National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Flexible Electronics Opportunity (2014)

Chapter: 5 European Initiatives

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Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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5

European Initiatives

The European Union (EU) is engaged in the world’s most comprehensive and multifaceted developmental effort in flexible electronics, engaging multiple levels of government and dozens of public research institutes. The European effort has been under way since the late 1990s and has given rise to a number of fledgling organic electronics innovation clusters across the European continent. The European effort is characterized by an extremely broad range of research projects sponsored at the EU level, reinforced by very substantial national and regional efforts in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Finland.

EUROPEAN UNION PROGRAMS

The EU is implementing a number of initiatives, including significant levels of EU funding, to support the development of organic and large area electronics (OLAE) in the EU, with an emphasis on integration of national and regional programs at the European level. Funding levels for the period 2007-2013 exceed $150 million.

Research policy in the EU is characterized by a tension between EU authorities and national and regional governments. At the EU level, policy makers take the perspective that national and regional research promotion efforts are duplicative and insufficiently integrated, and EU policies are designed to coordinate national and regional research efforts and to promote transborder research cooperation between the member states. “Member States, on the other hand,

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

demonstrate considerable resistance towards EU level policy intrusion.”1 The EU launched the PolyMap project in 2008, a survey of public funding for OLAE research at the national and subnational level, which led off with the presumption that although OLAE research was being funded throughout the EU, “there seems to be a lot of duplication and ‘catch-up’ research” with respect to national budget spending levels estimated at €300-500 million.2

FET Flagship Projects

The European Union’s Future and Emerging Technology (FET) Flagship projects are large-scale science-driven research efforts aimed at achieving visionary goals. One of the first FET Flagship projects announced was the Graphene Flagship, a 10-year, €1 billion effort to develop applications and manufacturing processes for graphenes. Envisioned applications include “fast, flexible and strong consumer electronics such as electronic paper and bendable personal communications devices.”3 From a start point in 2013 and with an initial 30-month budget of €54 million, a consortium is being formed of 126 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries. The Graphene Flagship will be coordinated by Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. During the 30-month ramp-up phase the Flagship will focus on energy technology and sensors with applications in the communications and transport sectors.4 The ramp-up phase will be followed by a steady-state phase under Horizon 2020, the successor program to the Seventh Framework, with anticipated EU expenditures of €50 million per year beginning in 2016. Paralleling the Graphene Flagship effort, the member states and “associated nations” will coordinate national funding efforts in grapheme through an ERA-NET, a scheme established under the Sixth Framework in 2002 to minimize duplicative effort and facilitate transnational research coordination.5

EU Framework Programmes

The European Union Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development provide EU funding to support research within the EU. The

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1 Merli Tamtik, “Rethinking the Open Method of Coordination: Mutual Learning Initiatives Shaping the European Research Enterprise,” Review of European and Russian Affairs 7, no. 2 (2012), 2. See also EU Commission, Capacities Part 6: Support for the Coherent Development of Research Programmes, Work Programme 2013, C (2012) 4526 as of July 9, 2012.

2 Herman Schoo, “Introduction of PolyMap,” June 14, 2010.

3 European Commission, “FET Flagships: Frequently Asked Questions,” Press Release, January 18, 2013, Brussels.

4 “Graphene Appointed EU Future Emerging Technology Flagship,” Press Release, January 28, 2013, <http://www.graphene-flagship.eu/GFfiles/130124_PresseText_A4.pdf>.

5 “Graphene Flagship Sets Sail at Chalmers University of Technology,” Printed Electronics Now, October 11, 2013; EU Commission, Networking the European Research Area: Coordination of National Programmes, <http://cordis.europa.eu/coordination/era-net.htm>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

Seventh Framework Programme, which began in 2007, emphasizes collaborative transnational research in industry-academia consortia, and included a “European Investor Gate” (EIG) program to address existing shortfalls in early-stage investment and to enable startups to bridge the “valley of death.”6

During the first 4 years of the Seventh Framework (2007-2013) the EU reportedly financed research and development (R&D) projects in the field of OLAE at a level of more than €120 million.7 Europe’s leading firms and public research organizations in the sector typically participate in multiple Seventh Framework consortia focusing on flexible electronics themes.

A common criticism of the EU R&D programs is that they involve too much bureaucracy and are difficult for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access. A 2011 analysis of the prospects for European entrepreneurship in OLAE by the Finnish research organization VTT observed that the EU-funded research programs

are designed from the point of view of large research institutes and companies. Planning and administration takes time and energy, participants’ interests are diverse, projects are long, and the distance between project objectives and market needs may grow wide. R&D grant, gained through a tedious application process to fund a particular technology development project, is not a very flexible instrument in the SME context. Moreover, they cannot be used to finance investments or market activities.8

In early 2014, the EU announced the €80 billion “Horizon 2020” program as the successor umbrella R&D effort succeeding the Seventh Framework Programme. Although Horizon 2020 will support basic research “because we can never be sure where it may lead us or what the applications could be,” “more money will be available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot-type activities, for business-driven R&D, for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and for shaping demand for innovative products and services.”9

OLAE Projects

The Seventh Framework flexible electronics projects address a broad variety of themes in the field, including organic lighting systems, manufacturing technology, applications, organic photovoltaics, and systems integration. (See Table 5-1.) Most project budgets are in the range of €4-15 million, with the EU normally

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6 “European Investor Gate,” <http://www.startupeuropehub.eu/index.phpl/about/projects/32-eig-european-investor-gate-project>.

7 The FP7-ICT Coordination Action OPERA, An Overview of OLAE Innovation Clusters and Competence Centres, September 2011, 8.

8 VTT, Promoting Entrepreneurship (2011) op. cit., 32.

9 Marie Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Launch of Horizon 2020 in Greece, January 10, 2014; “EU Cash on the Horizon for Innovators,” The Independent, January 24, 2014.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-1 EU Seventh Framework OLAE Projects

Acronym Theme Timeframe Budget (Millions of Euros) EU Funding (Millions of Euros)
FLEXIBILITY Flexible multifunctional integrated ultra-thin systems 2011-2015 6.9 4.9
ROTROT Roll-to-roll production of organic tandem cells 2010-2012 4.6 3.1
ORICLA RFID tags based on organic thin-film technology 2010-2012 4.7 3.0
OLAE+ OLAE 2011-2016 18.4 6.0
SCOOP OLED microdisplay with enhanced brightness/color performance 2011-2014 5.0 3.5
INNOPRIO 21 Photonics innovation/implementation strategy 2011-2014 2.3 2.0
COLAE OLAE commercialization clusters 2011-2014 5.1 3.8
POLARIC Printable, organic large area integrated circuits 2010-2014 13.8 9.9

SOURCE: CORDIS.

supplying well over half the amount. A number of Seventh Framework–funded projects are designed to promote European development of “organic large area electronics,” a term that is largely synonymous with “flexible electronics.” The Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS), which is the European Commission’s information service, states the goal of the EU’s OLAE projects is as follows:

Our mission is to contribute to Europe’s leading position in this disruptive technology through the support of R&D activities, crucial for the development and progress in organic and large area electronics. Today, the issues of particular interest for the R&D community in this area are reliability, stability, device performance and device architecture, together with heterogeneous integration. The current stage of development of organic and large area electronics emphasizes the importance of the creation of a European critical mass in the area and overcoming national fragmentation. The ultimate aim is to establish a pan European fertile research substrate and succeed in converting European R&D leadership into innovation and socio-economic growth.10

The OLAE project is a call for proposals for transnational R&D pursuant to the Commission’s ERA-NET Plus scheme, an initiative to improve the

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10 CORDIS, Organic and Large Area Electronics website, <http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/organic-elec-visual-display/>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-2 EU Seventh Framework OLED Projects

Acronym Theme Timeframe Budget (Millions of Euros) EU Funding (Millions of Euros)
FLEX-O-FAB Pilot R2R, sheet-to-sheet manufacturing for flexible OLEDs 2012-2015 11.2 7.1
TREASORES Transparent electrodes for large area large scale production of optoelectronic devices 2012-2015 14.0 9.1
OLED100.EU OLED lighting in European dimensions 2008-2011 19.7 12.5
IMOLA Light management for OLEDs on foil applications 2011-2014 5.1 3.4
FLAME Flexible organic active matrix OLED displays 2008-2011 4.1 3.0
FAST2LIGHT High throughput large area cost effective OLED production technologies 2008-2011 15.4 10.0

SOURCE: CORDIS.

coordination of national research projects with transnational funding by “topping up” with EU funds as an incentive for collaboration.11

Lighting

The Seventh Framework is also sponsoring projects to develop European capabilities in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, which has extensive potential application in the field of flexible electronics in applications such as displays and lighting systems. One of the projects, Flex-o-Fab, is intended to enable commercialization of OLED lighting systems utilizing roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing processes by 2018. (See Table 5-2.)

In early 2013, the Holst Centre, a Netherlands-based, government-supported research institute, was designated the project director of an EU Seventh Framework project, “Flex-o-Fab,” a 3-year effort to demonstrate a reliable manufacturing process for OLED lighting foils. The €11.2 million project is intended to enable market introduction of the manufacturing process within 3 years of the

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11 “The EU Launches a €18 Million Organic Large Area Electronics Funding Competition,” OLED-Info.com, September 25, 2011; “ERA-NET Plus to Hold European Competition for Collaborative R&D Funding for Plastic Electronics,” Flexible Substrate, September 2011.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

images

FIGURE 5-1 EU Flex-o-Fab project.
SOURCE: EU Seventh Framework, Flex-o-Fab, November 25, 2012.

end of the project in September 2015.12 Flex-o-Fab will draw on technologies and skills currently used to produce glass-based OLEDs and flexible displays and will seek to migrate existing sheet-to-sheet production processes to roll-to-roll production, reducing costs, and permitting high-value production. Flex-o-Fab involves a collaboration with public and private entities, who are leaders in their respective fields of relevant expertise.13 (See Figure 5-1.)

In strategic terms Flex-o-Fab builds on the strong competitive position of the European lighting industry and seeks to introduce disruptive new technologies that will create long-term European manufacturing jobs because of their high level of technical novelty and specialization. “[T]he intellectual property generated will protect these advances from Asian and U.S. competition.”14

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12 “European Project Develops Flexible OLED Lighting Production Process,” Plastic Electronics, February 8, 2013. EU funding will cover €7.1 million of the project cost. Project Overview (for CORDIS Fact Sheet), Flex-o-Fab: Pilot-Scale Hybrid Roll-to-Roll/Sheet-to-Sheet Manufacturing Chain for Flexible OLEDs, EU Seventh Framework, November 25, 2012.

13 “EU Project to Take OLEDs from Lab to Fab,” Hearst Electronic Products, January 20, 2013.

14 Project Overview (for CORDIS Fact Sheet), Flex-o-Fab, 8.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-3 EU Seventh Framework OPV Projects

Acronym Theme Timeframe Budget (Millions of Euros) EU Funding (Millions of Euros)
HIFLEX Development of indium-free OPV module for R2R processing 2010-2013 5.0 3.7
X10D Development of tandem organic solar cells with conversion efficiency of 12% 2011-2014 11.9 8.6
DEFOTEX Development of textile solar cells for flexible photovoltaic fabrics 2008-2011 4.2 3.1
THIME Thin-film measurements on OPV layers for plastic, paper, and textile substrates 2012-2014 1.5 1.1
ESTABLIS Ensuring stability in organic solar cells for strong, flexible, low-cost application 2012-2015 3.9 3.9
R2R-CIGS CIGS (copper gallium selenide) deposition on flexible polymer films for manufacturing of flexible CIGS PV modules 2012-2015 9.6 7.0
LARGE CELLS Development of large area thin-film solar cells based on polymers 2010-2014 2.2 1.6

SOURCE: CORDIS.

Photovoltaics

The Seventh Framework is supporting a number of joint R&D projects in the area of organic photovoltaics (OPV), generally providing the bulk of the funding for each project. (See Table 5-3.)

Materials

Finally, the Seventh Framework is funding a variety of research projects involving materials science, component, industrial processes, and applications directly relevant to the field of flexible electronics. (See Table 5-4.)

OLAE Innovation Clusters

European innovation policy emphasizes the promotion of innovation clusters at both the national and the EU level.15 National and regional governments in

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15 The European Commission defines “cluster” as “a group of firms, related economic actors, and institutions that are located near each other and have reached a sufficient scale to develop specialized

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-4 EU Seventh Framework Flexible Materials/Processes/Applications Projects

Acronym Theme Timeframe Budget (Millions of Euros) EU Funding (Millions of Euros)
CONTEST Training in electronic skin technology 2012-2016 3.8 3.8
OLATRONICS Integration of processes for producing OLAE 2008-2011 6.2 3.8
MOMA Embedded organic memory arrays 2010-2012 4.7 3.0
LOTUS Low-cost highly conductive structures for flexible large area electronics 2010-2012 5.5 3.7
APOSTILLE Reinforcement of research potential in nano and organic/flexible/printed electronics 2010-2013 1.2 1.1
MOWSES Nanoelectronics based on 2-dimensional dichalconentides for flexible electronics 2013-2017 3.7 3.7
PASTA Integration of electronics and textiles 2010-2014 8.9 6.5
CLEAN4YIELD Nanoscale detection and inspection techniques 2012-2015 7.1 10.6
INTERFLEX Interconnection systems for flexible foil systems with electronic components 2010-2013 5.3 3.5
PLASTRONICSPEC Automated inspection system for printed electronics 2011-2013 1.4 1.1
ORICLA RFID tags made at low temperatures on thin films 2010-2012   3.0

SOURCE: CORDIS, <http://www.clean4yield.edu>.

Germany, France, the UK, and Finland, among others, have implemented policies to promote innovation clusters in various thematic areas. The EU sees its role as to “facilitate and add to such efforts, notably by improving the framework conditions, promoting research and education excellence and entrepreneurship,

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expertise, services, resources, suppliers, and skills.” EU Commission, Towards World-Class Clusters in the European Union: Implementing the Broad-Based Innovation Strategy (Communication from the Commission to the Council, COM, 2008) 652 final/2/, 2.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

fostering better linkages between industry (especially SMEs) and research, and encouraging mutual policy learning and cluster cooperation across Europe.”16 In May 2013, the European Commission announced that it would launch a campaign to mobilize €10 billion in private, regional, national, and EU funds for investment in micro- and nanoelectronics, which would reinforce Europe’s three world-class electronics clusters—Dresden, Eindhoven, and Grenoble.17

Coordinating European Efforts in Flexible Electronics

The EU has undertaken several initiatives to promote cooperation and coordination within Europe with respect to various technologies relevant to the field of flexible electronics.

  • PolyMap. PolyMap was a small (€600,000) project undertaken in 2008-2011 to map public funding for organic electronics within the EU and set up an open database with respect to materials, devices, standardization, and applications.
  • OPERA. The Organic/Plastic Electronics Research Alliance (OPERA) was established by the EU to create the conditions for competitiveness clusters in organic and plastic electronics within the EU.
  • PRODI. The Coordination Action “Manufacturing and Production Equipment and Systems for Polymer and Printed Electronics” (PRODI) was a 2008-2010 EU project to integrate European manufacturing systems for R2R polymer and printed electronics.
  • Photonics21. The European Technology Platform Photonics21 convenes relevant stakeholders in photonics, including topical interest areas of OLED and OLAE.

UNITED KINGDOM

The British commitment to developing a national capability in flexible electronics has been sustained and extensive, involving numerous public and private sector actors and more than 20 universities. Many current activities in the field of flexible electronics trace their origins to groundbreaking research in the 1980s at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. Researchers there demonstrated that conjugated polymer diodes could emit light when electrically stressed, a discovery that suggested that organic semiconductors could be made into flexible large area displays and led to the spinoff company Cambridge

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16 Ibid.

17 “Commission Proposes New European Industrial Strategy for Electronics—Better Targeted Support to Mobilise Euros 10 Billion in New Private Investments,” Targeted News Service, May 25, 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

Display Technology in 1992 to pursue this concept.18 A famous 1990 paper in which the researchers publicized their findings today remains the most widely cited in the field of organic microelectronics.19 The British government provided research funding support through the 1990s and 2000s, enabling the creation of plastic electronics centers of excellence.20 A pioneering British firm, Plastic Logic, established the world’s first plant for mass producing plastic semiconductor devices in 2008.21 British universities have launched an array of promising startups in the field.22 At present, the competencies of British universities in plastic electronics (the term commonly used for flexible electronics in the UK) are broad and deep. (See Table 5-5.)

In 2007, Britain’s Council for Science and Technology identified plastic electronics as a “high risk/high reward” priority technology for the UK.23 In 2008, the government’s Economic and Social Research Council sponsored a study of the potential for plastic electronics in the UK that concluded that “the UK is well positioned to become a global leader in the innovative development of high functionality products that incorporate plastic electronics.”24 A “Capability Guide” sponsored by PELG in 2008 demonstrated the existence of an extensive ecosystem of university programs, research organizations, and companies within the UK capable of supporting the commercialization of plastic electronics technologies.25

If anything, British policy makers’ interest in plastic electronics intensified after 2007. The field of plastic electronics was used as a case study in 2008-2009 by the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee review of engineering in the UK.26 In 2009 the Department for Business Innovation & Skills released a “UK Strategy for Success” in plastics electronics, developed by an industry-led group that recommended actions to facilitate and coordinate investment, development of demonstrators and other mechanisms to showcase the commercial potential of plastic electronics, and workforce and

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18 J.H. Burroughes, D.D.C. Bradley, et al., “Light-Emitting Diodes Based on Conjugated Polymers,” Nature, 1990.

19 PELG and ESP KTN, UK Plastic Electronics Capability Guide, 2012, 8.

20 Logystyx UK, Ltd., Capability Guide: UK Plastic Electronics, 2008, 8–9.

21 “First Plastic Chip Plant to Open in Germany,” Chosun Ilbo, January 4, 2007.

22 In addition to Plastic Logic and Cambridge Display Technology, both spun out of the University of Cambridge, other startups included MicroEmissive Displays (1999, University of Edinburgh), OLED-T, (1999, South Bank University), Molecular Vision (2001, Imperial College, London), Nano e-Print (2006, University of Manchester), and Lumicure (St. Andrews University). House of Commons, Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, Engineering: Turning Ideas into Reality, vol. 1, March 18, 2009, 43.

23 Council for Science and Technology, Strategic Decision Making for Technology Policy: A Report by the Council for Science and Technology, 2007.

24 Zella King, AIM Research, Plastic Electronics: Putting the UK at the Forefront of a New Technological Revolution, 2007, 33.

25 Logystyx UK, Ltd., Capability Guide: UK Plastic Electronics, 2008.

26<http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm20090/cmselect/cmdius/50/5002.htm>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-5 Plastic Electronics Competencies—British Universities

  Organic materials Inorganic materials Devices Processes Characterization & test Equipment Commercialization
University of Bangor, Plastic Electronics Research Centre x   x x x    
University of Birmingham, School of Metallurgy and Materials       x x    
Brunel University, Cleaner Electronics Research Group   x x x      
Brunel University, Centre for Phosphors and Display Materials   x   x x    
Brunel University, Organic Electronic Group x   x        
University of Cambridge, Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre     x x   x  
University of Cambridge, Cavendish Laboratory x x x x      
University of Cambridge, Electronic Devices and Materials Group   x x x x    
University of Cambridge, Inkjet Research Centre       x      
Cranfield University, Precision Engineering           x  
Durham University, Organic Electroactive Materials x   x   x    
University of Hull, Organophotonics x x x        
Imperial College, Centre for Plastic Electronics x x x x     x
Loughborough, Innovative Electronics Manufacturing Research Centre x   x x   x  
University of Manchester, Organic Materials Innovation Centre x x x        
METRC, Centre for Nanotechnology x   x        
Nottingham Trent University   x x x x    
University of Oxford, Department of Materials x x   x     x
Queen Mary London, Centre for Condensed Matter & Materials Research   x x   x    
University of Sheffield, Biomaterials Science & Tissue Engineering Group     x x      
University of Sheffield, Electronic and Photonic Molecular Materials Group x   x        
University of St. Andrews, Organic Semiconductor Centre x x     x    
University of Strathclyde, Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry x   x        
University of Surrey, Advanced Technology Institute x x x x x    
Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×
  Organic materials Inorganic materials Devices Processes Characterization & test Equipment Commercialization
University of Swansea, Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings     x x      
University of Swansea, Welsh Centre for Printing & Coating     x x   x x
University College, London Centre for Nanotechnology x   x x      
University of the West of Scotland, Thin Film Centre x       x    
University of York, Liquid Crystal Group x       x    

SOURCE: UK Plastic Electronics Leadership Group, <http://www.ukplasticelectronics.com/downloads/>.

training initiatives.27 The Technology Strategy Board identified “plastic and printed electronics” as one of the “five pillars” of the UK strategy for electronics in 2008, and it has remained a priority through 2013.28 In 2011, the EU’s OPERA project, established to promote innovation clusters in OLAE observed that the only country in Europe in which national platforms for OLAE existed was Britain, “where national initiatives are coordinated by the Technology Strategy Board and complemented by regional cluster initiatives.”29

Despite Britain’s prowess in science, supportive government policies and propensity to spawn innovative startups, the outlook for its aspirations in plastic electronics manufacturing must be regarded as uncertain at best. Plastics Logic, one of the most promising British startups, established its first manufacturing operations in Germany rather than Britain, citing the locational advantages of Dresden over potential sites in the UK. Other university spinoff companies have gone bankrupt or have been acquired by foreign companies. British university research centers in the field are a major national asset but face challenges from abroad. A Parliamentary committee reported in 2009 that in a visit to Imperial College London, faculty members told the committee that

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27 Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS), Plastic Electronics: A UK Strategy for Success—Realizing the UK Potential, 2009.

28 Innovate UK website, <http://www.innovateuk.org/electronics-sensors-and-photonics>.

29 The FF7-ICT Coordination Action OPERA and the European Commission’s DG INFSO Unit G5, “Photonics,” An Overview of OLAE Innovation Clusters and Competence Centres, September 2011, 11.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

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.30

Thus despite an impressive record of innovation by British companies, it is not clear that flexible electronics technologies will transform domestic manufacturing or contribute a significant number of jobs in the UK. In August 2013, Chris Williams, the co-founding Director of the UK Displays and Lighting Knowledge Transfer Network, lamented the British failure to take domestically developed flexible electronics technologies and “put it all together to make an integrated system that is ready for commercial exploitation.” He complained with respect to missed opportunities in OLED lighting systems:

Once again, the UK Government and its partner agencies show it can mentor the scientific goose, and encourage it to research and develop its golden egg up to the point where it is almost ready to be laid, but then government funding is taken away and focused on newer areas that seem to be sexier and more soundbite worthy. It happened in the past with composite materials, and it is happening now with plastic electronics.31

Government and Public Support

Until very recently British Conservative and New Labor governments have demonstrated ambivalence toward “industrial policy,” an attitude that has limited the government’s financial support for British industry. Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, the government has demonstrated a renewed interest in promoting innovation in manufacturing, although at present, government austerity measures inhibit financial support.32 Against this background, and by the standards of recent British governments, the effort to develop a domestic flexible electronics manufacturing sector has enjoyed comparatively strong government backing for a sustained number of years. Government financial assistance has flowed through a number of institutional channels.

Department of Trade and Industry

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was a government department responsible for regional economic development, innovation, science, and business growth. In 2007, DTI was reorganized into two departments, Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

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30 House of Commons, Engineering, 41.

31 “Last Word: Missed Opportunities,” Flexible Substrate, August 2013.

32 HM Treasury, Spending Review 2010 Cm 7941, October 2010, presented to Parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer by Command of Her Majesty.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

(BERR). DIUS and BERR were recombined in 2009 to form the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Through 2009, DTI and its various successor entities provided £52 million in funding for collaborative R&D in themes relevant to plastic electronics.33

Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is a nondepartmental public body that operates at arm’s length from the government but is funded by the government through the BIS. Staffed largely by individuals with business experience, it directs government funds toward applied research in technologies in which the UK possesses world-class science and in which there has been “clear market failure” in commercial development of that science. The TSB invests about £350 million per year in research projects.34 As of June 2008, the TSB had provided about £25 million in funding for various plastic electronics projects. Richard Price, founder of Nano e-Print, a maker of printed logic circuits that spun out of the University of Manchester in 2006, told Parliament in 2009 that the TSB’s support had been “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.35

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The UK’s seven research councils support basic research and postgraduate training with funds from the government’s science budget directed by the BIS. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has historically been the principal source of public funds for plastic electronics research in the UK. In 2009, a Parliamentary committee reported that the EPSRC was spending about £68 million per year on research, training, and knowledge transfer activities of “direct relevance to the area of plastic electronics.”36 The EPSRC operates and supports a network of “Centres for Innovative Manufacturing” run by universities. EPSRC funding supports research projects and several of the UK’s Plastic Electronics Centres of Excellence (PECOEs). (See Table 5-6.)

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33 BIS, Plastic Electronics, 10.

34 Interview with David Way, Director of Knowledge Exchange and Special Projects, Technology Strategy Board, London, June 12, 2012. The TSB originated in 2004 as an advisory body within DTI. It was spun off as an independent public organization when DTI was broken up in 2007.

35 House of Commons, Engineering, 34.

36 Ibid., 33.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-6 EPSRC Funding of Flexible Electronics Research Themes

EPSRC Reference Project Timeframe ERSRC Funding (Millions of Pound Sterling)
EP/K017144 Graphene Flexible Electronics and Optoelectronics: Bridging Gap Between Academia and Industry 2013-2018 6.9
EP/G060738/1 Heterointerface Control of Organic Semiconductor Devices 2009-2014 6.7
EP/K03099X/1 EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing of Large Area Electronics 2013-2018 5.6
EP/K017160/1 Innovation in Industrial Inkjet Technology 2010-2015 5.1
EP/K017160/1 New Manufacturable Approaches to Deposition and Patterning of Graphenes 2013-2016 1.1
EP/G037515/1 Doctoral Training Centre in Science and Application of Plastic Electronic Materials 2009-2018 7.3
EP/K01711X/1 Graphene Flexible Electronics and Optoelectronics 2013-2018 3.0

SOURCE: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, <http://www.epsrc.ac.uk>.

Regional Development Agencies

The Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) were government-funded, business-based organizations aimed at fostering regional economic development including science and innovation. Until their abolition in 2012, a number of RDAs provided funding and other support to the development of printed and plastic electronics. One North East, Yorkshire Forward, and the Welsh Assembly government were particularly supportive of the sector.37 The three northern RDAs jointly funded the Northern Way Innovation Programme, which provided £6.2 million in funding to plastic electronics in 2008-2011.38

Knowledge Transfer Network

Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) are networks funded and run by the Technology Strategy Board to raise awareness of specific technology areas, facilitate research and information sharing, and link businesses in need of technology with technology sources. The Photonics and Plastic Electronics KTN (PPE-KTN) had worked to facilitate the TSB’s programs relevant to plastic electronics, including sponsoring symposia and trade shows. The UK Displays and Lighting

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37 BIS, Plastic Electronics, 10.

38 SQW Ltd., The Evaluation of the Northern Way 2008-11: Final Report—Full Report, April 2011, 74.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-7 UK Plastic Electronics Centres of Excellence

Centre Location Main University Affiliation Sources of Public Funding
Center for Process Innovation (CPI) Wilton Durham
Newcastle
One North East
TSB
Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC) Sedgefield Durham One North East
ERDF
TSB
Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC) Swansea Swansea EPSRC
TSB
FP7
Organic Materials Innovation Centre (OMIC) Manchester Manchester EPSRC
Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre Cambridge Cambridge EPSRC

KTN (UKDL KTN), based at Bletchley Park, addresses plastic electronics themes relevant to applications in displays and lighting systems.39

Plastic Electronics Leadership Group

The Plastic Electronics Leadership Group (PELG) is a volunteer group representing the UK plastic electronics community. Its members include representatives of the TSB, BIS, the EPSRC, the PECOEs, the Electronics, Sensors and Photonics KTN, universities, and companies such as Plastic Logic, 3M, Thorn Lighting, Cambridge Display Technology, and Hewlett-Packard (chair).

Centres of Excellence

The UK has five Plastic Electronics Centres of Excellence (PECOEs), each of which is affiliated with one or more major research universities and supported by public funding, usually from multiple sources. (See Table 5-7.) These centres, which are the foci of emerging innovation clusters in plastic electronics, represent the centerpieces of British developmental efforts in this field. In 2008, the PECOEs entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to “provide a focused cluster for technology development and prototyping, aiming to translate UK strengths into industries of the future.”40 The PECOEs have agreed to create national open access

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39 Chris Williams, “Introduction to the UK Displays & Lighting KTN,” <http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/iemrc/documents/Community/Meeting/UK_Displays_And_Lighting.pdf>.

40 University of Cambridge, Cambridge Innovation and Knowledge Center, accessed February 11, 2014, <http://www-cikc.eng.cam.ac.uk/category/networks/>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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research facilities, develop a shared vision and competency map, and develop common methods of working and common terms and conditions.

Centre for Process Innovation Ltd.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is an independent nonprofit applied research organization located in northeast England conducting research in the fields of advanced manufacturing, printed electronics, industrial biotechnology, and high temperatures. It has an asset base of £55 million, largely derived from public sources, and more than 120 employees. CPI was established in 2004 patterned on Germany’s Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, which was a member of CSI’s pre-incorporation board and assisted in setting up the organization. CPI’s initial funding was provided by One North East, the regional development organization for northeast England, to address the region’s “innovation gap” in industrial processing. CPI has been incorporated in the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre (HVM), an indication that the TSB regards it as one of the preeminent applied research organizations in the United Kingdom.41

CPI’s original mandate was translational, to move university research into the market through university-industry collaborations. With respect to regional universities, Newcastle was extremely strong in chemical engineering but less so in chemistry, the region’s main strength in that field residing in Durham University. One North East provided funds to upgrade the regional university research infrastructure, including facilities in Newcastle’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, which have supported CPI’s subsequent work in plastic electronics. CPI’s academic partnerships have expanded to include Cambridge, Imperial College London, York, Manchester, and Liverpool.42

CPI has partnered with industry to develop new materials with applications in flexible electronics. In May 2013, CPI disclosed that a joint project with DuPont Teijin Films had developed a new form of polymer barrier film for lightweight OLED lighting and photovoltaic cells that could be applied to engineered polymer substrates replacing glass.43 The same month CPI disclosed a project involving SMEs to develop high-performing organic thin-film transistor materials for application in flexible OLED displays, an effort that had already led to product development utilizing the new materials.44 In June 2013,

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41 Written Evidence Submitted by the Centre for Process Innovation Ltd. (CPI) (TIC 28), House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Technology and Innovation Centres: Second Report of Session 2010-11 (February 9, 2011), 103.

42 John Goddard, Douglas Robertson, and Paul Vallance, “Universities, Technology and Innovation Centres and Regional Development: The Case of the North-East of England,” Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2012, 9.

43 “CPI & DuPont Teijin Films Work Together to Develop a Barrier Film as Plastic Substrate for OLED Lighting and Photovoltaic Devices,” May 28, 2013, <http://www.uk-cpi.com>.

44 “CPI Works with SMEs to Develop High Performing Organic Thin Film Transistor,” May 18, 2013, <http://www.uk-cpi.com>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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CPI reported that its researchers had “produced defect-free OLED lighting demonstrators with emissive areas larger than 250 square centimeters.”45 With respect to process R&D, with funding from the TSB, CPI is working with the British firm Peratech to determine whether commercial printing machines can produce printable electronics, including the “QTC” sensors originally developed by Peratech.46 In a TSB-funded collaboration with Plastic Logic, “project ROBOLED,” CPI is addressing challenges associated with OLED displays utilizing organic thin-film transistors (OTFTs).47 In 2013, CPI reported that pursuant to ROBOLED it had developed a new backplane fabrication process enabling the bending of OTFT arrays to radii as small as 1 mm without a significant reduction in device performance.48 CPI is also investigating a number of possible methods for device encapsulation in collaboration with adhesive, getter, and barrier film suppliers.49

Printable Electronics Technology Centre

The Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC) was established by CPI in 2008 with a joint investment of £6.3 million by One North East and the County of Durham Economic Partnership. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contributed an additional £3.8 million for capital investment and the TSB provided £2.1 million for equipment.50 PETEC was intended to function as an incubator in which experimental printed electronics processes were transformed into manufacturable products, enabling the UK eventually to capture 5 percent of the world market for printed electronics products. Targeted technology areas included “advanced material deposition processes, printable electronic materials, printable circuits for high resolution display and smart packaging applications, solid state lighting and organic photovoltaics.”51 PETEC connects research with commercial activity through use of proof-of-concept devices and

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45 “CPI Produces Large Area Small Molecule and Polymer OLED Lighting Demonstrators,” OSA Direct, June 3, 2013.

46 Quantum tunneling composite (QTC) materials change from insulating to conducting materials when placed under physical pressure. Among other things, QTCs may be incorporated into textiles to detect the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), helping to monitor the wearer for signs of illness, fatigue or exposure to dangerous substances. “Peratech Works on New Ink Formulations with CPI to Enable QTC Sensors to be Printed,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

47 The TSB is funding ROBOLED (“Robust OLED”), a 30-month effort running from 2012 to 2015, with £493,792. <http://tsb-projects.labs.theodi.org/projects?page=562>.

48 “CPI Presents Ultra-Flexible OTFT Device Array Suitable for Foldable AMOLED Displays,” Flexible Substrate, January 2014.

49 “CPI Manufacturers Flexible OLED Lighting Demonstrators,” Flexible Substrate, March 2014.

50 CPI submitted a report to Parliament in 2012 indicating that of the total £17 million CPI had received from the ERDF since its inception, nearly all of it (£14 million) was used on projects linked to PETEC. Written Evidence Submitted by the Centre for Process Innovation, House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, April 2012.

51 CPI Written Evidence, February 9, 2011, para 3.11.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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pilot-scale manufacturing, working with business clients to identify materials, processes, and investments necessary to bring products to market.52 PETEC’s prototyping and printed electronics facilities are located in North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham, at the time of PETEC’s establishment one of the fastest growing science parks in the UK.53

The PETEC facility originally featured a 600 square meter class 1000 clean room, which was augmented in 2011 with a new building with a class 100 clean room. PETEC has a fully equipped formulations laboratory for developing organic polymers and an electrical testing laboratory. To support development of OLED and OPV technology in the UK, PETEC installed a £4.5 million fully automated batch production system in a new class 100 clean room, a line known as the LACE line (“large area coating equipment).” LACE offers industrial users the ability to run substrates ranging in size for 4 to 8 inches in a cassette-to-cassette operation featuring full automation and data logging. These systems minimize manual intervention and maximize product yields.54

PETEC acquired LACE pursuant to a 2010 initiative by the then Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, to invest £8.4 million in the field of plastic electronics. This involved two projects in which PETEC participated:

  • Thin Organic Prototypes, Design, Research, Applications with Enduser Recognition (TOPDRAWER). This project, led by Thorn Lighting, involved Durham University, Pilkington, Conductive Inkjet Technologies, Tridanic, and Cambridge Display Technology in an effort to demonstrate the ability to manufacture a printed lighting panel usable in aesthetic designs. The LACE line was installed at PETEC to prove and test the manufacturing process developed by the project participants. The project was intended to help build a comprehensive

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52 “PETEC: Pushing PE into the Supply Chain,” Printed Electronics Now, August 2008. “A company or university will call on PETEC after it has demonstrated technology on a small scale in the laboratory. The facilities allow them to develop a scalable economic process to manufacture prototype products and develop a cost-effective manufacturing route. To construct a custom line for a business, PETEC offers a large selection of equipment, which, in the most part, is off the shelf, but some that are unique and that do not exist at that particular scale elsewhere in the UK. These can be put together ‘Lego style’ in different orders to suite the product being made, allowing the client to demonstrate it on a meaningful scale, to gather the associated manufacturing cost and efficiency data needed to design a manufacturing process and to make the case for further investment.” “Plastic Surgery,” The Engineer, April 20, 2009.

53 “NETPark Invests in Future Success,” Newcastle The Journal, November 2008. The NETPark Research Institute provides office and laboratory space for new companies and university spinoffs. The Incubator Business Support Centre provides mentoring and support in commercialization of R&D, IPR, international business development, business planning, manufacturing and market research, “Science Park Looks Forward to a Bright Future,” Newcastle The Journal, January 29, 2009.

54 Mike Claussen, Bela Green, Martin Walkinshaw, and Simon Ogier, “Introduction to the PETEC Printed Electronics Centre and Technology Challenges,” CS Mantech Conference, May 16-19, 2011, Palm Springs, California.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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  • UK polymer light-emitting diode supply chain and a UK capability in novel manufacturing.55

  • Manufacture of Really Reflective Information Surfaces (Morris). The “Morris” project was a 3-year effort involving a collaboration by PETEC, Hewlett-Packard, and Timsons to develop large reflective information surfaces with applications in posters, signage, electronic wallpaper, electronic whiteboards, and command/control rooms. The project aim was to develop specifications for a pilot line and material set, estimated costs and yields, demonstration devices, components, processes and equipment, and to use these elements to secure investments in pilot and eventually full manufacturing.56

PETEC’s business model was criticized in 2009 by Plastic Logic, one of the leading flexible electronics firms in the UK. Plastic Logic commented that PETEC’s model was revenue-driven with a major focus on contract research for “a small number of giant Asian electronics companies” and that PETEC had “struggled to define and articulate a compelling vision of how it will benefit the UK plastic electronics community as a whole.” PETEC responded that its funding arrangements required it to become financially self-sustaining within 5 years and that economic activity in the UK plastic electronics sector was not sufficient to support the Centre. In addition, in order to qualify for public grants in research competitions, PETEC was required to line up matching private funding, which was difficult or impossible without overseas participation57

The Cambridge Cluster

The area around Cambridge University, known as “silicon fen” for its concentration of high-technology companies, has been the locus of substantial research and entrepreneurial activity in the field of flexible electronics.58

The University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory has been responsible for some of the world’s pioneering research in the field of organic electronics. In the late 1980s Cavendish’s Optoelectronics Group discovered that semiconducting

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55 Technology Strategy Board, “Minister Announces £8.4m Investment in Plastic Electronics Technologies,” Press Release, July 1, 2010. “Bright Future for UK’s First Printed Lighting Panel,” Electronic Product Design & Test, August 16, 2010.

56 Technology Strategy Board, “Minister Announces £8.4m Investment.”

57 House of Commons, Engineering, 39.

58 Roughly 1,400 technology-oriented companies operate in and around Cambridge, employing about 43,000 people. “Autonomy Fails to Dent Cambridge’s Tech Status,” Financial Times, November 26, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-8 Cambridge Spinoffs

Company Technology Focus
Plastic Logic Organic transistors for flexible displays
Cambridge Display Technology Polymer LEDs for emissive full-color displays
Eight 19 Roll-to-roll manufacturing of polymer-based solar cells

conjugated polymers behave in a manner similar to that of inorganic semiconductors and can be used in semiconducting devices such as field-effect transistors, solar cells, and light-emitting diodes. The group has launched three spinoffs to commercialize these discoveries.59 (See Table 5-8.)

The University’s Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) was formed in 2004 by the University’s electrical engineering department and four industrial partners.60 At present, its research themes include OLEDs, organic active matrix technologies for plastic displays, and bright reflective color systems for electronic posters, signage, and print displays.61 CAPE is entirely funded by its industrial partners.62 In early 2013, the university launched the Cambridge Graphene Centre to develop the potentially revolutionary material with applications in flexible and transparent electronics.63 In May 2013, a number of researchers at the Graphene Center launched a startup company, Cambridge Graphene Platform (CGP) to commercialize a scalable method of ink production from graphene and other layered nanomaterials with applications in printed and large area electronics.64

Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre

The Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre (CIKC) was established in 2008 at the University of Cambridge by the Cavendish Laboratory and CAPE to facilitate the commercialization of academic knowledge in the area of low-temperature thin-film processing using molecular materials (e.g., polymers, liquid crystals, nanostructures) for applications in photonics and electronics. Its expertise includes flexible photovoltaics, flexible electronics, printed electronics and

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59 University of Cambridge, “Optoelectronics,” <http://www.phy.com/ac.uk/research/oe/>.

60 CAPE’s current industrial partners are Dow Corning, Jaguar Land Rover, and Disney.

61 CAPE, “Devices and User Interfaces,” <http://www.cape.eng.com.ac.uk/technology/tfgs/devices-user-interfaces/>.

62 “Enhancing CAPE-abilities in Photonics and Electronics,” Research Horizons, Autumn 2008.

63 “Cambridge University Opening Graphene Centre to Take Material to the Next Level,” Engadget, January 25, 2013. Cambridge has received £12 million from the EPSRC for graphene research. “The Graphene Revolution,” The Daily Telegraph, June 8, 2013.

64 “University of Cambridge Graphene Spin-out Funded,” Plastic Electronics, May 1, 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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components, and transparent electronics and sensors.65 The CIKC received financial support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of £5.1 million during the period 2007-2012.66 The EPSRC explained the rationale for its support of the launch of the CIKC as follows:

This will bring together the main research activities in the field at Cambridge, namely in the Electrical Engineering Division (in particular within the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Photonics, CAPE) and the Cavendish. Together this research spans the MMM field and is recognized as having a world-leading position. A key to this proposed IKC however is that it will also allow much greater interaction and collaboration with those in business than has previously been possible for EPSRC funded research activities. Hence the IKC, if awarded, would allow the creation of tightly focused commercialization activities jointly with the Judge Business School, the Institute of Manufacturing (including the EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre) and the Centre for Business Research. These will allow the creation of a range of innovative knowledge transfer activities spanning business research, training and specific product exploitation. Finally, the Centre will also allow the secondment of researchers from industry and other universities to the IKC, specifically for knowledge transfer (as opposed to research), and in its later stages make use of the provision of pilot manufacturing lines for prototyping.67

A WTEC team that visited the CIKC in 2010 reported that the center leveraged “substantial faculty expertise at Cambridge” in fields such as liquid crystals, zinc oxide, semiconducting, polymers, amorphous silicon, and carbon nanotubes. The team observed that the multimaterials approach to flexible electronic circuits and systems was a particular strength of the CIKC and boded well for future commercialization efforts. The team noted that a central feature of the CIKC was the access it offered to a 7,000 square foot Electrical Engineering Division clean room and equipment for processing devices and systems as flexible substrates.68

A 2012 assessment of the CIKC’s work observed that it had worked directly with 45 industrial partners, producing “significant intellectual property” and technology transfer to industry, and had contributed to the formation of two startups with others under consideration. Technology developed by the CIKC in the 2007-2012 timeframe included an R2R printing process for OPV devices that led to the formation of a spinoff company; novel sputtering processes to deposit high-quality metal oxide materials at temperatures compatible with plastic substrates for large area electronic devices, and a scalable manufacturing process for organic

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65<http://www-cikc.eng.cam.ac.uk>.

66 EPSRC, “IKC in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies for Photonics and Electronics—Exploiting Molecular and Macromolecular Materials (MMM).” <http://www.gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NG80ViewGrans,aspx?GrantRef=EP/E023614/1>.

67 Ibid.

68 WTEC, European Research and Development in Hybrid Flexible Electronics (2010) op. cit., 12.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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transistors using self-aligned inkjet printing with high yield and uniformity over an array of 70 film transistors.69

Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating

The Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC) is a part of the University of Swansea’s School of Engineering and is one of the world’s foremost centers for R&D in printing and coating processes, including multi-roll processes. The WCPC’s printing and competencies include flexographic, lithographic, rotogravure, digital, and pad printing. The WCPC operates laboratory facilities for sample analysis and characterization of material properties associated with printing, as well as a four station flexographic press, a two station sheet fed lithographic press and pad, and inkjet and screen printing equipment. This equipment is used for fundamental research, prototyping, and the development of materials. The WCPC was designated a Centre of Excellence for Plastic Electronics by BIS in 2009.70

The WCPC has developed plastic electronics technologies with medical applications in conjunction with the Swansea University Centre for Nano Health. In 2011, the WCPC’s director, Tim Claypole, reported on a project that had developed a method for putting antibodies into an ink that could be printed onto sheets of plastic, creating disposable sensors allowing medical staff to carry out tests at bedside or in surgery using hand-held devices rather than sending samples to a laboratory.71

Organic Materials Innovation Centre

The Organic Materials Innovation Centre (OMIC) is located at the University of Manchester, which is located in a region with a high-technology specialty polymer industry that has traditionally had one of the biggest concentrations of polymer researchers in the UK.72 The OMIC was originally one of five University Innovation Centres that the British government established in 2002.73 Based at

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69 EPSCR, “IKC in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.”

70 “Swansea Unveiled as UK Centre of Excellence for Plastic Electronics,” Tendersinfo, December 10, 2009.

71 Claypole characterized the printed antibody sensors as instruments, which could “be used in something like a dipstick for urine or blood samples or as enzyme sensors which plug into a machine reader.” Research partners included Micropharm, Innovia Films of Cumbria, and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust. The project received financial support from the Welsh Government’s Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) an EU-funded initiative to stimulate academic-industry collaboration. “Antibodies in Ink Dots Could Revolutionize Health Tests,” Western Mail, August 22, 2011.

72 “GBP 3m Boost to Region’s Chemics,” Manchester Evening News, July 13, 2004.

73 OMIC received initial funding of £4.3 million from DTI. OMIC, “About OMIC,” <http://www.omic.org.uk/about.php>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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the Chemistry Department at the University of Manchester, the OMIC works with companies in the development of specialized organic materials for applications in electronics, biomaterials, packaging, and home and personal care.

The University of Manchester is currently building the £61 million National Graphene Institute, a research center that will pursue practical applications of graphenes. The center, which will become operational in 2015, is receiving funding from the EPSRC and the European Regional Development Fund.74

Centre for Plastic Electronics

The Centre for Plastic Electronics (CPE), based at Imperial College London, was established to pursue research themes in plastic electronics, involving faculty from the College’s departments of chemistry, chemical engineering, physics, and materials. The CPE is closely associated with the Imperial Doctoral Training Centre in Plastic Electronics, in which future scientists and engineers in the field of plastic electronics are trained.75

EPSRC Center for Innovative Manufacturing in Large Area Electronics

In February 2013, the EPSRC announced it would award £45 million in grants to fund the startup of four flagship research centers in innovative manufacturing. One of these is a newly formed Centre for Innovative Manufacturing, a university consortium led by Chris Rider at Cambridge. The new center convenes four academic centers of excellence: the CIKC, the CPE at Imperial College London, the WCPC, and the OMIC at the University of Manchester. The new organization, scheduled to launch in October 2013, will receive £5.6 million from the EPSRC. The main theme of the new center will be systems integration, bringing together component functions, printed logic circuits, printed sensors, reflective displays, and printed interconnects to address applications in areas such as smart packaging, intelligent sensors, anticounterfeiting, and smart objects.76

Building a Work Force

In 2009, the EPSRC announced that it would award £3 million in grant funding over the period 2009-2018 to establish a “Doctoral Training Centre in Science and Application of Plastic Electronic Materials.” The motive for the grant was the recognition that plastic electronics enjoyed “enormous potential” in the UK but that “growth is severely limited by the shortage of scientists and engineers capable

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74 “Manchester Leads the Way in Graphene Membrane Research,” Printed Electronics World, April 8, 2013.

75 BIS, Plastic Electronics, 11.

76 EPSRC, “EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large Area Electronics,” EP/Ko3099x/1; “Cambridge at Heart of £45M Manufacturing Push,” Business Weekly, February 27, 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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of carrying ideas forward to application.” The new training center brought together “two leading academic teams in the PE area” from Imperial College London (with expertise in the physics, chemistry, and application of molecular electronic materials) and Queen Mary University of London (polymers). The curriculum featured a 4-year track to doctorate degrees involving practical training and professional skills training and interdisciplinary projects with industrial output.77

Companies

In flexible electronics the UK has given rise to some of the earliest and most prolific innovating companies in the world, reflecting in significant part spinouts from universities.78

Plastic Logic

Plastic Logic was founded in Cambridge in 2000 when researchers at the University of Cambridge spun the company off to commercialize research results developed at the University’s renowned Cavendish Laboratory.79 It was the first company anywhere to fully industrialize mass production of plastic electronics products on a commercial scale. The company succeeded in raising $50 million in venture capital between 2000 and 2005 and another $100 million in 2007. In 2008 it established the world’s first plant for mass producing plastic semiconductors in Dresden, Germany, a decision that was a blow to British policy makers who had hoped that the company’s innovations would lead to manufacturing jobs in the UK. Plastic Logic explained its decision in terms of the “high skills base of the work force (in Dresden), the presence of Fraunhofer facilities and the difficulties associated with planning and construction timescales in the UK.”80 The company also cited the availability of subsidies in Germany and the supportive stance of local authorities:

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?81

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77 EPSRC, “Doctoral Training Centre in Science and Application of Plastic Electronic Materials,” EP/G037515/1.

78 “Universities: Spin-Outs Put New Life into the Sector,” Financial Times, September 18, 2007.

79 The company’s founders were Stuart Evans, Sir Richard Friend, and Henning Sirring-Haus. Hermann Hauser, a major figure in British high technology and a co-founder and director of Amadeus Capital Partners, managed the initial rounds of investment in the company and held a 25 percent equity stake in 2004. “Partners Join to Pioneer Plastic Electronics,” Financial Times, April 6, 2004.

80 House of Commons, Science and Technology Select Committee, Bridging the Valley of Death: Improving Commercialization of Research, 2012. Written evidence submitted by Engineering the Future (V79).

81 House of Commons, Engineering, 45. Plastic Logic commissioned KPMG to select a site for its manufacturing operation. After considering 200 potential locations, KPMG narrowed the list to three:

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Plastic Logic’s principal initial product was e-paper to be used in a reader marketed by the company under the name Que. However, although launched in 2000 the company did not have a viable product on the market when Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007. The Que was announced in January 2010, but “just three weeks later, at an event in San Francisco, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad—and with it effectively blew Plastic Logic out of the water.” The Que “never even made it into stores, killed eight months after it was unveiled, without shipping a single unit.”82 Plastic Logic sought to recover from this setback through an alliance with Rusnano, a Russian state-owned development corporation specializing in nanotechnology themes.83 According to a statement by Rusnano CEO Oleg Kiselyov in 2013, Rusnano invested $240 million in Plastic Logic.84 Plastic Logic planned to build a plant in Russia to produce e-readers, hoping to sell a less expensive version of Que to Russian schools. “Except Russian schools, it seemed, were not that interested either.”85 In May 2012, Plastic Logic announced that it was abandoning plans to manufacture e-readers, closing its product development operations in the United States and focusing on other applications for its proprietary technologies.86

Industry observers have not attributed Plastic Logic’s setbacks to its technology, which is regarded as excellent, nor to the lack of backing by governments and private investors. The company’s management has been faulted for the business decision to concentrate on the e-reader market, despite the fact that “its founders within the Cavendish Laboratory have always argued that [its technology] has much broader implications for revolutionizing industrial enhancements.”87 The company was criticized for its “inability to execute fast enough” with the result that competitors beat it to the market with superior products.88 The company’s

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Dresden, Singapore, and New York State. The decisive consideration was insistence by the Laender government of Saxony that it had sufficient expertise to prepare a high-technology building capable of supporting Plastic Logic’s manufacturing operation in a relatively short timeframe. “Hunt for Ideal Site Leads from Cambridge to Dresden,” Financial Times, January 3, 2002.

82 Bobie Johnson, “Why Plastic Logic Failed—Despite the E-Book Boom,” GigaOM, May 17, 2012; “Plastic Logic Abandons Pioneering E-Reader: British Firm Leapfrogs to Second Generation Device, Competition from Kindle and iPad killed off Product,” The Guardian, August 12, 2010.

83 “Rusnano to Become Private Equity Fund, Remain State-Owned,” Interfax, June 14, 2013.

84 “Rusnano Provisions 22 bln Rubles for Failed Projects,” Interfax, April 2, 2013; “Rusnano Raises Stake in Plastic Logic,” Plastics News, October 18, 2011.

85 Johnson, “Why Plastic Logic Failed.”

86 “Plastic Logic Changing Strategy, Puts Off Building Plant in Russia,” Interfax, May 17, 2012; “Jobs Threatened as Plastic Logic Puts Down E-Reader,” Plastics News, May 17, 2012; “Plastic Logic’s New Strategy to Expand Market Reach,” Printed Electronics World.

87 “Plastic Logic Scraps E-Reader Development,” Business Weekly, May 16, 2012. Although the company focused on e-readers, it has been obvious to investors for some time that operating within such strict tramlines in the face of intense global competition may not be the most profitable strategy” (ibid.).

88 “[A]ll the money in the world can’t save you if you can’t execute.” Bobby Johnson, “Why Plastic Logic Failed Despite the E-Book Boom,” GigaOM (May 17, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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erratic strategic focus was seen as a weakness, at least in retrospect—“pivot too many times and you fall over.”89

However, it is facile to dismiss the early struggles of Plastic Logic as the consequence of one-off management decisions that in retrospect are easy to second guess. Plastic Logic sought to commercialize a consumer hardware product employing tricky new technology in the face of competition from industry giants with established portfolios of related and interactive products that enhanced the capabilities and consumer appeal of each new platform. Apple and Amazon

already had functioning ecosystems that their new devices could plug into—something that the [Plastic Logic] Que had to put to one side in its attempt to produce hardware. That meant that while the Kindle and iPad offered a wealth of content at a click, Plastic Logic was left pitching its reader at business people.90

Finally, Plastic Logic remains a going concern and technological pioneer, and reports of its “failure” may prove to have been premature. In 2013, Plastic Logic received a FLEXI R&D award from the FlexTech Alliance, an acknowledgement of significant contributions to innovation and R&D in flexible and printed electronics. The award was given for Plastic Logics’ development of a scalable color filter alignment process enabling the integration of color displays into flexible applications such as car dashboards and medical bracelets.91 In early 2014, Plastic Logic was reportedly developing flexible OLEDs using OTFT backplanes, which the company indicates are manufacturable on flexible substrates.92

Cambridge Display Technology

Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) was spun out of Cambridge University in 1992 and was the originator of polymer OLED technology.93 CDT was acquired by Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical in 2007.

SmartKem. SmartKem is a startup based in North Wales, which produces proprietary semiconductor materials, particularly inks, for applications in the field of flexible and printed electronics, including smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and TVs.94 The company was founded in 2009 and received venture capital funding from Finance Wales, a public regional fund investing in SMEs, which enabled it

_______________

89 Ibid.

90 Johnson, “Why Plastic Logic Failed.”

91 “Top Flexible Electronics Developments Win 2013 FLEXI Awards,” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

92 “Organic Electronics and Flexible Displays,” Flexible Substrate, January 2014.

93 CDT was formed through a collaboration between the Cavendish Laboratory and the University of Cambridge Chemistry Department, creating what one of its founders termed “one of the most interdisciplinary companies ever [requiring] close cooperation between chemists, physicists and materials scientists, along with semiconductor, process and production engineers.” Royal Society of Chemistry, Profile: Cambridge Display Technology, <http://www.rsc.org/pdf/mcg/cdt.pdf>.

94 SmartKem website, access at <http://www.smartkem.com>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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to establish operations in the OpTIC Technium incubator in Wales.95 SmartKem received subsequent funding support from the Welsh Assembly Government.96 In late 2013 SmartKem disclosed the signing of a joint development agreement with an unnamed “major Asian display original equipment manufacturer for the manufacture of flexible displays.”97 Steve Kelly, SmartKem’s CEO, said in a January 2014 interview that the company’s customers were “predominantly OEM and chemical companies within Asia.”98 The company indicates that a source of its competitive advantage has been independent validation of its materials by Bangor University pursuant to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).99

NETHERLANDS/BELGIUM

National, regional, and local governments in the Netherlands and Belgium are providing substantial support to research efforts in flexible electronics. These countries are host to two world-class research centers active in the field, IMEC and its affiliated Holst Centre, as well as Philips, one of the foremost electronics and information technology companies in Europe.

Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)

TNO is a statutorily created public research organization for applied research. It is funded through a combination of core government funding and contract research for government organizations and private companies. (See Table 5-9.)

Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs,
Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I)

EL&I makes fixed annual contributions to a number of Dutch public research organizations, including TNO and the Holst Centre, both of which are engaged

_______________

95 “Company Profile: Semiconductor Start-up,” Chemistry World, August 2011. The Technium Centers are incubators for innovative businesses developed jointly by the Welsh Development Agency and Swansea University. They have provided facilities, business advice, telecommunications, and venture funding. Launched in 2001, most Technium Centers were subsequently closed, and the program has been widely criticized as a costly failure. “Six Technium Innovation Centers to Be Cut,” Western Mail, November 19, 2010; “£100m and 10 Years On—Lessons from the Techium Experience,” Western Mail, June 1, 2013; “Technium Centers a Waste, Says Price,” Western Mail, March 26, 2012.

96 WAG Supports a Smart Move for Electronics,” Liverpool Daily Post, January 19, 2011.

97 “SmartKem Joint Development Agreement with Asian Display Manufacturer,” Printed Electronics World, December 10, 2013.

98 “Printed Electronics Is the Next Big Thing,” Electronics Weekly, January 30, 2014.

99 The University, which enjoys expertise in transistor physics, worked with SmartKem to process, test, and validate its materials in thin-film transistor form and to define protocols for forming the materials into transistor arrays. CEO Kelly said, “This has been of immense value to the company in understanding the performance of our materials.” “University Plays a Role in SmartKem’s Organics Success Story,” Electronics Weekly, March 19, 2014.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-9 TNO Income by Source (2011)

Source of Funding Amount (Millions of Dollars) Percent
Knowledge as an asset (core funding)   95.2 13
Policy and applied research (Ministries) 155.3 20
Public contracts (Netherlands) 124.7 16
Private contracts (Netherlands) 195.7 26
Private contracts (foreign) 143.8 19
International contracts   50.0   7

SOURCE: Consolidated TNO Annual Accounts.

in support for research in flexible electronics. EL&I also coordinates the funding of TNO within the government.100

Flanders Institute for the Promotion of Innovation
through Science and Technology (IWT)

IWT is a government-funded public organization in the Belgian region of Flanders, which directly funds R&D activities and promotes technology innovation and transfer. In the field of flexible electronics it provides substantial support to IMEC, a public research organization located in Leuven. IWT’s funding is in the form of grants.101

Inter-University Microelectronics Center (IMEC)

IMEC, located in Leuven, in Belgium’s Flemish region, is the largest microelectronic R&D center in Europe, with 2,000 employees in 2012 and state-of-the-art research infrastructure.102 Founded as a nonprofit organization in 1984, its original capitalization included a contribution of roughly $60 million from the Belgian government.103 IMEC still receives annual direct contributions from

_______________

100 Government of the Netherlands, The Science System in the Netherlands: An Organisational Overview, 2012. In 2007, EL&I funding accounted for 50 percent of the annual budget of the Holst Centre. PolyMap Report, WP01: Survey of National and Regional Funding with OLAE Context, February 23, 2010.

101 See generally Eric Sleeckx, “Implementing and Monitoring the Flemish Innovation System,” in National Research Council, Innovative Flanders: Innovation Policies for the 21st Century: Report of a Symposium (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008), 38–41.

102 IMEC has two clean rooms, including one which is capable of supporting microelectronics R&D at the 450 mm wafer scale level. IMEC, “IMEC at a Glance,” <http://www2.imec.bc/content/user/File/Borchure%20Imec%20at%20a%20glance.pdf>.

103 “A European Silicon Valley in Flanders—Europe’s Largest Independent R&D Center Comes into Being Near Brussels,” Frankfurter Allgemeinc/Blick Durch die Wirtschaft, June 12, 1986. JPRS-EST-86-022, September 11, 1986.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-10 IMEC Operating Revenue by Source

2011
(Millions of Euros)
2012
(Millions of Euros)
Revenue from contract research 300.1 320.6
Miscellaneous income (including contributions in kind)   12.7   15.2
Subsidies from the Flemish region   45.7   48.2
Subsidies from the Dutch government     7.2     8.2

SOURCE: IMEC Annual Report 2012.

the Flemish region and the Dutch government that account for about 14 percent of its total revenue. Revenue from contract research, which accounts for the preponderance of IMEC’s income, includes revenue derived from contracts with public bodies and government contributions (EU, national, and regional) supporting contract research by industry. (See Table 5-10.) Within several years of its establishment, IMEC had become regarded as one of the best microelectronics research organizations in the world.104

IMEC’s core research activities emphasize “early phases where potential commercial value starts to emerge out of basic science.”105 Early-stage research is conducted in collaboration with industrial partners. Under IMEC’s Industrial Affiliation Programmes, personnel from industrial partners (as well as equipment as needed) are embedded at IMEC. Industrial prototypes are examined, tested, and further refined on site. In 2006, an executive from Texas Instruments, which collaborated with IMEC, cited a number of advantages associated with doing so, including the superb quality of IMEC’s equipment, development collaborations with equipment suppliers, IMEC’s focus on fundamental science, and public funding, which enabled IMEC to keep its research infrastructure state of the art.106

IMEC’s research strategy has two basic elements. “More Moore” seeks to maintain the direction of established technological trajectories while attaining incremental improvements, usually through scaling. The other element, “More Than Moore,” seeks to pursue radical innovation leading to the emergence of new micro- and nanoelectronic technologies and markets.107 Under the auspices of the latter element, IMEC has pursued research themes in areas such as organic

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104 “Flanders Technology International: Flemish Chips on a World Level,” De Standaard, May 8, 1987. JPS-ELS-87-004, August 12, 1987, 23.

105 Andrea Mina, David Cornell, and Alan Hughes, “Models of Technology Development in Intermediate Research Organizations” (Centre for Business Research, Cambridge University, Working Paper No. 396, December 2009), 17–18.

106 Bowling, “IMEC and Sematech,” in National Research Council, Innovative Flanders, 78.

107 Mina et al., 2009, op. cit.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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electronics, biomedical electronics, and organic photovoltaics.108 These efforts commonly involve collaboration with its affiliate, the Holst Centre.109

A WTEC delegation that visited IMEC in 2010 reported that it had an organic and hybrid electronics research group focusing on organic circuitry and organic photovoltaics. The organic circuitry R&D group had successfully developed a 64-bit RFID tag operating at 800 bps that included a 13.56 MHz transponder, utilizing organic-based diodes capable of rectifying current at that frequency. The OPV effort was seeking to develop high-performance organic-based cells that could deliver power at less than €0.50/wp (peak power in watts), with 10 percent record efficiency and 5-year lifetimes, based on IMEC’s view that silicon-based PV systems cannot match such low cost-per-watt ratios.110 Shortly after the WTEC team visit, it was announced that IMEC would head an EU Seventh Framework project, X10D, for development of organic photovoltaic cells that enjoy a longer lifetime, lower production cost, and superior conversion efficiency than do silicon-based PV cells.111

In 2009, research collaboration between IMEC, Hasselt University, and the Belgian printing company Artist Screen resulted in the creation of a spinoff in the field of plastic electronics. Lumoza NV developed and commercialized large area screen printed electronics.112 Lumoza’s main product was large outdoor banners, dozens on which certain surfaces lit up in an animated manner.113 Lumoza subsequently ceased operations.114

Between 2010 and 2012, IMEC led a consortium funded by the EU Seventh Framework that developed the “world’s first radio frequency identification circuit (RFID) made with low-temperature thin film technology that allows reader-talks-first communication.”115 The ORICLA project raised the prospect for intelligent RFID tags that are inexpensive to produce on a mass basis using printing technology.

IMEC reported in 2012 that it was collaborating with the Holst Centre’s system-in-foil research effort focusing on technologies applicable to flexible plastic foil substrates such as polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) and polyether

_______________

108<http://www.emm-nano.org/?page_id=76>.

109 Andrea Mina, Cornell, D., and Hughes, A. “Models of Technology Development in Intermediate Research Organizations, op. cit.

110 WTEC, European Research and Development, 10.

111 The project involves 16 partners, including CEA of France, Imperial College London, the Holst Centre, and a number of companies including Agfa and Solvay. “IMEC Launches Project X10D for Development of OPV Cells with Increased Efficiency at Lower Costs.” PVTech, October 28, 2011; “EU Project Aims to Improve Organic Photovoltaics,” The Engineer, October 31, 2011.

112 IMEC Annual Report 2010, <http://www.imec.be/Scientific Report/SR2010/2010/11159362.html>.

113 “New Funding for Promising Hasselt University Spin-offs Camargus and Lumoza,” LRM, December 12, 2012.

114<http://www.lumoza.be>.

115 The other consortium members were IMEC’s affiliated Holst Centre, Envoi Industries AG (Germany), and Politic (Germany). “European Project Reaches Milestone Bidirectional Communication for Thin-Film RFIDs,” Flexible Substrate, March 2012.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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ether ketone (PEEK). IMEC researchers were experimenting with the placement of indium gallium zinc oxide diodes and transistors and organic transistors and meonaries in flexible foil at low temperature. These devices were then used to design circuits on foil, and the devices were used in backplanes for rollable active matrix organic light-emitting diode displays.116

In 2013, IMEC and Japan’s Fujifilm Corporation reported that they had jointly developed a photoresist technology for organic semiconductors suitable for application in photolithographic patterning on large-size, flexible substrates. The new process reportedly will enable the realization of submission patterns as large, flexible organic substrates.117

The Holst Centre

The Holst Centre is an industry-government research organization founded by IMEC and TNO of the Netherlands in 2006. Located in the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, Netherlands, the Centre’s mission is to create generic technologies for ultra-low-power wireless sensors and large area flexible electronics.118 Participating companies pay an “annual membership” as well as an “initial membership,” which increases as the Centre’s intellectual property (IP) portfolio grows. At the Centre, research partners augment their own exclusive R&D with “shared R&D,” the results of which are shared between program partners on a nonexclusive basis through “customized agreements” that are “tuned to each partners needs and situation.”119 The Centre’s research horizon aims for a commercial impact within 3 to 10 years. There are two basic categories of research programs:

  • Technology programs (TPs) develop research roadmaps for particular technologies and deliver “fundamental understanding” and new “state-of-the-art concepts and demonstrators.”

_______________

116 “IMEC—Strategy: Large Area Electronics and Systems-in-Foil,” <http://www.imec.be/ScientificReport/SR2012/1116058.html>.

117 “Fujifilm and IMEC Develop New Technology for Organic Semiconductors Enabling Submicron Patterns,” Flexible Substrate, October 2013.

118 Holst Centre, Executive Report 2012, 8. The High Tech Campus was formerly Philips Research Laboratories. A strong proponent of open Innovation, Philips opened its facilities to other companies and research organizations in 1998, and in 2012, sold the Campus to a Dutch consortium of private investors. Philips remains a tenant. The Campus features extensive R&D infrastructure and facilities, including clean rooms, laboratories, and testing equipment, and houses more than 8,000 R&D staff. High Tech Campus Eindhoven, <http://www.hightechcampus.com>. The WTEC panel, which visited Holst in 2010, observed that “[r]esearch projects in the Centre take advantage of extensive clean room/microfabrication facilities and characterization instrumentation on campus, which are available on a fee-for-use basis. It was clear to the panel that the rapid buildup of the Holst Centre (for example, in terms of industry participation) since its founding in 2005 is attributable in large part to the excellent research facilities that are in place on the High Tech Campus.” WTEC, European Flexible Electronics, 8.

119 Ibid., 9.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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  • Technology integration programs (TIPs) integrate thematic applications to emerging technologies and prove the technologies through field trials and prototyping. These programs also seek to link emerging technologies to other and different applications. The Centre conducts applied research up to the demonstration level, after which industry partners assume responsibilities for independent prototyping and product development.120

Holst was formed at the initiative of Philips Research, which was seeking to establish a local open innovation research center involving participation by a significant number of companies as well as “independent knowledge institutes orchestrating open innovation.” Philips asked TNO and IMEC to develop a business plan for a research center focusing on micro- and nanotechnologies, and they developed a proposal that won the support of the Dutch government. Philips was the Holst Centre’s first industrial partner and the “participation of Philips gave Holst Centre a flying start.”121 Legally the Centre is a Dutch entity and part of TNO. IMEC participates through a separate legal entity, Stichting IMEC Nederland, established after difficulties were encountered establishing a transnational research institute.122

The Holst Centre prioritizes development of demonstrators of real-world applications of emerging technologies. Its approach encourages collaboration among various scientific and engineering disciplines and sharing of facilities, costs, and in some cases, personnel. In Holst’s systems-in-foil division, for example,

companies with know-how and IP in substrates and materials (DuPont Tejin Films, Agfa and Merck) can work along equipment suppliers and organic electronic manufacturers (Orbotech, ASML, Singuls Mastering and Plastic Electronic) and integrated device manufacturers (Philips), who understand the specs and system design required by the market. The whole value chain is represented.123

Funding

The Holst Centre’s funding is derived from a variety of public and private sources in roughly the following order: public funding (45 percent), EU project funding (10 percent), and research contracts with companies (45 percent).

The Centre’s public funding was provided by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs during the startup period 2005-2012. It was determined that a total of €72 million in public funding would be required to sustain the Centre in

_______________

120 Andrew Mina, David Connell, and Alan Hughes, “Models of Technology Development in Intermediate Research Organizations” (paper prepared for DR UID Summer Conference, “Opening up Innovation: Strategy, Organization, and Technology” June 16-18, 2010, Imperial College, London), 13.

121 “Holst Centre Combines IMEC, TNO, and Industry’s Capabilities,” Printed Electronics Now, October 2010.

122 Mina et al., “Intermediate Research Organisations,” 13.

123 Ibid., 14.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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2013-2016, and this budget has been secured through joint contributions by governments and public organizations that include the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the province of Noord-Brabant, the Brainport Eindhoven region, TNO, IMEC, the Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NOW), and a fiscal ruling issued by the Dutch government (known as TKI toeslag).124 Over time public funding has declined as a proportion of the Centre’s budget as payments from the private sector have increased, but public funding remains critically important.125

Flexible OLED Manufacturing Technology

At this writing some glass-based OLED lighting devices have begun to enter the commercial market, but the introduction of flexible OLED lighting has been hamstrung by the absence of reliable and efficient production processes. While R2R manufacturing is seen as the eventual solution, its introduction has been seen as not being able “to bring flexible OLEDs to the market within 10 years.”126 The Holst Centre is currently engaged in a number of collaborations to develop technologies that will enable the efficient production of flexible OLED lighting products for commercial use.127 In June 2013, Georg Götz of the Holst Centre indicated that in collaboration with its academic and industrial parties, Holst would develop generic technologies for flexible OLED lighting architectures produced by R2R processes with emphasis on flexible and transparent encapsulation, solution processing of organic layer stacks, and replacement of indium tin oxide with a highly conductive polymer formulation (PEDOT:PSS).128

In early 2012, the Holst Centre and IMEC launched an effort to build on prior efforts in areas such as “organic and oxide transistors and flexible OLED lighting to develop an economically scalable route to high-volume manufacturing of large area flexible active-matrix OLED displays.”129 Technological challenges include the deposition of thin organic layers with a well-controlled homogeneous thickness combined with highly conductive and transparent electrodes; encapsulation

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124 EURIS, “Inventory of Good Practices on Open Innovation,” Holst Centre, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; “Public and Industrial Agreements Enable Further Growth of Holst Centre,” Holst Centre news release, April 5, 2012.

125 EURIS, “Inventory of Good Practices,” 8.

126 Project Overview (for CORDIS Fact Sheet), Flex-o-Fab.

127 In 2012, the Holst Centre and Solvay disclosed they had developed a bendable 69 square-centimeter OLED panel with layers deposited through a combination of vacuum deposition and solution processing. “Solvay and the Holst Centre Present an Efficient (30lm(w) large OLED lighting panel,” Oled-info.com.

128 PEDOT:PSS is a transparent, conductive polymer with high ductility. Its current applications include the coating of photographic films as an antistatic agent. “Large Area Flexible OLEDs: Solution Processing and R2R Technologies,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

129 “Holst Centre and IMEC Launch Research Program on Flexible OLED Displays,” IMEC news, January 17, 2012. Holst and IMEC are also collaborating in the development of large area fully organic photodetector arrays that can be fabricated on flexible substrates. “IMEC and Holst Centre Unveil Fully Organic Images,” Flexible Substrate, August 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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must be flexible, be transparent, and provide protection of the active layers for a long timeframe.130 In September 2012, it was disclosed that Sumitomo Chemical, a major producer of high-end materials for polymer OLEDs, would join the Holst Centre’s research program on Printed Organic Lighting and Signage, a move that was expected to “speed efforts to develop manufacturing processes for low-cost flexible organic light-emitting diodes.”131 In 2012, the Holst Centre and Solvay reported the development of a bendable 69 square centimeter OLED panel that enjoyed the same efficiency as Solvay’s own rigid panels on glass.132

PragmatIC Collaboration

In 2011, the Holst Centre entered into a research collaboration agreement with PragmatIC Printing Ltd., a Cambridge, UK-based pioneer in printed logic circuits, for the further development and exploitation of flexible electronics. PragmatIC has developed a proprietary process that allows the fabrication of electronic circuits in a single layer of thin-film semiconductor, using an embossing process, and avoiding the multiple-layer structures required for conventional thin-film transistors. The Holst Centre and PragmatIC are jointly developing qualified processes and materials that will be licensed to Holst Centre program partners and PragmatIC licensees.133

Solliance

Solliance is a collaboration between Dutch, Belgian, and German research organizations and companies to develop thin-film photovoltaic technology. Participating research organizations include IMEC, Holst Centre, ECN (the largest Dutch energy research institution), TNO, and Forschungszentrum Jülich, a German institute for energy and climate research. Solliance has received financial support from the Dutch province of Noord Brabant, which contributed €38 million to create a new shared laboratory in Eindhoven with state-of-the-art equipment.134 The Brabant Development Agency, an economic development entity co-funded by the Dutch government and Noord Brabant, is a member of Solliance.

Solliance R&D activities are conducted with industry partners at Solliance’s own research center and at laboratories at IMEC and Forschungszentrum Jülich. Research themes include testing, characterization, and monitoring; laser

_______________

130 “Large Area Flexible OLEDs: Solution Processing and R2R Technologies,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

131 “Sumitomo Chemical Joins Holst Centre OLED Research Program,” Holst Centre Press Release, September 18, 2012.

132 “Solvay and the Holst Centre Present an Efficient (30 lm/w) Large OLED Lighting Panel,” Flexible Substrate, March 2012.

133 “PragmatIC’s Imprinted Planar Nano-Devices Included in Focus of Holst Centre Program,” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

134<http://www.solliance.eu>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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technologies; light management by mechanical texturization; transparent conductive layers; monolithic interconnection; thin-film deposition; new OPV device development, sheet-to-sheet processing, R2R processing, and in-line monitoring.135 The basic goal of Solliance is to originate an efficient method of manufacturing OPV foils, which are less costly to produce than are conventional photovoltaic cells.136 In 2013, Solliance reported production of the world’s first photovoltaics made exclusively with inkjet printing processes, a technique that will reportedly enable rapid scale-up of manufacturing operations for flexible, lightweight, semitransparent PV cells for integration into construction materials.137

Companies

Solvay S.A.

Solvay is a Belgium-based multinational chemical company that is pursuing a business strategy emphasizing high-value-added, technology-intensive products, with a particular focus on the North American market. Two fields that Solvay sees as “platforms for future growth based on radical innovation” are organic electronics and sustainable energy.138 Solvay supplies specialty materials and inks for OLEDs and OPV devices, and its “Solvene EAP” materials have applications in printed memory devices.139

Solvay has engaged in significant collaborations with the Holst Centre and IMEC in developing flexible OLED lighting technology and organic photovoltaics.140 Solvay has made substantial investments in Plextronics, a U.S. maker of printed electronics devices, with an equity stake of 47 percent as of January 2014, and when Plextronics entered Chapter 11 proceedings, Solvay made a buyout offer valued at $32.6 million.141 Solvay acquired a

_______________

135 “Solliance and Forschungszentrum Jülich Join Forces,” <http://www.brainport.nl/enhigh-tech-systems-materials/solliance-and-forschungszentrum-juelich-join-forces>.

136 “Advances and Improvements with Manufacturing,” Flexible Substrate, March 2012.

137 “Solliance Develops World’s First All Inkjet Printed OPVs,” Flexible Substrate, January 2014.

138 Leopold Demiddeleer, Solvay General Manager of Future Businesses Competence Center, in “Plextronics Closes $14 Million Financing Round,” Printed Electronics Now, August 20, 2009.

139 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics (June 2013), 70.

140 “European Collaboration Towards Efficient, Low-Cost Tandem Organic Solar Cells,” Printed Electronics Now, October 28, 2011. In 2012, Solvay and the Holst Centre jointly demonstrated large area, flexible, high efficiency OLED lighting tiles with a surface area of 69 square centimeters. These devices have an energy efficiency which is 2-3 times higher than conventional incandescent bulbs. “Flexible OLED Lighting Reaches High Energy Efficiency Thanks to Shared Research Effort,” Printed Electronics Now, March 8, 2012; “IMEC, Solvlay Announce World Record Efficiency for OPV Module,” Printed Electronics Now, September 24, 2012.

141 “Solvay Acquires Plextronics to Accelerate its OLED Display Development,” Flexible Substrate, April 2014; “Plextronics Shorts Out,” Chemical and Engineering News, January 27, 2014; “Solvay Commits $15 Million to Support Plextronics’ Innovative Technology Development in OLED and

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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minority equity stake in Illinois-based Polyera, a producer of functional inks, in 2010.142

Philips N.V.

Philips, a Dutch multinational, is one of the world’s leading producers of electronics and lighting products and systems. It was the first company to demonstrate RFID tags using organic transistors.143 Philips has exited a number of electronics businesses during the past decade, including displays and semiconductors. A spinoff, Polymer Vision, pursued development of a foldable e-ink screen, went bankrupt in 2009, and, having been acquired by Taiwan’s Wistran Corporation, was shut down in 2012.144 Philips has continued to pursue research themes in flexible electronics, such as OLED lighting. Philips established an “open innovation” center at its primary R&D site in Eindhoven, the High Tech Campus, where the Holst Centre was established at Philip’s initiative.145 Collaboration between Philips and the Holst Centre has been close and extensive since the latter’s inception.146

GERMANY

Germany has the potential to emerge as a major force in global competition in flexible electronics. Its chemical industry, which includes players like BASF, Merck, Evonik, and newcomers such as Novaled, is one of the most innovative and sophisticated in the world. Its machinery industry produces some of the world’s best precision equipment and instruments, and its printing industry is a major asset in a field in which manufacturing processes are likely to be dominated by various forms of printing. Germany has a formidable array of excellent public research organizations, including the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the Max Planck Institutes backed by a powerful Ministry of Education and Research. Large-scale efforts to develop flexible electronics, including manufacturing capabilities, and the most advanced organic electronics cluster in Europe are located in Dresden.

_______________

OPV,” Printed Electronics World, July 27, 2011; “Solvay Has Made a $10M Investment in Plastics” Plastics Engineering, October 2007.

142 “Solvay Expands its Printed Electronics Development with Investment in Minority Stake in Polyera,” Hugin, September 7, 2010.

143 OE-A, Printed, Organic & Flexible Electronics, 260.

144 “Wistron Folds Up Polymer Vision—Collapsible eReaders Are Once Again Science Fiction,” The Digital Reader, December 2, 2012.

145 WTECH, European Research and Development, 99–100. Philips sold the High Tech Campus in 2012 but remains a tenant on the site.

146 As of late 2011, Philips Research was co-author of more than 20 Holst Centre patent filings and more than 100 technical notes. “Holst Centre, Philips Research Celebrate Successful Five-Year Collaboration with New Contract,” Printed Electronics Now, October 24, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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In Germany scientific research is funded according to a formula allocating fixed percentages of annual contribution by the federal and Land (state) governments. The German research system is characterized by dispersion of authority and funding of specific projects by multiple government entities. An implicit consensus exists at the state and federal level that most government funding should be directed toward “bridging the gap between knowledge creation and application.”147 In flexible electronics, as in other advanced technologies, the German research system emphasizes collaboration and coordination between research actors, the development of commercially relevant technologies, and the achievement of concrete short- and medium-term results as opposed to potentially game-changing “blue sky” discoveries.

Federal Support for Research

The principal German government entity funding research and development in the area of flexible electronics is the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), formerly known as the Federal Ministry for Scientific Research (BMwF). BMBF provides direct financial assistance to research and development projects that involve collaborations between universities and public research institutes, on the one hand, and the private sector on the other hand. BMBF funding in flexible electronics has typically been directed toward projects of short and medium duration (1-3 years) and involving major industrial participants such as Merck, BASF, Siemens, and Philips (Table 5-11). BMBF provides additional indirect support for the sector through its funding of the Fraunhofer and Max Planck institutes, which are extensively engaged in the field.

So-Light

The So-Light project, a 2009-2012 effort funded by BMBF with €8 million, was designed to address the complete supply chain from primary materials, manufacturing processes, and optical components to OLED lighting applications. Pronounced an “outstanding success,” the project has reportedly enabled consortium partners to develop prototypes for OLED signage, including specialty applications in the automotive and architectural lighting markets.148 (See Table 5-12.)

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147 Markus Winnes and Uwe Schimack, National Report: Federal Republic of Germany, Institute for the Study of Societies, TSER Project No. SOE1-CT96-1036 (May 1999); Jakob Elder and Stefan Kühlmann, “Coordination within Fragmentation: Governance in Knowledge Policy in the German Federal System,” Science and Public Policy, 2008, 267.

148 “German OLED Project ‘Exceeds Expectations.’” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-11 BMFB Funding of Research Consortia—Flexible Electronics

Project Theme Timeframe Project Cost (Millions of Euros) BMBF Funding (Millions of Euros) Industry Partners Universities/Research Institutions
Polytos Printed organic switches/chips 2009-2012 13.8   7.2 BASF, Merck, Peppesl & Fuchs, Bosch, SAP Darmstadt Heidelberg Mannheim
Polytos 2 Printed organic switches/chips 2012-2013 1-6   4.9 BASF, Merck, Bosch, SAP PolyIC, Heidelberger, Druckmaschinen Darmstadt Heidelberg Mannheim
NanoPEP2 Nanostructures and plastic electronics print platform 2012-2013   6.8   3.0 BASF, Heidelberger, Druckmaschinen Darmstadt
Gluco Sens Organic electronic novel glucose sensors 2010-2013   4.6   2.3 Rosch, BASF Freudenberg Heidelberg
Cobalt Cost efficient OLEDs for lighting applications 2012-2015 42.9 17.2 Philips, BASF, Aixtron  
Print OLED Application of vapor deposition processes emitter/matrix systems to printing processes for OLEDs 2009-2013 12.2   5.9 Merck, BASF, Philips, Osram Karlsruhe It, Darmstadt, Brownschweig
HOP-X Hybrid organic photodetectors for radiography 2012-2015   3.8   1.9 Siemens, Merck, Plastic Logic Leibniz
Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Project Theme Timeframe Project Cost (Millions of Euros) BMBF Funding (Millions of Euros) Industry Partners Universities/Research Institutions
R2Flex Roll-to-roll production of organic components on flexible substrates 2010-2012 10.7 6.2 Novaled, Heliatek, Ledon OLED, 3D Micromac, VON ARDENNE, ALANOD, Crephys, Tridonic Dresden FHG, IPMS, FHG, FEP
So-light OLED applications in lighting and signage 2009-2012 14.6 8.0 Novaled, AEG, Siteco, Sensiat Imaging, Aixtron, Symoled, Fresnel, Hella FHG, IMPS Munster
KoSIF Flexible autonomous sensor systems on films 2013-2017   6.0 3.8 Würth, FESTO, HSG-IMAT Stuttgart Media U, Stuttgart IGM, Max Planck, MPI, IMS Chips
LightinLine (liLi) OLED manufacturing for lighting application 2009-2012   7.5 3.3 Applied Materials , Merck Braunschoeig
cyCESH Efficient production of OLED devices 2013-2016   6.1   Novaled, Cynora Regensburg
Popup Materials for organic PV 2013-2016 16.0 8.2 Merck, PolyIC, Siemens, Centrosolar Glas, Leonard Kurz Stiftung Ctr for Applied Energy Syhstems; Karlsruhe Inst. Tech; Ctr for Solar Energy/Hydrogen Research Ctr for Applied Energy Syhstems; Karlsruhe Inst. Tech; Ctr for Solar Energy/Hydrogen Research

SOURCE: BMBF, Computer-automation.de.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-12 Impact of Germany’s So-Light Project

Research partner(s) Achievement
Novaled Progress toward fully air-stable electron transport layer
Sensient New host materials for OLED emitter layers
Nonaled/Sensient New p-doped hole transport system with lower absorption, lower cost scalability, to be commercialized by Novaled
AIXTRON/Fraunhofer COMEDD Optimized OVPD process on a Gen2 substrate size
LEDON OLED Lighting Developed efficient electrical controlling technology enabling greater system efficiency
Fresnel Optics Successfully processed external flat primary optics directly on rear surface of OLED panel
HELLA Made design studies for automotive indoor lighting and car rear lights with red OLEDs
BMB MIS Developed thin OLED backlight for LCD signage application
AIXTRON Demonstrated new high deposition rate process
Siteco Manufactured a suspension luminaire containing OLEDs for building façade integration

SOURCE: “So-Light Project Successfully Concluded,” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

OLED 2015

The OLED 2015 initiative, launched in 2006, involved research into OLED technology for lighting and displays by a consortium comprised of 33 entities. BMBF contributed €100 million to the project and industry partners another €500 million. At the time this effort was by far Germany’s largest commitment to the promotion of a nation/capability in organic electronics. OLED 2015 was comprised of a number of subprojects that in some cases led to follow-on projects. Project OPAL 2008 developed improvements in the efficiency, service life, and surface of OLEDs, technology which was transferred to OSRAM, an industry partner, during the course of the project and permitted small-scale commercial use of the new OLED technology.149 OPAL 2008 was succeeded by TOPAS 2012, a project involving Philips, OSRAM, AIXTRON, and BASF to develop OLEDs for future lighting systems.150 TOPAS has itself been succeeded by GENESIS, another government-funded project to scale down to manufacture-compliant

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149 acetech, Organic Electronics in Germany (2011) op. cit., 43.

150 “OLED Lighting Research Backed by German Government,” Electronics Weekly, January 13, 2010. OSRAM has utilized the technology developed in TOPAS to introduce a new luminaire lighting product, the Rollercoaster, featuring transparent OLED panels. Production will begin in 2014. “OSRAM Reports Advances in Transparent OLED Development, To Start Production in 2014,” Flexible Substrate, January 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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processes and substrate sizes.151 Project OPEG, another OLED 2012 subproject, increased the efficiency of organic solar cells from 5 percent before the project to 8.3 percent. The two projects OPAL and OPEG also provided the bases for nearly 50 Ph.D. theses.152

Innovation Alliance Organic Photovoltaics (OPV)

BMBF launched the OPV initiative to complement OLED 2015 by developing technology for the application of OPV.153 BMBF contributed €60 million to this project and expected industry contributions of €300 million.154 The principal industry participants in this effort were Merck, BASF, Bosch, and Schott. BASF and Bosch invested in a startup company, Heliatek GmbH, to engage in the development of organic solar cells, in 2006.155 Heliatek, based in Dresden, developed a succession of increasingly efficient organic solar cells and in 2012 set a new world efficiency record with organic solar cells that achieved 10.7 percent cell efficiency.156 In March 2012, Heliatek inaugurated a proof-of-concept production line for the manufacture of flexible solar panels for building integrated PV applications.157

Organic Electronics Cluster of Excellence

In 2007, BMBF committed €40 million to the establishment of a cluster of excellence, “Forum Electronics in the Rhine-Neckar,” in the vicinity of Heidelberg. In 2009, the cluster was launched, comprising 16 large and medium-sized companies (including BASF and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Ag, a world leader in printing technology) and 11 research institutes and universities, including Darmstadt Technical University’s Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods IDD. One of the BMBF-funded collaborations undertaken in the cluster was NanoPEP, a project involving BASF, the University of Heidelberg, and the Technical University of Darmstadt in an effort to develop nanobased functional materials and printing techniques for processing these materials.158 NanoPEP

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151 “OSRAM Reports Advances in Transparent OLED Development.”

152 acetech, Organic Electronics in Germany, 43.

153 “Innovation Alliance Organic Photovoltaics,” <http://www.fona.de/en/10007>.

154 acetech, Organic Electronics in Germany, 19.

155 Heliatek was spun off from the Technical University of Dresden and the University of Ulm. It has received funding from BMBF, the EU, the Free State of Saxony, and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi). Other investors include Wellington Partners and RWf.

156 “Heliatek’s Organic Tandem solar Cell Verified at 10.7% Record Conversion Efficiency,” PV Tech, April 27, 2012.

157 “Heliatek Opens Groundbreaking Production Facility for the Manufacture of Organic Solar Films,” M2Presswire, March 13, 2012.

158 “Printed Electronics Research Project Moves Into Next Phase,” Package Print Worldwide, August 2, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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produced initial functional elements under laboratory conditions in the cluster’s clean room using modified printing methods. In order to transfer these processes to an industrial scale within a 2-year timeframe, NanoPEP2 was launched in 2012. The follow-on effort will use practical demonstrations to show the functionality of the printed components, which can take the form of flexible OLEDs or solar cells produced in the cluster’s clean room.159

New Materials for OLEDs from Solutions (NEMO)

The NEMO project (2009-2012) developed new solution-processable materials for OLEDs suitable for integration into large-area OLED components with applications in signage, televisions, and illumination for objects or rooms.160 The project was co-funded by BMBF that contributed €32 million.161 Merck supervised the research, which developed and tested new phosphorescent materials for red, green, and blue.

The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft

The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is a distributed network of public research institutes with the core mission of the pursuit of knowledge with practical utility. The Fraunhofer’s mission is to serve as a bridge between Germany’s science base and industry, and most of its activities involve applied research with specific industrial and commercial objectives.162 Each Fraunhofer Institute is linked with one or more German research universities with curricula and faculty that are relevant to the institute’s competencies. The institutes utilize basic research developed in the universities and other German research organizations and “generate relevant application-oriented knowledge themselves on demand from (industrial) clients. While this may often be strongly linked to research in universities . . . it nevertheless

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159 “Joint Research Project of BASF, Heidelberg and TU Darmstadt for Printed Electronics Centers the Next Phase,” Chemical Business NewsBase, August 2, 2012. The printing press “serves as the platform for modified or new coating units and functions as the integrator for the newly-developed processes. The printed layers are only a few nanometers thick and must be highly homogeneous and defect-free.” Transferring such highly complex printing processes to industrial scale requires a deep understanding of the printing process itself. Accordingly, the Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods at the Technical University of Darmstadt is developing a model defining the production parameters and examining the specific physical causes of inhomogeneities in the printed layers which can lead to failure of the device (ibid.).

160 “BMBF Project NEMO on New OLED Materials under Merck Leadership Successfully Concluded,” Flexible Substrate, September 2012.

161 “OLED Project Focuses on Lighting, Signage,” EE Times, February 11, 2009.

162 Rebecca Harding, “Resilience in German Technology Policy: Innovation Through Institutional Symbiotic Tension,” Industry and Innovation, December 2000, 228; Anton Heuberger, “Applied Research: The Fraunhofer Method,” Industries et Techniques, February 23, 1988, JPRS-ELS-88-006; “Joseph von Fraunhofer and Max Planck Can Feel Satisfied,” Handelsblatt, August 9, 1991, JPRS-EST-91-015.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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constitutes a knowledge-creation sub-system of its own.”163 The Fraunhofers are active in research in more than 250 business fields and areas of competency representing virtually every subject relevant to a modern industrial economy.164

The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is a registered association under private law (eigentragener verein) and technically independent of government direction. However, its research agenda is broadly consistent with those of the German government and the European Union, and occasionally the Fraunhofer carries out special missions at the behest of the German government.165 Roughly one-third of its annual income is derived from “core” funding from the German federal government (Bund) and from the states (Länder) at a 90:10 ratio, respectively. Roughly another one-third of its income consists of payments by German government entities and other public organizations for contract research on various themes deemed to be in the public interest, such as environmental, energy, water quality, and defense/security-related research. Roughly the final one-third of the Fraunhofer’s revenue is derived from industry through the performance of contract research with commercial applications. Because industry contract research payments are frequently partially comprised of subsidies from state, federal, and EU governments, the cumulative proportion of public funding of the Fraunhofer’s operating budget may range as high as 80 percent.166 In addition, the separate capital budget for expenditures on new research organizations and institutes has included large contributions from the Bund, the Länder, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).167

The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft enjoys an outstanding global reputation and is widely credited as a key factor underlying German manufacturing competitiveness and the success of German goods in export markets.168 Fraunhofer institutes,

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163 Fraunhofer Gesellschaft Annual Report, 2010, 15.

164 For a comprehensive analysis of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and its place in the German system of innovation, see National Research Council, 21st Century Manufacturing: The Role of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, ed. Charles W. Wessner (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013).

165 Early in the reunification of Germany, the German research ministry tasked the Fraunhofer with reorganizing and restructuring the applied research institutes of the former German Democratic Republic. Dieter Thierbach, Deutsche Enheit in Forschung und Technologie (BMFT, 1991). The ministry has also assigned the Fraunhofer specific roles in developing key technologies such as new materials and information technology. Materialforschung (BMFT, 1986), JPRS-EST-86-036; Forschung und Technik zum Whole der Menschen: Jahresbericht, 1984, JPRS-WST-86-015; “Expose Chips with X-Rays,” Frankfurter Allgmeine Zeitung, October 24, 1985, JPRS-WST-86-018.

166 Diego Comin, Gunnar Trumbull, and Kerry Yang, Fraunhofer: Innovation in Germany (Harvard Business School Monograph 9-711-022, January 6, 2012).

167 Fraunhofer Annual Report, 2011, 20. The ERDF is a fund administered by the EU to counter regional economic imbalances in Europe.

168 “Germany—The New Mini-Superpower,” Christian Science Monitor, January 30, 2011; “What’s Behind the Success of German Manufacturing Industry?” Xinhua, February 23, 2012; “How the German Economy Became a Model,” Spiegel Online, March 21, 2012; House of Commons, Committee on Science and Technology, Second Report: Technology and Innovation Centres, February 9, 2011, 41.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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with an average staff size of 400, possess deep technological competencies and are normally extremely well equipped.169 The Fraunhofer holds a huge patent portfolio that can be made available to industrial clients seeking to license advanced technologies.170 The Fraunhofer develops product prototypes and industrial processes on behalf of its clients and demonstrates them in in-house simulation platforms and pilot manufacturing lines. The Fraunhofer’s services are particularly important for Germany’s small- and medium-sized enterprises, frequently regarded as the key to German export competitiveness, but which could not afford to invest in expensive research infrastructure and commonly have no organic R&D capability.171 These firms are able to contract with the Fraunhofer on highly favorable terms to develop sophisticated technological solutions for the competitive challenges that they confront.172 “[T]he research facilities of the Fraunhofer serve as external, very well equipped research departments” of small- and medium-sized German firms.173

At least 10 Fraunhofer Institutes and organizations are deeply involved in applied research activities relevant to flexible electronics. After the mid-1980s, in response to the direction of the German research ministry, the Fraunhofer devoted substantial resources to the development of advanced materials with high-technology applications.174 Today the institutes are engaged in a broad range of research activities aimed at fostering new materials with flexible electronics applications. (See Table 5-13.)

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169 The Fraunhofer benefits from the “power and generosity” of the German machine tool industry, which loans equipment to the institutes on generous terms. The machine builders benefit from these arrangements because Fraunhofer develops improvements in the equipment, tests the machines in manufacturing environment and supplies data to the companies, and introduces the machines to potential customers. “Applied Research: The Fraunhofer Method,” Industries et Techniques, October 20, 1987, JPRS-ELS-88-006.

170 At the end of 2011, the Fraunhofer held 6,131 patents, 673 of which were registered in 2011. Normally Fraunhofer owns the intellectual property rights (IPRs) developed in the course of its research projects. Industry partners may also receive an exclusive license, but this is limited to the given application that was the subject of the research effort. The Fraunhofer remains free to license the technology to other users for different applications. Interviews with Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, Friesing, Germany, June 13, 2012; Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart, Germany, June 14, 2012; and Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, Stuttgart, Germany, June 14, 2012.

171 Christian Hamburg, Structure and Dynamic of the German Mittelstand (Heidelberg and New York: Physica-Verlag, 1999), 58–59; “Germany—The New Mini-Superpower,” Christian Science Monitor.

172 Fraunhofer R&D is cost competitive in that the institute’s workforce is comprised, in part, of students, and the fact that the contract price does not include the sunk cost already incurred by the institutes to develop the skills relevant to the project. In addition, many industrial R&D contracts are partially subsidized by the national and/or regional and local governments and the European Union. See generally “Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: The German Model of Applied Research,” in National Research Council, 21stCentury Manufacturing, 224–284.

173 Hamburg, Structure and Dynamic of the German Mittelstand, 58–59.

174 BMFT, Materialforschung, March 5, 1986, JPRS-EST-86-036.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-13 Fraunhofer Institutes—Materials Competencies and Services in Flexible Electronics

Institute E-Paper E-Plastic E-Textiles Organic Conductor P.-type Organic Semiconductor N-type Organic Semiconductor Dielectric Carbon Nanotubes
POLO   xx xx       x  
COMEDD   xx xx xx xx xx    
EMFT (IZE) x x xx x x x x  
ENAS (IZE) xx xx x x     xx x
IAP   x x x xx xx xx  
ILT     xx xx        
IPA               x
ISC     xx xx     xx  
ISE   x x x x x    
ISIT     xx xx        

SOURCE: OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics: Applications, Technologies and Suppliers, June 2013.
NOTE: xx = products and services; x = competence.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Similarly, with respect to manufacturing processes and equipment for flexible electronics, the Fraunhofer Institutes offer a broad range of products, services, and competencies. (See Table 5-14.)

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Materials and Electronic Devices Dresden

In 2012 the Fraunhofer IPMS Center for Organic Materials and Electronic Devices Dresden (COMEDD) was given the status of a new standalone Fraunhofer Institute. Fraunhofer COMEDD’s mission is to conduct applied research in optoelectronic microsystems and surface modules, such as OLED lighting and OPV. A WTEC team that visited COMEDD in 2010 characterized its facilities as “vast and impressive.”175 Fraunhofer COMEDD features a clean room with the following equipment:

  • Pilot line for the fabrication of OLEDs on 370 × 470 mm2 substrates;
  • Two pilot lines for 200 mm wafers for OLED integration on silicon substrates;
  • Research line for R2R fabrication on flexible substrates.176

The initial total investment in COMEDD during the 2007-2009 timeframe was €24.6 million, of which the ERDF contributed 60 percent, the Land Government of Saxony 20 percent, and the federal government 20 percent.177

Fraunhofer COMEDD’s research infrastructure enables it to offer industrial users product development services that begin with R&D and system concept through pilot fabrication. Its recent industrial partners include Universal Display Corporation, a major U.S.-based developer of OLED technology; VON ARDENNE Anlagentechnic GmbH, a major German producer of coating equipment; Heliateck GmbH, a German startup focusing on organic vacuum deposited solar cells; and AIXTRON SE, a German maker of metalorganic chemical vapor deposition equipment for the semiconductor industry.178 Fraunhofer COMEDD and Tridonic Dresden (formerly LEDON OLED Lighting), participants in R2Flex, a BMBF-funded project to develop OLED lighting components, reported development of a desk luminaire with flexible OLED that can potentially be manufactured with an R2R process.179

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175 WTEC, European Research and Development, 11.

176 “New Trends in OLED Lighting,” Flexible Substrate, January 2014; “COMEDD Now a New Research Institute of the Fraunhofer,” Printed Electronics World, July 12, 2012.

177 Fraunhofer COMEDD website, <http://comedd.fraunhofer.de>.

178 “Public Funded OLED Project So-Light Successfully Concluded,” Printed Electronics World, February 6, 2013; “Universal Display and Fraunhofer Agreement for White OLED Lighting,” Printed Electronics World, May 3, 2012; Organic Solar Cells Reach 6% Confirmed Efficiency,” Printed Electronics World, September 1, 2009; “OLED Brings Out the Shine,” Printed Electronics World, May 28, 2013.

179 “EU R2R Program Creates Flexible OLED Desk Lamp,” Flexible Substrate, October 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-14 Fraunhofer Institutes—Equipment/Process Competencies and Services in Flexible Electronics

Institute Polymer Film Encapsulation Inkjet Printing Photo-Lithography Laser Ablation Evaporation Sputtering Spin Coating Clean Room
POLO xx       xx xx    
COMEDD xx   x xx xx xx xx xx
EMFT (IZE) xx   xx xx xx xx xx xx
ENAS (IZE) x xx   xx     xx  
IAP x xx xx xx xx xx x xx
ILT xx x x xx xx      
IPA   x x         x
ISC xx xx xx xx       xx
ISE x x x   x x x x
ISIT xx xx xx   xx xx xx xx

SOURCE: OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics: Applications, Technologies and Suppliers, June 2013.
NOTE: xx = products and services; x = competence.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Fraunhofer COMEDD played an important role in IMAGE, a consortium that conducted research for 3 years, concluding in 2014, to develop printable electrode materials for high-performance lighting devices and organic solar cells. The project was co-funded by BMBF and France’s Agence Nationale de la Recherche. Fraunhofer COMEDD’s project partners included Carnot MIB, based in Bordeaux (project lead) and the companies Arkema and Tridonic (advisory support).180 Dr. Olaf Hild, the business unit manager at Fraunhofer COMEDD, commented that in IMAGE “we were able to construct the electrodes very thin, transparent and flexible and to integrate them in our processes. Thus Fraunhofer COMEDD is now in a position to manufacture flexible organic devices such as OLED lighting films, organic solar cells or sensors as film according to customer requirements.” Fraunhofer COMEDD and Carnot MIB were reportedly seeking industry partners to exploit these developments.181

Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS)

Fraunhofer IPMS conducts applied research in electronic, mechanical, and optical components and their integration into intelligent systems and devices.182 Fraunhofer IPMS created COMEDD as an internal research center in 2008. When COMEDD was spun off to create a new institute, Fraunhofer IPMS continued some research in the field of flexible electronics such as process technology for printing OLED-based screens for signage and decorative lighting applications.183

Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP)

Fraunhofer IAP, based in Potsdam, specializes in polymers and their applications, including synthesis, processing, and testing. One of the institute’s principal themes has been developing new active polymer materials for organic electronic components such as OLEDs and adapting them to solution-based processes.184 Fraunhofer IAP is currently collaborating with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in a 2012-2016 R&D project to develop printable organic solar cells with a

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180 The institutes in France are applied research organizations that have successfully applied for and been granted the “Carnot” designation by the government, which also provides some funding to the institutes correlated to the amount of contract research each institute performs for French industry. See “The Carnot Initiative in France,” in National Research Council, 21st Century Manufacturing, 368–389.

181 “EU Completes Project on Printed Transparent Electrodes for Flexible OLEDs and Solar Cells,” Flexible Substrate, March 2014; “Project IMAGE Yields Printable Transparent and Flexible Electrodes for OLEDs and Solar Cells,” EETimes Europe, January 15, 2014.

182<http://www.ipms.fraunhofer,de/en.html>.

183 “Transparent OLEDs for Signage and Decorative Lighting Applications,” Flexible Substrate, January 2013; “New Developments in Highly Efficient OLEDs,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

184 OE-A, Organiz Electronics 2nd Edition, 2007, 52; Fraunhofer IAP, “Functional Polymer Systems,” <http://www.iap.fraunhofer.de/en/Forschmgsbereiche/Functionale-Polymerssysteme.html>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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conversion efficiency exceeding 10 percent.185 In 2012, Fraunhofer IAP successfully concluded a 3-year €29 million R&D project, “NEMO” (New Materials for OLEDs from Solutions) involving Merck and 10 other partners from industry on academia to develop phosphorescent materials for red, green, and blue applications in large surface OLED components.186 Fraunhofer IAP is currently developing OLED, OPV, and OTFT technologies for applications in flexible signage, security, and energy harvesting. An area of focus is the combination of different types of organic electronic devices, such as OTFT-driven OLEDs and OPV-powered OLEDs.187 In 2013, Fraunhofer IAP opened a new pilot line for producing newly developed OLEDs on a near-industrial scale.188

Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC)

Fraunhofer ISC develops inorganic-organic hybrid polymers (ORMOCER®) with emphasis on applications in polymer electronics systems. A Fraunhofer ISC team worked for nearly 20 years to develop a coating technology based on ORMOCER® that effectively protects flexible electronics surfaces from the deleterious effects of oxygen and water. The team developed a barrier lacquer that was combined with silicon dioxide. Dr. Sabine Amberg-Schwab, who headed the research team, commented that

[t]he results were astounding. A barrier effect that is far better than could be expected from adding only the two layers. The reasons for this are special effects that are generated between the two materials.189

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185 This project is supported with a grant of €4.25 million from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). “Solar Power from Plastic Foils,” Printed Electronics World, July 5, 2012.

186 Dr. Udo Heider, the Head of the OLED unit at Merck, commented on NEDO that “the success of the project is an enormous and important step for printable material systems with very good performance data. We are enabling our customers to use cost-efficient manufacturing processes, which thanks to their low material losses in production will ultimately benefit the environment.” The project was co-funded by BMBF. Other partners included the universities of Potsdam, Regensburg, and Tübingen and the Humboldt University of Berlin; Heraeus Precious Metals GmbH & Co. KG; Enthone GmbH; and Delo Industrie Klebstoffe. “BMFB Project NEMO; Research on New OLED Materials,” Printed Electronics World, September 18, 2012.

187 In a large clean room environment, the institute offers a number of processing techniques, including spin coating for material evaluation in laboratory devices, inkjet printing, and high-precision slot die coating on a robot-controlled manufacturing line on which devices can be fabricated on a pilot scale in sizes up to 150 sw. mm. OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 86.

188 The new line was developed in cooperation with the plant manufacturer MBRAUN and was supported by funding from the federal research ministry. “New Pilot Line for Organic Electronics,” Printed Electronics World, February 11, 2013. “Fraunhofer IAP Opens Pilot Line for Organic Electronics,” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

189 “Flexible Films for Photovoltaics,” Printed Electronics World, May 31, 2011; “Ultra-High Basics for Encapsulation of Flexible Organic Electronic Devices,” Flexible Substrate, March 2014.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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OROCER®s are lacquers with properties that can be adapted to a variety of substrate types according to specific customer requirements.190 Fraunhofer IAP is participating in the ENAB-SPOLED project, co-sponsored at €4 million by government agencies in Germany, Austria, and the UK, and will use its polymer expertise to develop charge transport polymers for solution processing for OLED lighting devices.191

Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technology (FEP)

Fraunhofer FEP develops efficient vacuum coating methods (including coating of flexible products) and electron beam technologies. In 2013, Fraunhofer FEP is presenting at trade shows a novel R2R manufacturing process for high barriers (coatings for protection against moisture and other agents) and functional films for flexible displays. This technology is intended to address a major obstacle to the efficient production of large area flexible displays, the lack of cost-efficient and reliable methods for encapsulating those displays. The institute states that it has developed R2R technology that on a pilot scale can apply multiple layers of protective coatings (zinc tin oxide or aluminum oxide) to surfaces of 400 mm width and up to 500 m long with the lowest water-vapor permeability properties in the world.192

Fraunhofer Institute of Reliability and Microintegration (IZM)

Fraunhofer IZM specializes in integration of electronic, optical, actuator, and sensor functions. Fraunhofer IZM has spun off several of its internal departments to create new Fraunhofer institutes pursuing flexible electronics themes, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nanosystems (ENAS; 2008) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Solid State Technology (EMFT). The institute develops multifunctional systems for applications on foils, textiles, and other flexible substrates. The institute’s Laboratory for Textile-Integrated Electronics (TexLab) develops interconnection technologies for stretchable and textile substrates, with applications in fields such as medical engineering, security and logistics, fashion, lighting, and construction. (See Table 5-15.)

Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nanosystems (ENAS)

Fraunhofer ENAS’ Printed Functionalities department conducts R&D in the field of flexible large area organic electronics and printed electronics. Its main

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190 Fraunhofer Polymer Surfaces Alliances POLO, “Transparent High Barrier Film for Organic Electronics: Roll-to-Roll Pilot Production,” 2013.

191 “ENAB-SPOLED Project Targets Solution-Processed OLEDs for Lighting,” Flexible Substrate, October 2013.

192 Fraunhofer FEP, “Functional Films for the Displays of the Future,” May 31, 2013, <http://www.fep.fraunhofer.de/en/press_and_medial/Pressemittilungen/06_213.html>.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-15 FhG IZM TexLab Electronic Textile Applications

Project Product
ConText Textile ECG and EMG sensors for monitoring heart and muscle activity in sports clothing
AlarmTextil Large area fabric with integrated sensors for alarm systems
InsiTex, Place-IT Seat occupancy sensor and interior lighting for vehicles
TextraLog GTextile RFID transponders for logistics
Pocket Lock Backpack Antitheft antifraud protection embedded in clothing and textile accessories
Place-IT, LumoLED, DesignMesh Lighting and displays on/in fabric
Sinetra, Textees Sensors integrated into clothing for personal safety applications

SOURCE: Fraunhofer IZM, “Textile-Integrated Electronic Systems.”

fields of concentration are digital fabrication, printed functionalities, and hybrid R2R printing applications.193 The institute works closely with the Chair of Digital Printing and Technology at the Chemnitz University of Technology. Its infrastructure includes R2R printing machines for inkjet, flexo, and gravure printing. The institute is focusing on applications that include RFIDs, printed radio frequency identification antennae, and printed batteries.194

Fraunhofer Institute for Modular Solid State Technology (EMFT)

Fraunhofer EMFT develops sensors and actuators, including devices for flexible applications. One of the institute’s current main topics is the integration of various foil components, including organic circuits, printed batteries, sensors, ultrathin ICs, and photovoltaic cells, into smart flexible systems.195 The institute offers its industrial partners a research infrastructure and expertise in R2R fabrication and testing.196 In 2002, the institute established the Bavarian Polytronic Demonstration Center (BDP) to support its Flexible Systems business unit. The BDP features state-of-the-art production equipment for the microfabrication of product demonstrators on foils.197 In 2013, Fraunhofer EMFT disclosed that it

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193 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 87.

194 Fraunhofer ENAS, “Printing Technologies for Functional Layers and Components,” <http://www.evias.fraunhofermde/en/core_competencies/printing_technologiesforfunctionallayersandcompnents.html>.

195 Fraunhofer EMFT was spun off as a stand-alone institute from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in 2010. “Fraunhofer EMFT Becomes an Independent Institute,” DeviceMed, July 15, 2010.

196 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 86.

197 Fraunhofer EMFT Annual Report, 2012, 20.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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had developed a glove with sensors that identify toxic substances and indicate their presence by changing colors.198

Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT)

Fraunhofer ILT pursues R&D themes associated with the industrial uses of lasers. Among other things the institute has developed high-speed plastic welding techniques for flexible materials substrates and processes for the high-speed, high-resolution patterning of thin films.199

Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS)

Fraunhofer IIS develops microelectronics systems, devices, and associated software. It has recently developed shirts with electronic sensors and measurement systems embedded in textiles for medical and fitness applications.200

Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE)

Fraunhofer ISE develops solar energy technology. The institute is pursuing the development of more efficient organic solar cells that do not require indium tin oxide.201

Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT)

Fraunhofer ISIT specializes in silicon-based microelectronics. It is currently engaged in research on the combination of conventional silicon circuits with organic electronic components that exploits the advantages associated with each technology, such as bendable displays with integrated memory functions. The potential use of inkjet printing to less expensive substrates (e.g., paper, PET foils)

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198 “Fraunhofer Develops Color-Changing Glove That Warns of Toxic Substances,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

199 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 88; Fraunhofer ILT, “Laser Ablation for Thin Film Structuring,” <http://www.ilt.fraunhofer.de/en/publication-and-press/brochures/borchure_laser_ablation_for-thin_film_technology.html>; “Comparison of Laser Ablation of Transparent Conductive Materials on Flexible and Rigid Substrates,” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

200 The Fraunhofer IIS FitnessSHIRT is a T-shirt with measuring systems for ECG and respiration recording, providing continuous monitoring of cardiac and respiratory functioning. Fraunhofer IIS, “FitnessSHIRT: Improving Safety Through Telemonitoring,” <http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/bf/ med/mss/fitnesshirt.html>. The Fraunhofer IIS RespiSHIRT is a T-shirt suitable for normal activities. It includes an embedded respiratory measurement system that transmits data via wireless signal to a Smartphone or PDA, where it is analyzed. Fraunhofer IIS, “RespiSHIRT,” <http://www/iis/fraunhofer.de/en/bh/med/mss/respishirt,html>.

201 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 89.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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and the integration of flexible batteries into the production process are expected to conserve energy and reduce the cost of electronic modules.202

Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA)

Fraunhofer IPA develops production processes that are conducted under clean room conditions using digital 2-D and 3-D printing and additive technologies. The institute develops solutions for the industrial handling, separation, transport, and storage of foil substrates; high-precision assembly processes for small devices mounted into multifunctional plastic film and foil-based systems; and processes for selective coating applications utilizing inkjet and electrophotographic printing and dispensing technologies.203

Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology (IWS)

Fraunhofer IWS specializes in research on laser and surface technology. Researchers at this institute have developed a new manufacturing process for producing thermoelectric generators (TEGs) through a printing process on large, flexible surfaces consisting of environmentally friendly materials. Embedded devices have the potential to produce electricity generated by changes in temperature. The technology may be employed to produce electricity from waste heat in platforms such as automobiles, cooling towers, large computer centers, sewage systems, and industrial production lines.204

Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT)

Fraunhofer ICT in Karlsruhe has been working with industrial partners to develop a tool for characterizing polymer nanocomposites, onBOX, which can be used during the production process itself. onBOX is mounted to the exit nozzle of the conveyor to analyze the polymer compound while it is in the mixing plant, using a combination of ultrasound, microwaves, and spectroscopy to assess the composition of the compound. A computer uses the data so generated to fix precise mixing ratios needed to produce the desired material and to identify the precise manufacturing process required, feeding the information to the machine’s control system.205

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202 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 89.

203 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 88.

204 “Fraunhofer Printed Thermoelectric Generators Could Capture Energy from Waste Heat,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

205 “Testing Nanomaterial Smart Plastics in Real Time at Fraunhofer ICT,” Flexible Substrate, November 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Max Planck Gesellschaft

The Max Planck institutes are public research organizations responsible for basic research. Like the Fraunhofer, the Max Planck society is an independent nongovernmental nonprofit research association supported by funding from the Bund and the Länder. Max Planck comprises roughly 80 thematic research institutes and is regarded as one of the finest research organizations in the world. Max Planck and its institutional predecessor, the Kaiser Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (KwG), can count more than 30 Nobel laureates among their scientists, including Albert Einstein (1921).

Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research

The Organics Electronics Group at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart is pursuing research themes applicable to flexible electronics. A particular area of interest is organic transistors. The group is studying ways to reduce the operating voltage of such transistors, improve the stability of p-channel and n-channel transistors, design organic transistors with channel lengths down to 100 nm, and improve the high-frequency performance of organic transistors. The group is also investigating manufacturing techniques for organic transistors including inkjet and microcontact printing. In addition to its work on transistors the group is exploring various organic and hybrid nanostructures that take advantage of unique properties of certain materials such as carbon nanotubes and organic/inorganic radial superlatives.206 In 2012, MPI-P and BASF opened a joint research and development center, the Carbon Materials Innovation Center (CMIC), at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen. CMIC will investigate the potential of graphene and other carbon materials for applications including touchscreens and solar cells.207

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P)

The MPI-P in Mainz performs research on polymers for applications in a variety of fields including flexible electronics. In a joint research project with Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS) the institute developed the world’s first supramolecular thiophene nanosheet, a 2-D material with a thickness of 3.5 nanometers that has potential application in organic electric devices without the expense and energy consumption associated with vacuum vapor deposition processes.208

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206 Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, <http://www.fkf.mpg.de/65473/Research>.

207 “BASF, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research Inaugurate Joint Graphene Research Lab,” Flexible Substrate, November 2012.

208 “German Researchers Synthesize World’s First Supramolecular Thiophene Nanosheets,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces

The Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam-Golm disclosed in 2013 that it has developed a technique that utilizes a conventional inkjet printer to create conductive structures on paper. The printer prints a catalyst in a specific pattern on paper, after which heat is applied to convert the printed pattern into graphite (conductive) while the adjacent areas on the paper are converted into amorphous carbon (nonconductive).209

Companies

BASF

Germany’s BASF is the world’s largest chemicals company. A BASF subsidiary, BASF New Business GmbH, which is tasked with starting up new businesses in promising technology areas, oversees BASF’s operations in organic and printed electronics. The company is developing printable material systems for thin-film transistor applications and phosphorescent materials for OLEDs.210 BASF has developed a significant number of major research collaborations with universities and public research organizations in Europe and abroad with themes relevant to flexible, printed, and organic electronics.211 (See Table 5-16.)

Heliatek

Heliatek, an OPV maker, was spun off from the Technical University of Dresden and the University of Ulm in 2006. It has continued to work with these academic institutions in developing OPV technology. A number of large industrial companies have invested in Heliatek, including Bosch, BASF, and RWE. In 2012, Heliatek started up its first manufacturing facility for flexible organic solar panels in Dresden, utilizing an R2R process with vacuum deposition at low temperatures.212 In 2013, Heliatek disclosed that in collaboration with the two

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209 “Max Planck Institute Researchers Use an Inkjet Printer to Create Electrically Conductive Paper,” Flexible Substrate, October 2013.

210 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 44.

211 “National University of Singapore, BASF Embark on Joint Graphene Research,” Printed Electronics Now, January 20, 2014; “BASF, Top American Universities to Research New Functional Materials,” Printed Electronics Now, March 14, 2013; “BASF, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research Inaugurate Joint Research Laboratory for Graphene,” Printed Electronics Now, September 24, 2012; “BASF, Three Top European Universities Team Up on Functional Materials Research,” Printed Electronics Now, July 28, 2009; “BASF, Heidelberg and TU Darmstadt Collaboration Shows Promise,” Printed Electronics Now, August 2012; “BASF to Set Up Electronic Materials R&D Center Asia Pacific at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea,” Printed Electronics World, November 7, 2013.

212 “Heliatek Opens Groundbreaking Production Facility for the Manufacture of Organic Solar Films,” Printed Electronics Now, March 12, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-16 BASF—Academic Research Collaborations for Flexible Electronics

Country Institutions Themes
Singapore National University of Singapore Graphenes for organic electronic devices
United States Harvard
MIT
U Mass Amherst
New materials for automotive, building, and energy industries
Germany Max Planck Inst. for Polymer Research Applications of innovative carbonized materials (graphene)
Switzerland, France, Germany U. Strasbourg, Freiburg, and ETH Zurich Functional materials with new properties
Belgium IMEC Process chemicals for semiconductors
Germany T.U. Darmstadt Intelligent printing processes with applications in flexible components
Korea Sungkyunkwan U Electronics materials

universities, it had succeeded in pushing the conversion efficiency of OPV cells to an unprecedented 12 percent.213

Novaled Ag

Novaled was established in 2001 as a spinoff from the Technical University of Dresden with the support of the Fraunhofer IPMS.214 It is a leading developer of OLED technology and holds or has pending more than 500 patents in the field.215 It also supplies proprietary materials for use in the manufacture of OLED and PV devices. In 2013, Korea’s Samsung Group concluded an agreement to acquire Novaled.216 In early 2014, Novaled and Plastic Logic jointly demonstrated a flexible, plastic, fully organic AMOLED display, which is expected to accelerate the commercialization bendable and wearable displays.217

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213 “Heliatek Achieves 12% Organic Solar Cell Efficiency,” Optics.org, January 23, 2013.

214 WTECH, European Research and Development, 95.

215 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics, 64.

216 At the time Samsung Venture Investment held 10 percent of Novaled. Pursuant to the agreement, Samsung affiliate Cheil Industries will acquire roughly a 50 percent stake, and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. will acquire 40 percent. “Samsung Agrees to Buy German Screen Lighting Firm Novaled,” Bloomberg, August 9, 2013.

217 “Plastic Logic, Novaled Partner to Demonstrate a World First for Displays,” Printed Electronics Now, February 7, 2014.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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AIXTRON

AIXTRON is a German producer of metalorganic chemical vapor deposition equipment for the semiconductor industry. The company was spun out of RWTH Aachen, one of Germany’s leading research universities, in 1985, and it currently generates most of its revenues from sales to manufacturing clients in Asia. As of late 2013, AIXTRON had sold more than 3,000 deposition systems globally and had grown to more than 800 employees. AIXTRON is currently engaged in R&D for process technologies for OLED displays and lighting, organic material large area deposition, and applications using carbon nanostructures (graphene and carbon nanowires and nanotubes).218 AIXTRON is currently leading the Production Work Package of the EU’s Graphene Flagship project and is working to develop large-scale equipment for water-based graphene and continuous production of foil-based graphene for transistors and transparent conductive films.219

Merck Chemicals

Merck Chemicals, based in Darmstadt, Germany, holds one of the world’s largest portfolios of organic semiconductor patents, including technologies applicable in printed and flexible electronics.220 Merck operates a chemicals research site in Southampton, UK, the Chilworth Technical Centre, and its specialty materials have been incorporated in Plastic Logic’s display products pursuant to joint development, test, and commercialization arrangements with that company.221 In 2013, Merck was selected by BMBF to head the POPUP consortium (2013-2016), a collaboration to develop materials with OPV applications.222 In 2013, Merck won the first place Solar Energy Award (category: PV Materials Enabling Award) at the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference for its SolarEtch structuring posters, which enable selective etching of antireflective coatings and passivization layers on solar cells and transparent conductive materials.223

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218 “AIXTRON Celebrates 30th Anniversary.” Printed Electronics Now, December 5, 2013.

219 “AIXTRON Plays Key Roles in Two-Dimensional Nanomaterial Projects,” Printed Electronics Now, October 31, 2013. In early 2014, AIXTRON and Germany’s Manz AG disclosed a strategic cooperation agreement to demonstrate efficient organic layer deposition up to a substrate size of 2,300 × 2,500 mm based on AIXTRON’s propriety OVPD process technology. The new process is expected to enable efficient production of OLEDs for displays and lighting applications. “AIXTRON and Manz AG Agree to Strategic Cooperation for OLED Manufacturing,” Flexible Substrate, January 2014.

220 IDTechEx, Printed, Organic & Flexible Electronics (2011) op. cit., 255. Merck is a market and technology leader in liquid crystal mixtures used in all display applications. “Merck Exhibits Innovative Display Materials at IMID, FPD International,” Printed Electronics Now, October 11, 2011.

221 “Merck KGaA and Plastic Logic Jointly Develop New Generation Organic Semiconductors,” Printed Electronics Now, April 14, 2010.

222 “POPUP: Novel Organic Solar Cells,” Science Daily, December 13, 2013.

223 “Merck KGaA Receives Solar Industry Award 2013,” Printed Electronics Now, October 11, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

PolyIC

PolyIC Gmbh was established in 2003 as a joint venture between Germany’s Leonhard Kurz Stiftung & Co. KG, a maker of stamping tools and foils (51 percent share) and Siemens AG (49 percent share). PolyIC develops technologies for touch sensors, passive devices, and pointed displays, notably flexible RFIDs.224 PolyIC, one of the first firms to introduce printed flexible RFIDs, specializes in making thin, flexible circuits that are inexpensive and disposable.225 In 2013, PolyIC and majority owner Kurz jointly demonstrated a number of applications that combined functional films and decorative elements, including an automotive center console utilizing touch sensor film and decorative film permitting touch control of keys, climate control, and entertainment systems.226

Evonik Industries AG

Evonik, based in Essen, is one of the world’s leading producers of specialty chemicals. It has been a collaborator with AU Optronics of Taiwan in a joint venture, Evonik Forhouse Optical Polymers (EFOP), which operates a plant producing acrylic polymers for the TFT-LCD industry.227 Evonik participated in the EU FP7 project ORICLA (2010-2012), along with IMEC, Holst Centre, and PolyIC, in the development of thin-film ultra-high-frequency RFID tags.228 In 2013, Evonik’s collaboration with the Holst Centre was expanded when the company joined Holst’s research program on organic/oxide semiconductors, devices which can be printed on thin films.229 In 2012, Evonik introduced FLEXOSKIN, a barrier film that can be used to cover flexible photovoltaic devices that is transparent but blocks moisture and harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.230

FINLAND

Although Finland has a population only slightly more than 5 million, it has had a disproportionately large impact on global innovation, and has been rated as Europe’s most innovative business environment.231 The Academy of Finland,

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224 OE-A, Organic and Printed Electronics.

225 “A New Industry Shapes the Future of Printing,” Printed Electronics Now, December 2008.

226 “PolyIC, Kurz Present Touch Applications for Automotive Industry at IC 2013,” Printed Electronics Now, November 13, 2013.

227 “Evonik and AU Optronics Corp. Conclude Strategic Partnership,” Printed Electronics Now, December 2, 2010.

228 “IMEC Paves Way for Intelligent Item-Level RFID Tagging to Replace Bar Codes,” Printed Electronics Now, December 13, 2012.

229 “Evonik, Holst Centre Partner to Extend Thin Film Electronics,” Printed Electronics Now, February 12, 2013.

230 “Evonik Offers FLEXOSKIN Barrier Film for Protection of Flexible PV,” Printed Electronics Now, January 11, 2012.

231 Lisbon Council and Allianz Dresdner Economic Research, “The Lisbon Review 2008.”

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

TABLE 5-17 Finnish SMEs and Flexible Electronics Technologies

Company Technology
Beneg Roll-to-roll atomic layer deposition equipment providing barrier coating for flexible electronics and PVs
Canatu Flexible, highly transparent conductive carbon nanomaterial-based thin films for customized touch sensors
Iscent Printable holographic-like light-scattering films for smart packaging

a governmental funding body, finances basic scientific research activities in Finland, while Tekes, an agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, funds applied research.232 Tekes provides about 30 percent of total Finnish public funding of R&D; in 2010 it channeled €633 million in R&D support to Finnish universities, research organizations, companies, and public organizations.233 Tekes’ funding prioritizes collaborative projects (“programmes”) bringing together universities, research organizations, and companies, including EU projects.234 Between 2007 and 2013, Tekes implemented the Functional Materials Programme, a major R&D project to develop new applications and competitive advantage for Finnish industry through materials technology. Tekes provided €70 million of the project’s €140 million budget. The project included themes applicable to flexible electronics, and three participating Finnish SME’s developed R2R materials, equipment, and manufacturing processes that were transferrable to industrial applications.235 (See Table 5-17.)

Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (VTT, State Technical Research Center) is a nonprofit government-owned research organization subordinated to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy that provides applied research services in a broad range of technologies. It receives “basic” funding from the government of Finland and additional revenue from Tekes, the EU, and other Finnish and foreign governmental entities. (See Table 5-18.)

All told VTT derives greater than 73 percent of its turnover revenue from public funding.236

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232 Tekes, Tekes Review 289/2012, 20. The Academy of Finland is supervised by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Tekes by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. Ibid.

233Tekes Review, 25. In 2010, 61 percent of Tekes’ R&D funding was directed to small- and medium-sized enterprises and 70 percent was provided to companies with less than 500 employees (ibid., 28).

234Tekes Review, 32.

235 “Dr. Markku Heimo, Spinverse Ltd., and Dr. Markku Lumra, Teches,” Research Europe, April 15, 2013. Beneq reports that its R2R atomic layer deposition process (ALD) developed in the course of this project “is a true paradigm shift enabling high-throughput PV and OLAE applications.” “Roll-to-Roll Atomic Layer Deposition Technology for Producing Single Layer Ultra Barrier Films,” Flexible Substrate, February 2013.

236 VTT, VTT Review, 2012, 40.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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TABLE 5-18 VTT Sources of Revenue (2012)

Source Amount (Millions of Euros)
Basic government funding 94.0
Tekes 57.5
Other domestic public sector 25.7
EU 29.8
Other foreign public sector   4.4
Private sector (Finland) 58.2
Private sector (foreign) 16.9
Total Turnover 286.5

VTT began investing in research in “printed intelligence” in the late 1990s237 with an emphasis on commercialization, including the employment of business development specialists.238 This effort enjoyed some successes, such as the development with the packaging company Mreal of a process for printing RFID patterns directly onto packaging without using a silicon chip.239 In 2006 VTT established the Center for Printed Intelligence (VTT/CPI), which has grown into a research center with more than 100 employees and is equipped with pilot R2R manufacturing facilities. The Center collaborated with Ciba to develop printable functionalities in high-volume packaging and diagnostics.240 However, as VTT observed in 2010 “despite such efforts, the number of end products developed for/with our customers has been rather limited,” a phenomenon attributed to “expectations and excitement” that “often heightens to levels that current technological capabilities are not yet able to meet.”241

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237 “Printed intelligence” refers to components and systems that extend the applications of printing beyond traditional text and graphics and perform actions as part of functional products or information systems. It includes printed electronics components and systems on flexible substrates. PrintoCent, “Printed Intelligence,” <http://www.printocent.net/intelligence.htm>.

238 VTT, Research, Development and Commercialization Activities in Printed Intelligence, 2010, 4–5. Printo, a 3-year project that began in 2001, was funded by Tekes to develop methods for fabricating passive and active electronics and optical and optoelectronic elements using R2R fabrication processes. Printo led to the establishment of a pilot R2R production line at a VTT site in Oulu with a clean room and the capability to process paper, plastic, and other flexible substrates up to 20 cm in diameter. The same facility also included two gravure printers with thermal, infrared, and ultraviolet curing units, an R2R lamination unit, and an R2R hot-embossing machine. “Northern Lights,” Plastic Electronics, April-May 2008.

239 “Radio Barcodes Printed on Consumer Packaging,” Printed Electronics World, June 23, 2005.

240 “Ciba and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Expand Collaboration in Printed Electronics,” Nanotechwire, June 8, 2008.

241 VTT, Printed Intelligence, 4.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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In 2009, VTT, the University of Oulu, the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, the City of Oulu, and Oulu Innovation Ltd. founded PrintoCent, an organization tasked with creating business from emerging printed intelligence technologies through collaborations with large companies and demonstrator and piloting projects with smaller companies.242 PrintoCent launched a €10 million effort (2009-2011) to construct an applications design and pilot manufacturing environment for printed electronics and diagnostics in Oulu, an effort supported by public funding from the ERDF, the city of Oulu, and the State Provincial Office of Oulu’s Education Department.243 PrintoCent was expected to invest €15 million annually in R&D projects and to help create a skilled local workforce in the field of printed intelligence.244 By the end of 2013 PrintoCent employed more than 200 professionals. As of the end of 2013 PrintoCent had spawned 18 startup companies.245 In late 2013, the Chief Business Development officer of Ynvisible, a consortium member specializing in electrochromic displays using proprietary inks, summarized the benefits of the consortium to his company:

As a small company, we aim to do much of our experimental work in research and pilot facilities. This reduces our risks in making capital investments into equipment that we may not ultimately need or have very little use for. The PrintoCent facilities have evolved over more than 10 years, and based on earlier experiences. This same expertise accumulated within PrintoCent can help our company save time and money, as we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and repeat all of the earlier mistakes. Many people involved in PrintoCent have several years of experience in taking production of novel printed systems from lab into volume production of final products.246

In March 2012, the PrintoCent Roll-to-Roll and Hybrid Integration pilot factory was inaugurated, featuring six pilot lines offering scaling-up manufacturing, demonstration, and piloting services.247 According to a VTT spokesman the new facility was “the most advanced industrialization capability and service, being at least 2 or 3 years ahead of others.248 In 2012, VTT won an award at the IDTechEx

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242 PrintoCent is formally the Printed Electronics and Optical Measurements Innovation Centre.

243 “Converting State-of-the-Art Research Results Into Significant Business,” Printed Electronics World, June 11, 2009.

244 VTT, Research and Development Activities in Printed Intelligence, 2009, 6.

245 “PrintoCent Consortium Seeks to Develop, Commercialize Printed Intelligence,” Printed Electronics Now, December 2012.

246 One of the PrintoCent spinoffs is TactoTek Oy, which develops formable optical touch panels for applications in mobile phones, tablet computers, and other consumer electronics and industrial application ranging from coffeemakers to construction equipment. VTT, “Introducing Printed Electronics into Mass-Produced Articles,” <http://www.vtt.fi/references/introducint_printed_electronics_into_mass_produced_articles.jsp?lang=en>.

247 Harri Kopola, “Printed Intelligence Technology at VTT” (ERATO Seminar sponsored by JST ERATO Someya Bio-Harmonized Electronics Project, October 31, 2012).

248 “World’s First Pilot Factory for Printed Intelligence Industrialization Opens at VTT,” EurekAlert, March 13, 2012. In September 2012, the facility was upgraded to R2R assembly as well as R2R

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
×

Printed Electronics USA forum for “Best Technical Development Manufacturing” for its hybrid pilot manufacturing facility. The judges agreed that “the combination of manufacturing capability and expertise in one location gives unique opportunity to develop new products quickly and effectively from prototypes to proof-of-production level piloting.”249

Companies

Beneq

Beneq is a Finnish maker of thin-film coatings and coating equipment. Established in 2005 the company has grown rapidly through acquisitions. Financial support from Tekes was critical to the company’s initial growth, according to co-founder Tommi Vaino: “Thanks to the support of Tekes, we were able to set up a research environment in our facilities in Vataa. Without that support, we’d have been dead in the water.”250 In 2013, Beneq sold three of the world’s first scaled-up R2R atomic layer deposition systems, technology that can be employed for encapsulation of OLED and flexible photovoltaic devices.251

Enfucell Oy

Enfucell was founded in 2002 to commercialize the results of a decade of work at the Helsinki University of Technology led by Dr. Zhang Xiachang developing power sources for low-power applications. Enfucell’s Soft Battery is a printed flexible battery for use in disposable and short-use products such as RF sensors, RFID tags, cosmetics, drug delivery patches, and functional packaging. Soft Battery is comprised of environmentally friendly materials that can be disposed of with normal household waste. The company, which has now a number of awards, received early-stage funding from Tekes.252

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printing. “VTT Upgrades PrintoCent Pilot Factory,” Printed Circuit Design & Fab, September 20, 2012; “R2R Manufacturing of Organic PV Using Gravure and Rotary Screen Printing Technique,” Flexible Substrate, May 2013.

249 “Printed Electronics USA 2012 Awards Recognize New Developments,” Flexible Substrate, January 2013.

250 Tekes, “Beneq: Coating Manufacturer Ready to Grow,” 2013, <http://www.tekes.fi/en/tekes/results-and-impact/cases1/2013/beneq-coating-manufacturer-ready-to-grow>.

251 “Beneq Wins Tekes Commercialization Breakthrough Award,” Printed Electronics Now, December 19, 2013; “The Status and Outlook of R2R Atomic Layer Deposition Technology,” Flexible Substrate, January 2014.

252 “Great Potential Seen in Soft Batteries,” Helsingin Sanomat, March 20, 2007; “Enfcell Brings Expertise to the Printed Battery Market,” Printed Electronics Now, September 2009; http://enfucell.com.

Suggested Citation:"5 European Initiatives." National Research Council. 2014. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18812.
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Flexible electronics describes circuits that can bend and stretch, enabling significant versatility in applications and the prospect of low-cost manufacturing processes. They represent an important technological advance, in terms of their performance characteristics and potential range of applications, ranging from medical care, packaging, lighting and signage, consumer electronics and alternative energy (especially solar energy.) What these technologies have in common is a dependence on efficient manufacturing that currently requires improved technology, processes, tooling, and materials, as well as ongoing research. Seeking to capture the global market opportunity in flexible electronics, major U.S. competitors have initiated dedicated programs that are large in scope and supported with significant government funding to develop and acquire these new technologies, refine them, and ultimately manufacture them within their national borders. These national and regional investments are significantly larger than U.S. investment and more weighted toward later stage applied research and development.

The Flexible Electronics Opportunity examines and compares selected innovation programs both foreign and domestic, and their potential to advance the production of flexible electronics technology in the United States. This report reviews the goals, concept, structure, operation, funding levels, and evaluation of foreign programs similar to major U.S. programs, e.g., innovation awards, S&T parks, and consortia. The report describes the transition of flexible electronics research into products and to makes recommendations to improve and to develop U.S. programs. Through an examination of the role of research consortia around the world to advance flexible electronics technology, the report makes recommendations for steps that the U.S. might consider to develop a robust industry in the United States.

Significant U.S. expansion in the market for flexible electronics technologies is not likely to occur in the absence of mechanisms to address investment risks, the sharing of intellectual property, and the diverse technology requirements associated with developing and manufacturing flexible electronics technologies. The Flexible Electronics Opportunity makes recommendations for collaboration among industry, universities, and government to achieve the critical levels of investment and the acceleration of new technology development that are needed to catalyze a vibrant flexible electronics industry.

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