Since 1996, printed, flexible and organic electronics have garnered more than $7.5-billion in venture funding, led by investments in display and smart packaging technologies. However, funding has sharply declined from a peak of $990-million in 2007 to $626-million in 2011.
“A number of high-profile failures like Konarka have soured many investors’ impressions of this space, cutting away some unwarranted hype, but potentially raising the hurdles for companies with more promising technologies to secure funds,” says Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report Printing for Profits: Investments and Opportunities in Printed, Flexible, and Organic Electronics.
“Our analysis shows glaring funding imbalances,” he added. “While there are areas such as organic photovoltaics that are overfunded, promising technologies such as electrowetting and electrochromic displays haven’t received investment that matches their potential.”
Lux Research analysts surveyed the investment landscape, assessing the current state of affairs and identifying opportunities. Among their findings:
* Display technologies have huge potential. Electrowetting, electrochromic, and metal oxide thin-film transistors (MOTFTs) are potential gold mines, offering high technical performance and value, relative to competing reflective displays and TFTs.
* Asian startups underfunded. North America leads overall investment at $5.1 billion, or 67% of the world total. However, Asian start-ups, like OLED developers in South Korea, account for just $506 million of investing – indicating not a lack of innovation but the need for an alternate funding model.
* Dow, Samsung, Intel are the corporate investment trendsetters. Dow Chemical, Samsung, and Intel lead corporate venture capital (CVC) investors, with high levels of activity in this space. Their best bets have targeted the more promising, higher- potential technologies such as OLEDs and RFID.