Ultra-thin and low-cost flexible microcircuits, incorporated into mass-market objects and packaging, are poised to revolutionize everyday living by providing consumers with real-time information about every aspect of their environment.
These devices are the work of PragmatIC Printing Ltd, a world leader in flexible electronics, which has just completed a £5.4 million funding round led by Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) with support from ARM Holdings and existing shareholders to scale-up its operations.
Scott White, Chief Executive Officer at PragmatIC, explains: “We have become accustomed to silicon chips being incorporated into high-value documents such as passports and credit cards, but there are limitations to how robustly and cost-effectively this can be done. Our technology platform creates a microcircuit thinner than a human hair that can be easily embedded in any flexible surface.”
The applications for PragmatIC’s devices, which are cost-effective enough to be incorporated into disposable items, are vast: from intelligent packaging of fast-moving consumer goods, to wireless traceability of documents for security and identification.
PragmatIC, which is headquartered in Cambridge and has a production facility based at the National Centre for Printable Electronics in Sedgefield, is using the funding to hire more staff and to enable the scale-up of its production capacity to 100 million flexible integrated circuits later this year.
Victor Christou, Senior Investment Director of CIC, which provides long-term growth funding for life science and technology companies in the Cambridge Cluster, said: “PragmatIC’s flexible electronics offers the most compelling and cost effective product I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been involved in this industry. The company has already demonstrated a scalable and cost-effective manufacturing process. With CIC’s support, the company can now meet the pent-up demand from customers for higher volume commercial production.”
The funding also allows PragmatIC to broaden its circuit design activities, including applications such as sensors, processors and wireless communications: the essential building blocks to enable the emerging Internet of Things.
“ARM is committed to identifying innovative and disruptive new technology platforms,” said Mike Muller, Chief Technology Officer of ARM. “We are supporting PragmatIC as they have the potential to dramatically extend the range of form factors and economics of embedded intelligence. We see particularly compelling possibilities to embed connectivity and computational power in everyday objects at extremely low cost.”
The funding comes alongside a growing revenue base from large multi-national customers across a number of sectors, including consumer goods, security printing and wearable electronics. While most of these relationships remain confidential, development projects with industry leaders such as Procter and Gamble, De La Rue plc and Hallmark have been previously announced.
Scott White adds: “We are hugely excited by both the additional resources and the strategic contribution that will result from this investment by CIC and ARM. We look forward to further developing our world-leading technology platform and blue-chip customer base through the course of 2015.”