News story

David Willetts announces £8.4m investment in Plastic Electronics

Thirteen businesses have been successful in winning the funding via two competitions run by the Technology Strategy Board. They will help to…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Thirteen businesses have been successful in winning the funding via two competitions run by the Technology Strategy Board. They will help to cement the UK as a world leader in this emerging field.

The investment will fund research and development into Plastic Electronics technology which will lead to the creation of new and next generation products, such as flexible displays, and low-carbon technologies, including ultra-efficient lighting, and low-cost long-life solar cells.

Eight companies have been awarded a total of £7.4 million to help build the supply chain and overcome some of the barriers businesses face in taking new and innovative products to market. Just under £1m of this total comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Another five companies share around £1 million that will fund the roll out of projects to help encourage UK businesses to adopt the new technology in their product development.

David Willetts said:

“It is early days for this emerging field, but Plastic Electronics will give rise to a range of new exciting products, such as ultra-efficient lighting and cheaper, longer-lasting solar cells. Looking ahead, this technology offers enormous potential to help our local environment, improve our everyday standard of living and support the nation’s economy.

“The global market for Plastic Electronics is now worth almost $2 billion (£1.337 billion) and is forecasted to grow to as much as $120 billion (£80.19 billion) by 2020. The funding I’ve announced today is important in supporting UK businesses to be world leaders in one of the key industries of the future. Commercially exploiting the outputs of the UK’s world-leading science and research base has a vital role to play in helping our economy to grow.”

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said:

“The UK is among the world’s leading players in Plastic Electronics, and the opportunities to be a major part of a whole new manufacturing sector are very real. The benefits are potentially huge - for the UK economy, our society and the environment. And the sector is predicted to grow at an astonishing rate over the next two decades.

” Very sophisticated plastic electronics technology already exists but we believe that there are huge opportunities out there for much broader incorporation of the technology into products. The challenge is to entice companies, especially those from the design sector, to work with the technology.”

The Minister made the announcement at “Tomorrow’s Giants” - a conference hosted by the Royal Society and Nature _at Southbank Centre in London. This event is part of _See Further: The Festival of Science + Arts at the centre to celebrate 350 years of the Royal Society.

Notes for editors

  1. For media enquiries, contact Rachel Clarke, email: or tel: 18002 020 7215 5945

2. **Plastic electronics market value is forecast to rise from $2 billion (£1.337 billion) today to $120 billion (£80.19 billion) in 2020 (forecast by FlexTech in “Plastic Electronics Strategy for Success: Realising the UK Potential” issued by BIS in December 2009). The global market is measured in dollars, and the GBP equivalents are correct at time of publication.**

3. **Two of the 13 successful Plastic Electronics projects are: **

TOPDRAWER: Thin Organic Prototypes, Design, Research, Applications with Enduser Recognition

This innovative project seeks to show that it is possible to manufacture a printed lighting panel or ‘Polymer light-emitting diode (PLED) luminaire’ that can be used in a range of aesthetic designs. The aim is to produce the UK’s first printed ultra high efficiency PLED luminaire. The project is led by Thorn Lighting and involves Cambridge Display Technology (CDT), Tridonic, Pilkington, Conductive Inkjet Technologies (CIT) and Durham University.

The consortium will develop and demonstrate a printed manufacturing process that will then be integrated into attractive designs that have been created through consultation with potential end-users. This manufacturing process will then be proved and tested at the Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC), the UK’s national design, development and prototyping facility based at Sedgefield, County Durham. It will be made possible by the installation of a large-area coating line at PETEC in early 2011. This project will help to build a comprehensive UK PLED lighting supply chain and accelerate the development of a UK printed luminaire manufacturing process. The project seeks to help create a UK capability in novel manufacturing and make us globally competitive in this area. The consortium aims to demonstrate the strength of UK technology at the 2012 Olympics.


Morris - Manufacture Of Really Reflective Information Surfaces

This is a three year** **programme that aims to develop large reflective information surfaces that can be used for command/control rooms, electronic whiteboards, posters and signage, and architectural/interior design (electronic wallpaper). These would be reflective colour display surfaces, made by printed/plastic electronic processes. The project is led by Hewlett-Packard in partnership with Timsons, and the Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC), the UK’s national design, development and prototyping facility based at Sedgefield, County Durham. The aim is to develop:

  • the specification of a pilot line and material set

  • projected costs and yields

  • demonstration devices

  • components

  • processes

  • equipment

These will need to be sufficient to secure investment in pilot and then full manufacturing. The project is based on an innovative approach to:

  • reflective colour, particularly applicable to large area plastic displays

  • highly transparent and highly conducting structured electrodes

  • advances in organic semiconductors/TFT fabrication processes.

4. **More information about the two Plastic Electronics competitions **

The exact funding figures for each competition are as follows:

  • Plastic Electronics Demonstrator Competition: £992,990

  • Plastic Electronics Building the Technology Supply Chain (Collaborative R&D competition): Total: £7,447,380 (£6,619,360 contributed by the Technology Strategy Board and £828,020 by EPSRC).

**Plastic Electronics **will lead to the creation of a whole new range of products such as conformable and rollable electronic displays, ultra-efficient lighting and low-cost, long-life solar cells. Its market value is forecast to rise from $2 billion today to $120 billion in 2020. Currently the UK is among the world’s leading players in Plastic Electronics, and the opportunities to be a major part of a whole new manufacturing sector are both real and realisable. The UK has strengths in terms of research, development and commercial activity, and is well-placed to profit economically, in intellectual property obtained and in terms of manufacturing employment. The Technology Strategy Board’s vision is for the UK to build on its position as one of the leaders in this sector, with a vibrant mix of SMEs, larger indigenous companies and global systems businesses.

The two competitions help to address a pledge made in the Technology Strategy Board’s strategy for Electronics, Photonics and Electrical Systems published in October 2008 where, having identified the barriers to UK wealth creation, a commitment was made to stimulate the innovation needed to overcome them. In our strategy we stated that in the field of plastic and printed electronics, the UK should target the major issues of “identifying the applications with the greatest potential for exploitation, bringing together technology providers with the owners of the commercial and technical challenges, and engaging business innovators with the capacity to exploit the opportunities.

5. **More information about the Technology Strategy Board **

The Technology Strategy Board** **is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its role is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). For more information please visit

For general enquiries about this programme or the work of the Technology Strategy Board please ring 01793 442700.

Companies and other organisations seeking further information about these and other funding competitions should visit the competitions page of the Technology Strategy Board website at, email: or phone the Competitions Helpline at 01355 272155.

  1. BIS’ online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See []( for more information.

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Published 1 July 2010