In developing products, the benefits offered by organic semiconductors must be weighed against the superior durability offered by silicon chips.


67.  Disruptive technologies function to create new technological markets, or transform or eliminate established ones. Past technological disruptions include telephony, the digital camera, and the computer. The potential for plastic electronic technologies to disrupt current markets was raised by Professor Sir David King when he told us that plastic electronics could "wipe out silicon chip technology" and that "it is exactly the sort of technology that will completely sweep aside existing technologies".[84] Technologies in development, and potential applications, are outlined in Table 5.Table 5. Plastic electronic technologies
Technology Benefits Functionality
Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED): Thin-film device with an organic layer that emits light when a current flows through it. Relative to LCDs: lower weight, thickness and power consumption; readability from every direction; wide operating temperature; ultra-fast switching speed.

Relative to conventional light technologies: longer life; lower environmental impacts; reduced energy consumption.[85]

Displays: mobile phones; MP3 players; televisions.

Lighting: potential to displace conventional light sources such as fluorescent and incandescent lights.

Organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells: Light shone on OPV cells generates a current. Lightweight, flexible and can be manufactured on a roll-to-roll web. Contribute to renewable electricity generation, especially in the context of local generation where no grid infrastructure exists.[86]

Radio-frequency identification (RfID): Wireless recognition technology that store and allows remote retrieval of data. Potential for radical cost reduction through all-printed or 'chipless' RfID.[87] RfID tags can be applied to or incorporated in objects for the purpose of identification
Non-light-emitting Displays: Reflective or transmissive properties of a material are changed locally via the action of an electric field. Displays can be produced on flexible plastic, metal or even paper substrates. Products include: an LCD display that can be rolled out of a mobile phone; e-readers; e-books.[88]
Sensors Depositing plastic electronics circuits onto a surface using ink-jet (and other) printers would make it possible to produce cheap electronic 'chips'/sensors. Intelligent packaging to display: if food or liquid is "off"; time during storage/transport.[89]

Medical sensors: monitor/diagnose health conditions. [90]

Flexible patches for localised photodynamic therapy for the cure of certain skin cancers.[91]

68.  Estimates of growth in the plastic electronics market appear to support Professor King's view of the sector's potential. IDTechEx—a company that provides global analysis of the printed electronics industry—estimated that the worldwide market for printed electronics will increase from $1.18 billion in 2007 to $48 billion by 2017 and $330 billion by 2027, and technology analysts suggest that new markets in the sector could be valued at hundreds of billions of dollars in twenty years time.[92]

69.  Rapid growth in the global plastic electronics market was expected by some of our witnesses.[93] For example, Dr Keith Rollins, Dupont Teijin Films (a manufacturer of plastic substrates), told us that "this industry is on the brink of explosive growth",[94] and Professor Friend identified plastic electronics as having "all those indicators to say that it can be disruptive".[95] However, Dr Ian French (who works on a silicon-based technology) and M-Solv (a company working on a technology that is competitive to plastic electronics) were more cautious, the latter stating that: "it is simply not the case […that] OLED [Organic Light Emitting Diodes] and plastic transistors will be the dominant electronic system to supplant inorganic (silicon) technology for the foreseeable future".[96]

70.  The potential for plastic electronics research to create new products, and even entire new industries, was identified by the Council for Science and Technology (CST) in its 2007 report, 'Strategic decision making for technology policy'.[97] To enable the UK to take a strategic view of where to concentrate support mechanisms, and to capture as much value as possible from this developing market, CST recommended that the Government undertake a comprehensive value chain analysis of the plastic electronics sector. Asked whether it intended to implement this recommendation, DIUS reported that the project had been completed by BERR, in collaboration with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), and the outcomes published in 'Plastic Electronics in the UK—A guide to UK capability'.[98]

71.  We do not believe the content of the BERR/UKTI report equates to the 'value chain analysis' called for by CST. Rather than identifying where the potential value in the sector lies, and how the UK might capitalise on these opportunities, the report describes plastic electronic technologies and catalogues the interests of university and businesses active in the sector. DIUS highlights work conducted by Dr Zella King, University of Reading, as a further effort to analyse the UK's plastic electronic sector.[99] In June 2008, Dr King produced a 'Competence Matrix' intended to "aid understanding about how near we are to bringing products to market in the UK, what kinds of markets the UK might be able to dominate, and the feasibility of collaboration to bring technologies to market".[100] Although valuable, this research does not provide a comprehensive roadmap for taking the industry forward.

72.  The UK is well placed to capitalise on the economic potential of the growing plastic electronics industry. However, we are concerned that without a clear understanding of how best to build on and market the UK's strengths in this sector this opportunity might not be fully realised. We urge BERR to engage with the Technology Strategy Board, UK Trade and Investment, UK Displays and Lighting Knowledge Transfer Network and the plastic electronics community to develop a technology roadmap. In constructing this roadmap it is essential that stakeholders across the sector be consulted, from spin-out companies to multinationals.

Research infrastructure


73.  Professor Sue Ion, Royal Academy of Engineering, told us that "Access to capital is a key issue to get you from good laboratory scale work through to a prototype that you can then industrialise".[101] UK-based research relevant to the development and application of plastic electronic technologies is supported by both public and private finance. We review funding sources, their interrelationships and their potential to support innovative research below.

Research Councils

74.  The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the principal public funder of plastic electronics research.[102]

75.  EPSRC invests a total of around £740 million per annum in research and training activities, of which £68.2 million is spent on research, training and knowledge transfer activities of "direct relevance to the area of plastic electronics".[103] 42% of this investment is provided to universities through investigator-led research, 38% is spent on projects in collaboration with industrial partners and other stakeholders, and 3.8% of the total is invested in the training of postgraduate students.[104]

76.  While we welcome EPSRC's investment in plastic electronics research, we note that the funding level it reports is for projects that are "playing within the plastic electronics space".[105] Consequently, these funds might also be counted as supporting other research areas (for example the development of micro- and nano-technologies or more fundamental synthesis and molecular modelling activities).

77.  We recognise that the multidisciplinary nature of plastic electronics research may make it difficult to identify those projects specific to the sector, and believe this makes EPSRC's investments in centres such as the Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre and the Organic Materials Innovation Centre (based in Manchester)—which provide support for plastic electronics research—even more valuable. We note also that since starting this inquiry, EPSRC has announced: (a) a programme for joint funding of Japanese-UK co-operative research projects in the area of "Oxide Electronics, Organic Electronics and Spintronics";[106] and (b) the establishment of a Doctoral Training Centre focused on the science and application of plastic electronic materials.[107] We welcome these developments.

The Technology Strategy Board

78.  The Government established the Technology Strategy Board through the former Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2004. As a business-focused organisation, the Technology Strategy Board is charged with stimulating "technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity".[108] It has operated at arm's length from Government as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) since 1 July 2007.

79.  As at June 2008, the total value of plastic electronics projects supported by the Technology Strategy Board was £52 million, of which £27 million is provided by industry.[109] When asked about the value of the Technology Strategy Board's funding programmes, Richard Price told us that his spin-out company, Nano e-Print, had found them to be "incredibly important":

Firstly, it brings together consortia that would not necessarily have come together unless there was government support to share the risk. Secondly, it helps us in terms of our cash flow and enables us to further develop before we have to go back to the market for more investment. It also helps us build relationships with some of the knowledge transfer networks and to grow organically some of our networks within industry.[110]

80.  We welcome the support for plastic electronics research and development provided by EPSRC and the Technology Strategy Board, and believe sustained support by these organisations is vital to the growth of the industry.

A Managed Programme in plastic electronics

81.  Set up by the then DTI, the UK Displays & Lighting Knowledge Transfer Network (UKDL KTN) was established "to support the disparate needs of the Displays and Lighting communities in the UK including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] and academics".[111] Since its establishment, UKDL KTN's role and remit has evolved, and the network now provides a forum within which the plastic electronic community can "meet and cross-fertilise ideas, to encourage innovation in the field".[112]

82.  In 2006, the former DTI and UKDL KTN engaged with the UK plastic electronic community to develop a comprehensive analysis of the sector's opportunities for growth, and to identify specific needs for targeted support. Logystyx UK Ltd told us that this process resulted in a proposal for a Managed Programme that would ring fence £50 million funding for R&D investment into plastic electronics over a period of up to 5 years:

[T]he proposal was centred on the premise that the PE [plastic electronic] community is best positioned to assess its own progress and to identify its own needs for short- and medium-term research activities. It was planned that an investment panel comprising a representative selection of companies and academics would identify the particular technology hurdles that needed to be addressed at any time, and would run a mini-competition to solicit project proposals against those topics. The Panel, together with DTI would agree projects to be selected for support, and the projects would then be funded under the normal rules. This proposal was very well received but coincided with the split of DTI into DIUS & BERR. The structural change prevented the proposal for a Managed Programme being taken forward.[113]

83.  During this inquiry, we heard support for the planned introduction of the Managed Programme, and disappointment that the project had not been taken forward. Dr Stuart Evans, co-founder of Plastic Logic, said:

Chris Williams [Director of UKDL KTN] has done a great job at building the UKDL [KTN] into something quite cohesive, but there is a step further to go I think, and that would be a very desirable outcome, and I think if we had had the managed programme where essentially there had been a commitment to spend the money, which is being spent anyway, industry would have had more control over that and I think that would have been very helpful.[114]

84.  Asked whether he hoped to revive plans for this project, Chris Williams, Director of UKDL KTN, told us that while "the concept of a managed programme is essential for this nascent industry", neither BERR or the Technology Strategy Board was receptive to the proposal. He explained that the latter:

Have their own interpretation of innovation: they have their innovation platforms, they have the collaborative research programme, they have the knowledge transfer networks […] but at the same time they have no vehicle in position today to run a managed programme in the way the DTI used to do—they have no facility at all—and it would be very valuable for our sector, and I am quite sure it would be the same for other sectors, if that were added to their armoury of tools.[115]

85.  Asked why his organisation had not honoured the former DTI's commitment to a Managed Programme, Mike Biddle, Technology Strategy Board, told us the £38 million investment made in plastic electronics, some of it in conjunction with Research Councils, "is not a million miles away from that £50 million that was discussed as part of that investment programme".[116] Further, he asserted that it was not just a case of "throwing money at the problem", but about bringing people together and "attracting new thinking into the area" in order to leverage an investment for the benefit of the UK. [117]

86.  Although we welcome the financial support provided to the plastic electronics community by the Technology Strategy Board, we do not see the vehicles used to deliver R&D funding as comparable to the Managed Programme proposed by UKDL KTN and the former DTI. The Managed Fund proposed to fund research projects at 100% of cost. By contrast, the Technology Strategy Board funds academic collaborators for up to 80% of their Full Economic Costs, industry partners for 50% of eligible project costs, and SMEs for up to 60% of project costs.[118]

87.  The Technology Strategy Board's funding schemes target two forms of collaborative working: science-to-business (a university/business partnership) and business-to-business. Engaging in a science-to-business collaboration may be an attractive prospect for a start-up/spin-out company. However, as universities are unlikely to provide significant levels of project funding, the brunt of any financial commitment would most likely be borne by the fledgling SME. We are concerned that together these factors combine to put the financial commitment required to apply for a grant beyond the reach of many start-up companies, and that, rather than support innovative work by fledgling businesses and grow a new industry, the Technology Strategy Board's grant schemes principally act to support established concerns.

88.  Finally, we do not consider the Technology Strategy Board to be unique in its ability to bring people together. As we outlined previously, UKDL KTN is appreciated for just this ability. Indeed, Dr Rollins told us that there is "a strong sense of community around this space [plastic electronics] with the KTN playing an important role".[119]

89.  We do not believe that the Technology Strategy Board's grant schemes and the Managed Programme proposed by UKDL KTN and the former-DTI are mutually exclusive forms of support. UKDL KTN champions the needs of the plastic electronic community, and as such we urge BERR and the Technology Strategy Board to engage with it, and to reconsider the deployment of a Managed Programme in this area.

Venture capital

90.  Venture Capital (VC) has provided significant levels of financial support to a number of UK companies involved with plastic electronics. Lord Drayson of Kensington, Minister for Science and Innovation (DIUS), told us that the very fact these companies have raised significant VC is "the best evidence that one can take for the independent assessment of this area of technology having a high impact".[120]

91.  The largest single VC investment in Europe was raised by Plastic Logic. Plastic Logic raised $50 million between 2000 and 2006 to develop its technology, and more than $100 million in 2007 to build its first factory in Dresden, Germany.[121] However, the Institute of Physics told us companies attempting to repeat Plastic Logic's fundraising success "experience difficulty in obtaining private funding".[122] Nano e-Print believed that commercial investment in plastic electronics, particularly VC, needs to be increased.[123]

92.  One factor that may limit VC investment in this sector is that investors are unlikely to see a return on their investment in the short-term. However, Dr Tom Taylor, Printable Electronic Technology Centre (PETeC), identified a wider problem, suggesting that the UK investment sector tends to be 'risk ignorant' when it comes to financing technological development or advising on investment decision making:

The city institutions understand financial risk. They need to engage with bodies which can help them appreciate the technology risk […] that is something where there has historically been a gap.[124]

93.  The need to address this information deficiency and drive up private investment in the sector was underlined by Professor King, and his belief that financial backing from the Treasury alone would be insufficient to allow a 'winning technology' to fulfil its potential:

[I]t is not just government funding I am looking for, it is stimulating that wonderful city [City of London …] to understand the opportunity on its front door step.[125]

94.  We asked the Minister whether, given the global economic downturn, it was realistic to expect the City of London to support innovative industries such as plastic electronics. His response provided us with some optimism that such investment would be forthcoming:

These are really challenging times for business generally, clearly, but if one looks at the opportunity for hi-tech, high-growth businesses in the context that those are the businesses which are going to deliver the growth in the future, it is very important both for the private and the public sector not to eat the seedcorn during a time of difficulty. […] I am actually quite optimistic that there will be a renewed look at venture capital investments as an alternative for hedge funds. I have already seen some anecdotal evidence […] I am really quite optimistic.[126]

95.  The future success of the UK plastic electronics industry not only lies in its ability to lever public and private finance, but also in the co-ordination of funding sources. We recommend that BERR, the Technology Strategy Board and UKDL KTN take immediate steps to increase the understanding of technological risk in the private sector, and to review the funding landscape.


96.  There are five centres in the UK that provide support to the plastic electronics industry (Table 6). To ensure these organisations function as a co-ordinated national resource, each Centre is represented on its counterparts' board. Chris Williams, UKDL KTN, told us he believed this co-ordinated working has functioned to create a "multi-legged support platform" for UK industry while allowing each Centre to maintain a speciality focus.[127] Table 6. The five research centres supporting UK plastic electronics research, development and demonstration
Facility Background
Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC)
  • Based at Swansea University.
  • Expertise in preparing and characterising functional electronic inks and pastes, and a variety of sheet-fed and roll-to-roll printing processes.
Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETeC)
  • Located in Sedgefield.
  • National open-access prototyping institute for the development and commercialisation of printed electronics.
  • Customers of the centre will be able to test design concepts and novel materials for a variety of products including Thin Film Transistors (TFT) for flexible displays including e-paper, organic photovoltaic cells (OPVs) and solid state lighting (SSL) applications.
Centre for Process Innovation (CPI)
  • Based in the North East.
  • Process services include: integrated demonstrations and assessments of new bio, chemo and physical transformations; atomic layer deposition and reel-to-reel vacuum coating; printable electronics prototyping; development and testing of alternative energy applications.
  • Provides consultancy services.
  • Engages in 'development partnerships' with organisations such as DuPont and Oxford Instruments.
  • CPI is part of the same organisation as PETeC and the Centre of Excellence for Nano, Micro and Photonic Systems (Cenamps).
Organic Materials Innovation Centre (OMIC)
  • Based in Manchester.
  • Government supported the University Innovation Centre for speciality organic materials and polymer industries (principally EPSRC funded).
  • Facilities for the synthesis and purification of the chemicals required for innovative organic materials chemistry.
  • Works with industry to define and execute research and technology programmes into organic materials and their application.
Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre (CIKC)
  • Principally EPSRC funded.
  • Established to develop advanced devices and related manufacturing technologies.

Printable Electronics Technology Centre

97.  Located in Sedgefield in the North East of England, PETeC was established with a joint investment of £6.3 million from OneNorthEast and County Durham Economic Partnership (including around £5 million from Northern Way). A further £3.8 million of capital investment was sourced from European Regional Development Funds, and the Technology Strategy Board contributed £2.1 million towards the first platform of equipment installation in the Centre.

98.  Professor Ion, Royal Academy of Engineering, told us that the Centre—an incubator for SMEs—provided a valuable opportunity for technology developers to "plug in and play",[128] making available access to capabilities around substrate preparation, materials formulation, device modelling, process development and process integration using advanced printing techniques. However, throughout this inquiry PETeC attracted significant criticism in three areas: geographical location; proposed business model; and provision of services. We deal with each of these concerns below.

99.  The suggestion that PETeC may not be "geographically correct"[129], appeared to be based on its distance from those academic research groups engaged in cutting edge research (University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, for example).[130] In defending the Centre's location, Nigel Perry, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), made two points. First, that the skill-set in the region is "significant" (we note that Siemens had a facility nearby until recently), and second, that people needed to "stop thinking about the UK regionally and start thinking about the UK operating together as a whole", arguing that the five centres, distributed around the UK represent the assembly of a national capability.[131]

100.  PETeC's location is a function of the fact that it was established as a regional initiative. It is an open question whether PETeC would have been sited elsewhere had it been founded as a national resource, something that it undeniably is. However, we do not see further discussion on this issue as constructive or worthwhile, and wish to see a line drawn under the debate.

101.  The second criticism levelled at PETeC centred on the nature of its business model. Plastic Logic told us that rather than supporting UK entrepreneurial activity, PETeC's business model appeared to be revenue driven with a significant focus on contract research for "a small number of giant Asian electronics companies", and that the Centre had "struggled to define and articulate a compelling vision of how it will benefit the UK plastic electronics community as a whole".[132]

102.  We put the concerns of Plastic Logic to Dr Tom Taylor and Nigel Perry. They explained that, at the current time, overseas custom was vital to the sustainability of the centre for three reasons. First, PETeC's funding arrangements require the Centre to have transitioned from being publicly financed to financial self-sustainability within five years. Economic activity in the UK plastic electronics sector is, however, currently insufficient to meet this demand. Second, to qualify for grants under publicly funded research competitions, such as those run by the Carbon Trust, it is necessary to match the public funding sought with private funding. Without overseas custom, PETeC may be unable to raise the finance necessary to participate in these competitions. Finally, engaging with overseas investors allows PETeC to prove its competence and improve its business credentials. [133]

103.  We asked Mike Biddle, Technology Strategy Board, whether he agreed that the requirement for Centres to become financially self-sustainable over the relatively short-term detracts from supporting innovative UK research. He disagreed, reporting that it "creates a dynamic tension", and that, while there was a line to walk between supporting UK and overseas customers, interaction with the Far East is "almost a badge of honour".[134]

104.  We are sympathetic to PETeC's need to generate income in order both to assure its future survival and to allow it to participate in UK grant competitions. The Technology Strategy Board and OneNorthEast should review whether the requirement for self-sustainability within five years is realistic.

105.  The third, and final, concern focused on the services PETeC intends to offer. For example, Dr French reported the Centre to be focusing on one particular research capability (roll-to-roll processing), a decision he considered to be high-risk in terms of ensuring the Centre's sustainability. However, Dr Taylor reported this to be:

[M]isunderstanding the complexity of the situation. People see the very impressive roll technology that we have assembled at Wilton in combination with Dupont Teijin. We have not been able to show people all the new technology that is emerging in PETeC, I think it is probably fair to say, but it is diverse. It has to be.[135]

106.  We urge PETeC to continue developing its relationships with other Research Centres, and to liaise with these Centres to ensure national capability in facilitating R&D across the spectrum of plastic electronic technologies.


107.  The UK has a strong academic base in plastic electronics, with world-class research activity at a host of universities.[136] A number of university-based activities are now substantially larger in scope than the Centres that support the sector. For example, the Imperial programme comprises some 70 people, whereas the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating employs 15 staff, has 6 PhD students and 2 visiting students, and PETeC expects to recruit 12 staff.[137]

108.  In order to support high-quality research, Plastic Logic believed it was essential for UK-based academics to be able to access high quality research facilities and equipment:

[I]f academic groups have access to plastic electronics devices made in state-of-the-art industrial facilities (rather than university labs) they are more likely to generate breakthrough insights that will improve manufacturing effectiveness.[138]

109.  We were therefore disappointed to hear that despite the UK's network of publicly funded centres, UKDL KTN's academic members:

[C]ommented that with few exceptions, they seldom get to perform research work on state of the art materials and devices, or to use the latest metrology equipment. They are concerned that their research activities can go largely unnoticed by industry, which may not readily interpolate the improvements that would be seen if the work was conducted on the best available materials/equipment.[139]

110.  During a visit to Imperial College London, academics told us that capital equipment used for plastic electronics research in UK university laboratories was not globally competitive. In particular, Swiss, US and German research groups were considered to be better provided for, and several researchers maintained collaborations with research groups in other EU countries such that their students could access state-of-the-art equipment.

111.  Some of the initiatives launched to support plastic electronics research in countries such as the United States and Germany are outlined in Table 7.[140]Table 7. Initiatives to support the plastic electronics industry
Country Support
United States Public support for plastic electronics research in the United States comes principally from the Division of Materials Research, National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF funds 14 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centres (MRSECs). The University of Minnesota MRSEC is the primary centre for plastic electronics research and has received about $14.9 million over the past seven years. The Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics at Georgia Tech Centre will receive $8.1 million over the next six years.
GermanyThe Federal Research Ministry (BMBF has promoted plastic electronics research through a number of public-sector funding initiatives). These include: €100m to promote pre-competitive research and development of OLEDs; €360 public-private-partnership initiative in the area of OPV.

The Federal Government, the Free State of Saxony and the European Union have invested a total of €25m in the Centre for Organic Materials and Electronic Devices Dresden.

Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) has an annual budget of €23m (including €14m from the public sector).

The Government of the Free State of Saxony has allocated a total of €9.2m to R&D projects in the area of polymer electronics.

JapanThe New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) is conducting two research programmes in the area of organic electroluminescence: 'Basic technology for next generation large OLED display (2008/12, £173 million programme); and 'High-efficiency Lighting Based on Organic Light-Emitting Devices' (2007/09, £6 million programme).[141]

112.  The plastic electronics industry is likely to grow substantially over the next few years. Although the UK's research base puts it in a unique position to capitalise on this growth, we must not be complacent as countries such as Germany and the USA are becoming increasingly competitive. We recommend that the Research Centres supporting UK plastic electronics R&D engage with the academic research base to ensure state-of-the-art facilities are accessible to the academic community.

Bringing products to market


113.  Devices utilising plastic electronics components are currently on the market. For example, OLED displays are used in some mobile phones and MP3 players. Sony brought the first television with an OLED display to market in December 2007, and during our visit to Japan we learned about the next generation of OLED technology in the form of a Sony television with a screen just 0.9 mm thick.

114.  The UK is leading in the early commercialisation of many first-generation plastic electronic applications. Elumin8 manufactured the large electroluminescent display in the First Class lounge at British Airways' new Terminal Five—although this company has since ceased trading—and Pelikon manufactures electroluminescent displays for high-end Universal Remote Control Units at its factory in South Wales.[142]

115.  The Council for Science and Technology (CST) identified the UK as having the potential to be a world-leader in the plastic electronics supply chain, but cautioned that:

The risk is that key parts of the value chain move outside the UK, or that spin-out companies are bought up by major IT multinationals at such an early stage that the plastic electronics industry never fully develops a manufacturing and product infrastructure in the UK.[143]

116.  We are concerned that what the CST perceived as a risk in 2007 is now, in fact, a reality. In Table 8, we highlight the origins, and current status, of spin-out companies commonly cited in evidence submitted to this inquiry. Since the inquiry began, several of these companies have entered into administration or ceased trading. One of these companies, MicroEmissive Display, cited the "severe slowdown in the demand for consumer electronics" as negatively impacting on the conversion of interest in their business to sales and revenue.[144] Table 8. UK companies in plastic electronics
Company Spin out from Founded Focus Current status
Plastic Logic University of Cambridge 2000The use of flexible plastic substrates for readable displays. Headquarters in California, USA.

Manufacturing based in Dresden, Germany.

Cambridge Display Technologies (CDT) University of Cambridge 1992Development of display technologies using solution processable polymer organic light emitting diodes (P-OLEDs). Bought by Sumitomo Chemical Company in November 2007.
MicroEmissive Displays University of Edinburgh 1999P-OLED microdisplay technologies for head-mounted displays. Entered administration in November 2008.
OLED-TSouth Bank University 1999Materials development. Ceased trading in September 2008.
Molecular Vision Imperial College London 2001The integration of microfludic chips and organic semi-conductor light sources to develop low-cost diagnostic devices. In November 2008, Acrongenomics Inc became a shareholder in Molecular Vision.
LumicureSt Andrews University Light sources for use in photodynamic therapy. Lumicure is an early stage, privately held company.
Nano e-Print University of Manchester 2006Development of one-step printing process for the production of electronically-enabled labels. Secured $1M in 2007 from Manchester Technology Fund and an undisclosed private investor.

117.  The Minister rightly pointed out, however, that the UK's failure to sufficiently support spin-outs to grow into established SMEs was a problem that preceded the current 'credit crunch':

The problem has been our ability to convert those increasingly large numbers of start-up companies into a sufficiently large number of really substantial businesses, and I think that there are a number of reasons for this. One of the key reasons is the economic environment, nothing to do with the credit crunch; the credit crunch is making it dramatically more difficult now and bringing all of this into focus, but we have seen that our high technology companies which have been built on our science base have tended to get to a certain size, comparably smaller than you would see, for example, in the United States, and then have been acquired or have stagnated.[145]

118.  In the current economic climate the financial pressures felt by SMEs are only set to intensify. We were therefore heartened by the Minister's commitment to work with financial institutions to ensure that, over the next six to nine months, adequate capital is available in the £200,000 to £200 million range of funding.[146] However, a thorough review of the support offered to businesses as they transition from early stage R&D to manufacture may be required if UK companies are to be world-leading in production rather than just research.

119.  In addition to technology based companies, the UK plastic electronic sector has started to see the emergence of service-based enterprises. For example, Cintelliq provides consultancy services to the organic semiconductor industry, and C-Change consults on the science, technology, and application of plastic electronics.

120.  The UK academic research base should be applauded for its strong record in 'spinning out' start-up companies. Focused support, however, is needed to ensure these businesses grow into world-class enterprises. We recommend that the Technology Strategy Board, BERR and UKTI consult with UK business, from start-ups to multinationals, to identify how best to support the growth of innovative businesses in emerging industries.


121.  Plastic electronic devices can be produced through ink-jet printing at room temperature and pressure. By contrast, the manufacture of silicon semiconductors is only possible in fabrication plants with clean room facilities.[147] Consequently, whilst fabrication plants for the manufacture of many conventional electronic devices and displays can require capital resource in excess of $1 billion, plastic electronic devices can be manufactured in plants with a construction cost within the reach of many SMEs.

122.  The Royal Academy of Engineering informed us that, in terms of "producing semiconductors adapted for plastic electronics, there is the capacity for manufacturing in the UK".[148] Although we agree that the nature of the plastic electronics industry means that manufacturing is not irreversibly destined to migrate to Asia, the evidence we have received does not give us hope that spin-out companies will choose to base their manufacturing operations here in the UK: MicroEmissive Displays and Plastic Logic built their manufacturing plants in Dresden, Germany, despite having spun out of UK universities (the former from the University of Edinburgh [initially manned by a large contingent from Sheffield University], and the latter from the University of Cambridge).

123.  We asked Dr Hermann Hauser, Amadeus Capital Partners, why Plastic Logic decided to manufacture its products in Dresden. He explained that Dresden's success was, at least in part, down to a strategic decision on their behalf:

When we arrived in Dresden we were met by the Burgermeister, the Mayor, and all his team. He said: "We really want you here. We want plastic electronics. It is a key strategic imperative for us to have this here—what do you want?"[149]

124.  Dr Hauser went on to list three other factors as critical to the decision. First, the availability of trained staff (Dresden was the micro-electronic centre of the Eastern Bloc); second, the ability to build the necessary infrastructure over a short time period (Plastic Logic's manufacturing plant opened on 17 September 2008, sixteen months after the building's cornerstone was laid in May 2007); and third, the availability of subsidies.[150]

125.  The potential for countries to act strategically to attract inward investment was raised by the Minister:

We need to recognise that other countries, such as Germany, Singapore I know within biopharmaceuticals, Ireland in the past, have put really quite enormous sums of money into attracting these factories to their region.[151]

126.  During our visit to Japan, the impact that strategic investment in the plastic electronics sector can have was apparent. The Japanese Government has acted to ensure strategic capability in the OLED industry of the future. For instance, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), through the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO), is providing ¥35 billion (£173 million) to fund a collaborative project between Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sharp and other partners to develop 40-inch and larger OLED television panels to a pre-competitive stage.[152]

127.  The establishment of industrial consortia to develop technologies at a pre-competitive stage is not unique to Japan. In Taiwan, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has worked for 35 years to accelerate industrial technology development. Its 6,000 employees work on advanced technology R&D, on intellectual property business and new ventures and on the provision of a variety of industrial services. ITRI also nurtures start-ups through its 'Open Lab' programme. Open Lab has assisted 150 start-ups (and 105 other companies) and ITRI has invested some £1 billion in this activity alone.[153] In relation to plastic electronics, ITRI opened a Flexible Electronics pilot laboratory in 2007 for "integrative tasks from material synthesis, development, product design, to trial production".[154] ITRI works with international companies and research organisations and has overseas offices but is focused primarily on generating and sustaining the industrial base in Taiwan.

128.  The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)[155]—run by the Korea Ministry of Knowledge Economy—has a very similar mission to that of ITRI in Taiwan. We look to the Technology Strategy Board to take on this convening role in the UK. However, while the UK has world-leading strengths in basic research underpinning emerging industries such as plastic electronics, we recognise that it does not have the large companies necessary to build industrial consortia comparable to those established in, for example, Japan. We encourage the Technology Strategy Board to engage with multinational companies across Europe to determine whether pan-European consortia could be established to progress the development of emerging industries with the potential for high economic returns.

129.  Despite widespread recognition that other countries are acting to create capability in plastic electronics, the UK Government has not articulated a clear vision with regard to its strategic intent for plastic electronics. We are concerned that this may not only act to deter future investment in the UK, but also stymie current investment. In particular, we note that Polymer Vision's manufacture of rollable displays in Southampton—heralded as a sign that the UK could establish a manufacturing capability in this sector—is in jeopardy:

With the current manufacturing technology used there, the Southampton facility will not be a cost competitive operation within just 2-3 years. To become cost competitive at larger volumes, PVL [Polymer Vision Limited] must establish greater production capacity based on a newly developed cost-effective manufacturing flow. The preference is to do this in the UK by expanding in Southampton. If investment to do so cannot be secured then PVL will be forced to look abroad to investment in the required cost-effective manufacturing. The future of the Southampton facility will then be in danger.[156]

130.  The manufacture of plastic electronics devices is not destined to occur outside of the UK. However, we are extremely concerned that without urgent action by the Government this will be the reality. As in our previous recommendation (Paragraph 72), we urge the Government to engage with the plastic electronics community, and to articulate a strategic vision for the development of this innovative industry.

131.  The UK's tax regime is not considered to be as favourable to manufacturers as that of other countries.[157] However, we believe that the UK's research base makes it an attractive prospect for industry in this sector, and are optimistic that a number of SMEs will establish manufacturing capability in the UK.[158] Asked where Nano e-Print anticipates manufacturing its products, Dr Richard Price told the Committee he "very strongly" hoped to do so in the UK,[159] and UK OLED lighting start-up Polyphotonex intends to manufacture lighting panels on a production line at PETeC.[160]

132.  The decision for Polyphotonex to engage in product development and production at PETeC raises an interesting issue in terms of the UK's provision of open access R&D and manufacturing facilities. The Research Centres supporting the plastic electronics community provide access to facilities that are sufficient to scale-up technologies to the level of a demonstrator product. UKDL KTN and OLED-T suggested that as the costs of accessing capital equipment is often prohibitive for start-up companies, the Government should support an open access[161] production facility that would function as a volume fabrication facility for UK companies.[162] UKDL KTN believes that allowing companies to manufacture products, without having to invest in the infrastructure, will increase the exploitation of innovative research:

De-risking this early stage exploitation will greatly increase the rate at which plastic electronics concepts and designs are created and delivered to a wider market place.[163]

133.  Support for innovative businesses as they transition from being primarily R&D focused to launching pilot manufacturing lines is imperative. We recommend that the Government consider whether there is merit in establishing an open access fabrication facility for the manufacture of Plastics Electronic devices by UK SMEs.


134.  The plastic electronics industry is not only comprised of companies developing devices, but also those developing enabling technologies and processes. The history of the LCD industry tells us that these 'enabling' companies have the potential to be extremely profitable. As reported by Dupont Teijin Films:

It is well understood in the LCD industry that the most profitable parts of the supply chain are at the "front end" (e.g. materials, glass, equipment) or at the end of the chain selling product to consumers.[164]

135.  The most notable suppliers to the LCD industry are Merck and Chiso for liquid crystals and Corning for substrate glass (Corning sold $1.55 billion of glass for LC-TVs in the third quarter of 2007). Other key suppliers are 3M for light control films and DNP for colour filters. Dr Taylor also reported that Hitachi "make more money now supplying materials and chemicals into the flat panel industry than making flat panels themselves".[165]

136.  There are now a number of companies in the UK engaged in developing materials for plastic electronic applications, rather than the devices themselves. For example, Merck Chemicals Ltd, based in Southampton, is attempting to commercialise ready-to-use semi-conducting inks, and Sumation is developing polymer and dendrimer materials for OLED displays.[166]

137.  High Force Research Limited believed that the skills and expertise exist within the UK to "make major advances in this [materials] sector as has already been demonstrated with liquid crystal technology",[167] a view supported by Dr Keith Rollins (Dupont Teijin Films) who told us that the UK's history in terms of materials development meant that it would be "astonishing" if a range of companies did not participate in the area of plastic electronics research and development. [168]

138.  The economic opportunities provided by this growing industry do not only lie in the manufacture of devices, but also in the development of enabling technologies. It is imperative that any national strategy for this industry must embrace the materials supply chain, particularly as this sector holds huge potential for UK industry participation.


139.  The public sector is an important consumer of the products and systems that may be disrupted by plastic electronics (paper, printing, energy and lighting, for example). The 2007 Sainsbury Review of the Government's science and innovation policies, The Race to the Top, and the Government's 2008 innovation White Paper, Innovation Nation, both recognised that, used effectively, Government procurement has the potential to pull innovative goods and services through from business and drive innovation in the economy.[169] The Council for Science and Technology called on the Government to use procurement to "encourage marketable products and services" in the plastic electronics industry.[170]

140.  In 2008-09, the Government will spend £175 billion on third party goods and services.[171] We asked Professor King whether he felt the Government was able to deliver on its commitment to foster innovation through procurement. He told us that this was a drum he had "been banging on for quite some time",[172] but that the need for Permanent Secretaries to demonstrate value for money was likely to deter them from procuring innovative solutions:

[I]f you […] simply encourage each permanent secretary to use a proportion of their budget for procurement […] those permanent secretaries will be pulled hard in the other direction to demonstrate value for money on their purchases, and we are talking about risk procurement here. You are buying an object which is as yet unproven and you are asking for the product to be delivered in five years' time. That in itself means, in my view, you have to ringfence a proportion of the procurement budget and take it from each department, and then that money must be spent in the interests of that department, but it must be seen to be risk procurement.[173]

141.  We put the same question to the Minister and were struck by the similarity of his answer. Like Professor King, he told us that Government spending represents "an enormous opportunity to make a positive difference", but that:

The challenge here from my experience in the Ministry of Defence is that using government procurement to strategically develop the science base and innovation will require the civil servants responsible for that procurement to take risk and so there will always be a balance between the amount of risk you are prepared to take by trying a new innovation and the criticism which you may be subjected to if that risk-taking in a proportion of times leads to greater costs and more delays.[174]

142.  The Minister went on to explain that DIUS was reforming the process by which departments "use their procurement budgets so support SMEs and support innovation". He highlighted the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) 'Grand Challenge' competition as a recent initiative that successfully enabled civil servants to more accurately assess technological risk, while providing an opening into the UK defence market for new suppliers and investors.[175]

143.  We applaud initiatives to develop the use of procurement to drive innovation. However, the success of the MoD's Grand Challenge competition appears to lie in the fact that it: (a) acted to fulfil a specific need identified by its sponsor, the MoD; and (b) provided a forum to test product capabilities, and allow potential investors to assess technological suitability and risk. These factors, however, make it inappropriate as a means to inform decisions regarding the procurement of plastic electronics R&D. The relative immaturity of the plastic electronics sector means that rather than being at the level of product readiness, emerging technologies may not yet be incorporated into functioning devices. Further, as the Minister was aware, the applications of these technologies are still being identified:

It is not clear at the moment what product areas, what market areas, plastic electronics is likely to have the biggest impact on, so it is not possible for the Government to say today "This is the area we think the technology could have an impact on" and therefore I think it is right the way in which the Technology Strategy Board has supported this area […] because it is not yet clear what those key markets are going to be.[176]

144.  As indicated by the Minister, support for technological R&D to address challenges that cut across Government departments is the responsibility of the Technology Strategy Board. Specifically, the Board's 'Innovation Platforms' function to "pull together policy, business, Government procurement and research perspectives and resources to generate innovative solutions" to such challenges.[177] Current Platforms include: Low Carbon Vehicles, Assisted Living, and Network Security. Lord Carter of Barnes, Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (BERR & the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)), told us that:

It is somewhere between interesting and conspicuous. If you look at the five platforms they [Technology Strategy Board] have chosen, most of those are ones where you have got government as a specific customer or potential procurer, and there is a question about how much more commercial they can be in their interest areas.[178]

145.  We are concerned that the Technology Strategy Board is limiting support for technological development to areas where the Government is commissioning or procuring specific products. The early stage of technological development in the plastic electronics sector means that no single Government department can be identified as the industry's natural customer. Without a department to champion investment in what are inevitably high-risk technologies, we are concerned that plastic electronics will fail to be supported through Government procurement initiatives.

146.  In order to support innovation in emerging industries, we believe the Government has to take the brave decision to procure future technologies and products, even if their 'killer' application is as yet unclear. The procurement of future technologies can result in highly successful outcomes. The decision by the scientific community at CERN to commission the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a case in point. Critical to the LHC's procurement was a decision to source state of the art technologies for 15 years hence. In September 2008, this instrumental apparatus was switched on for the first time. It is expected that outcomes of LHC experiments "will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe".[179]

147.  The Government has recognised the potential for Forward Commitment Procurement (FCP) to stimulate innovation, and DIUS is taking steps to raise awareness of FCP through the establishment of a number of flagship projects.[180] Each Government department is also committed to publishing an Innovation Procurement Plan, setting out how it will "embed innovation in its procurement practices and seek to use innovative procurement mechanisms".[181] Throughout this inquiry, organisations such as UKDL KTN, Plastic Logic and Dupont Teijin Films have proposed that Government might stimulate innovation in the application of plastic electronics research by sponsoring pilot projects. Suggested projects include: trialling e-readers in educational institutions; disposable, printed medical sensors for general medical use in the healthcare environment; and trialling Organic PV devices in Government construction projects. [182]

148.  Public procurement has the potential to be a valuable tool in driving innovation. We welcome the Government's efforts to develop innovative procurement mechanisms, and recommend it supports pilot projects in the area of plastic electronics in order to stimulate product development and manufacture.

The Small Business Research Initiative

149.  The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) was established in 2001 with the aim of boosting innovative Government procurement from SMEs. The scheme aimed to reproduce, as far as possible, the success of the USA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme. Since its creation in 1982, the US SBIR has awarded over $12 billion to various small businesses and "has played an important part in sustaining the demand for new—and often radically new—products and services that are vital to support innovative activity". [183]

150.  The 2007 Sainsbury Review identified little change in Government procurement practice as a result of the UK SBRI, reporting that it had "done little more than reproduce existing practice—with an additional bureaucratic burden".[184] The failure of the UK SBRI to replicate the success of the US scheme was made only too clear when we asked Mike Biddle (Technology Strategy Board) whether SBRI had ever benefited a UK plastic electronics company. We were disappointed, but not surprised, to hear that it had not.[185] This disappointment was compounded by Plastic Logic's assessment of the value of grants awarded under the US SBIR to a US start-up company engaged in plastic electronics R&D:

Universal Display Corporation (one of the key US start-ups in plastic electronics) has won approximately 10 Phase II awards in flexible displays and solid state lighting, and reports SBIR has been very useful in enabling the company to launch new initiatives as well as providing a good external validation that is appreciated by the investment community.[186]

151.  Dr Richard Price (Nano e-Print) not only identified the support provided to Universal Display Corporation, but compared it with the support, or relative lack of it, provided to the UK spin-out Cambridge Display Technologies (CDT):

[T]he number of projects that UDC got was phenomenal from the US Government. Despite the success of CDT, I think they could have done much better by having additional support.[187]

152.  As a direct result of recommendations made in the Sainsbury Review, the Technology Strategy Board, working with DIUS, has been asked to launch a reformed SBRI. In its new incarnation, the SBRI will emulate the US scheme to a greater degree, and Government departments participating in the scheme will buy at least 2.5% of their R&D requirements from SMEs. Suppliers for each project will be selected by an open competition process—administrated by the Technology Strategy Board—and will retain the intellectual property rights generated from the project.[188] Projects will be 100% funded.

153.  Speaking of the reformed SBRI, Stuart Evans (Plastic Logic) said:

I think they [SBRI grants] play a really important role in enabling pilot projects and because they provide 100 per cent funding, which is completely different to any other regime, they permit little companies like ours and Nano e-Print to do some different kinds of stuff, so it is a very welcome initiative and I do hope it progresses.[189]

154.  Following evaluation of the pilot schemes now running in the Ministry of Defence and Department of Health, it is expected that the reformed SBRI will be rolled out across Government from April 2009.

155.  The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) is potentially a valuable source of funding for innovative companies in the UK. Our concern is that unless this support mechanism is re-launched in a format accessible to SMEs developing future technologies, UK companies will refocus their business models to engage with the lucrative procurement opportunities offered by the US under its Small Business Innovation Research programme. We ask that DIUS keep us updated on progress made in rolling-out the revised SBRI.

Case study conclusion: innovation and commercialisation

156.  While the UK's research base is world-class, this case study highlighted that:

—  without a serious revision of the structures used to support the growth of fledgling industries the UK will miss out on the opportunity to exploit the economic potential offered by the commercialisation of innovative technologies;

—  the UK has a strong track record in spinning out companies from the research base, but this has not translated into established companies; and

—  countries such as Germany, Japan and the US are taking steps to create strategic capability in emerging industries. We note that the Government has embarked on a debate to determine whether the UK should identify, and concentrate support on, areas of research in which: (a) it could be world leading; and (b) have the potential to provide significant economic returns on any investment. The form of this debate is the focus of our forthcoming inquiry, 'Putting science and engineering at the heart of Government policy'.

157.  In Chapter 6, we draw upon the evidence received during this case study to discuss how the UK's graduate population might be better equipped with the skills needed to progress emerging industries.

158.  The provision of well targeted financial support and government policy is critical if the products of innovative research are to transition into the marketplace. In the next chapter we consider what steps might be taken in formulating policies relevant to one emerging sector of engineering in particular: geo-engineering.

73   Q 19 [Ev 510] Back

74   Oral evidence taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on 5 December 2007,
HC (2007-08) 115-i, Q 22 

75   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on 26 January 2009, HC (2008-09) 169-i, Q 6 Back

76   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on 26 January 2009, HC (2008-09) 169-i, Q 16 Back

77   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Liaison Committee on 12 February 2009, HC (2008-09)
257-i, Q 40 

78   Semiconductor alloys made from elements from Group III and Group V on the periodic table, such as Gallium Arsenide (GaAs). Back

79   Q 13 [Ev 509] Back

80   Note that the Plastic Electronics sector is also referred to as 'organic electronics', 'printed electronics', and flexible electronics. Back

81   Q 13 [Ev 509] Back

82   Q 4 [Ev 507] Back

83   Ev 567, 578, 581 Back

84   Oral evidence taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on 5 December 2007,
HC (2007-08) 115-i, Q 22 

85   Fluorescent lamps contain mercury.  Back

86   Ev 547, 597  Back

87   Ev 552 Back

88   Ev 547, 552, 564, 573, 578  Back

89   Ev 581 Back

90   Ev 557, 581; Back

91   Ev 557, 581;, Back

92   Ev 562, 595, 597 Back

93   Q 5 [Ev 507], Q 118 [Ev 526], Q 128 [Ev 527] Back

94   Ev 589 Back

95   Q 2 [Ev 507] [Dr Ian French]; Ev 600 [M-Solv]  Back

96   Ev 600 Back

97   Council for Science and Technology, Strategic decision making for technology policy, November 2007 Back

98   BERR, Plastic Electronics in the UK: a guide to UK capability 2008-09, April 2008 Back

99   Ev 604 Back

100 Back

101   Q 6 [Ev 508] Back

102   Note that Dr Zella King's research was funded by the ESRC. Back

103   Ev 584 Back

104   As above. Back

105   Q 40 [Ev 585] Back

106   Spintronics is an emerging technology that harnesses the spin of particles. Back

107   A collaboration between Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London. Back

108 Back

109   Ev 560 Back

110   Q 165 [Ev 534] Back

111 Back

112   Ev 562 Back

113   Ev 579 Back

114   Q 177 [Ev 536] Back

115   Q 107 [Ev 524] Back

116   Q 44 [Ev 515] Back

117   As above. Back

118 Back

119   Ev 590 Back

120   Q 187 [Ev 538] Back

121   Ev 572 Back

122   Ev 598 Back

123   Ev 555 Back

124   Q 116 [Ev 525] Back

125   Q 121 [Ev 526] Back

126   Q 188 [Ev 539] Back

127   Q 133 [Ev 528] Back

128   Q 29 [Ev 512] Back

129   Q 6 [Ev 508] Back

130   Q 27 [Ev 512] Back

131   Q 148 [Ev 531] Back

132   Ev 574 Back

133   Q 147 [Ev 531] Back

134   Q 74 [Ev 519] Back

135   Q 146 [Ev 530] Back

136   Universities of Cambridge, Durham, Hull, Imperial College London, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, QMUL, Sheffield, St Andrews, Surrey and UCL. Back

137 Back

138   Ev 574 Back

139   Ev 582 Back

140   Ev 354-364 Back

141   Myoken Y., Overview of organic electroluminescence R&D in Japan, British Embassy, Japan, 2008 Back

142   Ev 575 Back

143   Council for Science and Technology, Strategic decision making for technology policy, November 2007 Back

144 Back

145   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on 26 January 2009, HC (2008-09) 169-i, Q 15 Back

146   Q 189 [Ev 539] Back

147   Clean rooms are an area where the environment is controlled to eliminate all dust, dampened against vibration and climate controlled. Back

148   Ev 560 Back

149   Q 52 [Ev 516] Back

150   Q 52 [Ev 516], Q53 [Ev 517] Back

151   Q 209 [Ev 543] Back

152   Myoken Y., Overview of organic electroluminescence R&D in Japan, British Embassy, Japan, 2008 Back

153 Back

154 Back

155 Back

156   Ev 601 Back

157   Ev 557, 577, 583, 591 Back

158   Several multinational companies already manufacture products in the UK. For example, G24i has a manufacturing plant in Wales. Back

159   Q 171 [Ev 535] Back

160 Back

161   Open access facilities allow any user to access equipment whilst maintaining complete integrity over the intellectual property generated by the project being undertaken. Back

162   Ev 583, 592 Back

163   Ev 583 Back

164   Ev 589 Back

165   Q 130 [Ev 528] Back

166 Back

167   Ev 602 Back

168   Q 172 [Ev 535] Back

169   HM Treasury, The Race to the Top, October 2007, p 126 Back

170   Council for Science and Technology, Strategic decision making for technology policy, November 2007, p 30 Back

171 Back

172   Q 124 [Ev 527] Back

173   As above. Back

174   Q 195 [Ev 540] Back

175   As above. Back

176   Q 202 [Ev 541] Back

177 Back

178   Q 210 [Ev 544] Back

179 Back

180 Back

181   As above. Back

182   Ev 575, 583, 591 Back

183   HM Treasury, The Race to the Top, October 2007, p 130 Back

184   As above. Back

185   We note that Molecular Vision did receive a £147,000 grant from the BBSRC under its Small Business Research scheme. Back

186   Ev 574. Note that since the evidence sessions for this inquiry, UDC has received two $750,000 US SBIR contracts to further advance white OLED technology. These grants are part of a package of measures aimed at meeting the US Department of Energy's targets for solid-state lighting. Back

187   Q 168 [Ev 534] Back

188   Certain rights of use are to be retained by the contracting department. Back

189   Q 168 [Ev 534] Back

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