Euro electronics backing

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in County Durham has received a £2m grant for the development of plastic electronics.

The grant, from the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13, will fund the installation of a new clean room that will take part in the large-area coating equipment (LACE) project.

The room will be located at the CPI’s Printable Electronic Technology Centre (PETEC) at NETPark and is estimated to create 40 new jobs, assist 20 specialists and provide university training courses in prototype plastic electronics for solid state lighting (SSL) techniques.

Tom Taylor, PETEC director, said PETEC and LACE will help small to medium-sized enterprises develop flexible printed circuits further: ‘We are talking about leading-edge, high-tech products like wearable display devices, portable storage media and design-intensive, low-energy lighting applications.’

Further applications include technologies such as flexible computer displays or electronic newspapers and sensors.

According to Taylor, the manufacturing processes behind these technologies are much cheaper than current electronics technology and require lower levels of capital investment.

One North East chief executive, Alan Clarke, said: ‘Printable electronics as a group of technologies is predicted to be a $30bn industry by 2015.

‘While most electronics manufacturing is currently monopolised by Asia, fundamental technology advances in printable electronics in our region are enabling smaller-scale and quicker specialist prototyping and manufacturing.

‘The UK is at the forefront of this industry, as much of the technology and early leading companies have originated here.

‘The project will boost the role of PETEC and CPI in NETPark, an identified innovation connector in the ERDF 2007-13 Operational Programme.’

See the 20 April issue of The Engineer to read about the PETEC customisable production line that allows SMEs to create prototypes and scale up their production processes