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UK start-up makes £52m investment in next-gen computing displays

Cambridge-based Plastic Logic to build facility to make flexible active-matrix displays for electronic readers

A UK start-up has received 52 million ($100 million) of funding to build a production facility to challenge current silicon-based technology by creating high-volume, lightweight and cost-effective plastic display units for mobile computing from next year.

Plastic Logic, which spun out of Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory in 2000, will channel the investment towards the creation of the first fully-commercial plastic electronics production plant in Dresden's Silicon Saxony region.

Once fully-operational, the new building will create flexible active-matrix display modules for 'take anywhere, read anywhere' electronic reader products, with the ease of use, portability and flexibility akin to reading a traditional paper-based document.

Plastic Logic will use a pioneering approach to produce the new innovations by fabricating active-matrix backplanes on plastic substrates. The result, when combined with an electronic-paper front plane material, is thin, light and robust displays.

Initially, the aim is to produce at least one million plastic display modules annually in a market that is predicted by IDTechEx to be worth as much as $250 billion by 2025.

"Our displays will enable electronic reader products that are as comfortable and natural to read as paper whether you're on a beach, in a train or relaxing on the sofa at home," said Plastic Logic's chief operating officer, John Mills.

"Wireless connectivity will allow you to purchase and download a book or pick up the latest edition of your newspaper wherever you are and whenever you need it. The battery will last for thousands of pages so you can leave your charger at home."

Simon Jones, vice president of product development at Plastic Logic, added: "Even in this age of pervasive digital content, our research shows that consumers are very reluctant to read on laptops, phones and PDAs.

"We still carry around enormous amounts of paper. However, people are making less room in their lives for the weight and bulk of paper and are becoming more sensitive to the environmental impact of printing to read. We believe there is a substantial unfulfilled need that Plastic Logic can meet by making digital reading a comfortable and pleasurable experience."

This latest phase in Plastic Logic's evolution has been boosted by funding from Oak Investment Partners and Tudor Investment Corporation. It complements previous investments by Amadeus, Bank of America, BASF Venture Capital, Intel Capital, Merifin Capital and Quest for Growth.

"Having backed Plastic Logic from day one, I am delighted that the first full commercialisation of plastic electronics is now firmly in our sights," said Hermann Hauser, director of Amadeus.

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