St Andrews tech spin-out gets over £200,000 funding boost
SolOLED, a tech spin-out company from the University of St Andrews that develops emitter materials for solution-processed organic light-emitting diodes (SP-OLEDs), vital in every day consumer electronics such as TVs and monitors, has received a £237,000 funding boost from Scottish Enterprise and CENSIS.
The materials developed by SolOLED are much more sustainable and cost-effective than those currently employed as they do not contain some of the planet’s scarcest metals.
SolOLED, formed last year as a spin-out company from the Zysman-Colman research group at the University’s School of Chemistry, has recently been awarded company creation funding from Scottish Enterprise and has also initiated a collaborative research project with CENSIS – Scotland’s innovation centre for sensing, imaging, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies – to commercialise its novel materials as components in SP-OLEDs.
Like traditional LEDs, OLEDs produce light when an electric current passes through them, the colour of which is linked to the nature of the emitter material used. Current solution-processed green and red OLEDs employ emitters that contain the scarce, environmentally impactful, and costly noble metal iridium.
OLEDs are rapidly replacing traditional LED and liquid-crystal display (LCD) technologies and are used in a variety of technologies that are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in modern life, such as smart watches, mobile phones, and TVs. They are also key components of more flexible, large area, and interactive technologies, including VR headsets and transparent touch screens, in the future.
The global market for OLEDs is expected to expand significantly over the next few years, with the OLED panel market alone predicted to grow by 12.9% annually from 2021 to 2026. Solution-processed OLEDs currently represent a small but rapidly growing segment of overall OLED sales and the market for the materials that are used in solution-processed OLEDs is projected to have a year-on-year growth of around 145%.
Eli Zysman-Colman, Professor of Optoelectronic Materials from the University of St Andrews School of Chemistry and CEO of SolOLED, said: “The market for solution-processed OLEDs is growing apace and will need new and improved performance materials to feed its supply chains. We believe we are the first company to be dedicated to developing sustainable materials that can replace the scarce, noble metals presently used in solution-processed OLEDs. While they have different physical properties, the materials have similar performance characteristics, but with the added benefit of being much cheaper and more sustainable than the compounds that contain iridium.
“Although the concept behind our materials has existed for decades, its relevance to OLEDs has only really been put into practice during the last ten years. Our specific focus is on developing emitter materials for solution-processed OLEDs. The next step is to commercialise these materials and the project with CENSIS and funding from Scottish Enterprise will help in this endeavour. We are still early in the process, and we have a variety of events coming up this year where we can demonstrate the technology and showcase it to potential investors and customers.”
Natalia Lukaszewicz, Business Development Manager at CENSIS, said: “SolOLED’s materials could be revolutionary for the global solution-processed OLED market. The sustainability benefits are potentially huge, removing the need to mine scarce, precious metals that typically underpin emitters. In turn, this could have a significant impact on the cost of producing a range of everyday technologies, as well as a broad range of other applications in the future. This project underlines the quality and commercial potential of the research being undertaken in Scotland’s world-class universities, which we aim to unlock with our industry knowledge and connections.”
Jane Martin, Managing Director of Innovation and investment at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The development of SolOLED’s novel materials has the potential to address the main barrier to the widespread adoption of OLED technology – cost – as well as creating a truly sustainable alternative to traditional LEDs.
“By commercialising its materials with support from Scottish Enterprise and CENSIS, SolOLED can seize the opportunity presented by this growing market and cement Scotland’s reputation as a leading centre of academically-driven entrepreneurship, while aiding global efforts to address the net zero challenge.”
CENSIS is the centre of excellence for sensing and imaging systems (SIS) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, which helps organisations explore innovation and overcome technology barriers to achieve business transformation.
As one of Scotland’s innovation centres, CENSIS’ focus is not only creating sustainable economic value in the Scottish economy, but also generating social benefit. To do this, CENSIS’ industry-experienced engineering and project management teams work directly with companies or in collaborative teams with specialist university research experts. Working with CENSIS allows organisations to implement quality, efficiency, and performance improvements and fast-track the development of new products and services for global markets.
The CENSIS host institution and administrative hub is the University of Glasgow.
The Scottish Innovation Centre programme
The Scottish Innovation Centre programme, which was launched in 2013, brings together a network of Innovation Centres focused on different industry sectors or cross-cutting areas of innovation. Each Centre works to establish bonds between Scotland’s universities, colleges and research institutes and industry sectors, translating academic knowledge and expertise into commercially valuable skills and improvements that benefit individual companies as well as Scotland’s overall economy.
Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.