The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has announced £8m worth of government investment into new plastic electronics technologies to accompany the launch of a National Strategy for Plastic Electronics.
The strategy will identify key issues that must be addressed for the UK to lead the supply of plastic electronics and will recommend solutions, including actions to encourage, coordinate and facilitate investment and to support business growth.
The TSB will launch two business-focused competitions early next year to help facilitate the recommended solutions.
The first, which opens in January 2010, will encourage top sector representatives to compete for a total of £3m that will go towards devising, developing and demonstrating projects that facilitate UK businesses to use plastic electronics in their product development.
The second, a £5m collaborative research-and-development competition, is intended to build the supply chain and to overcome barriers to the UK exploitation of plastic electronics technology.
Business secretary Lord Mandelson, who launched the UK strategy on 7 December, said: ‘The benefits of plastic electronics technology are potentially huge for the UK economy, our society and the environment. And the sector is predicted to grow at an astonishing rate over the next two decades.
‘The aim of our strategy is to ensure the UK can take advantage of these new opportunities and enhance our world-leading position in the sector by up-scaling our manufacturing processes, improving our skills and boosting productivity. The TSB’s work will play an important role in this,’ he added.
According to Iain Gray, chief executive of the TSB, sophisticated plastic electronics technology already exists but there are more opportunities for further incorporate the technology into products.
‘The challenge is to entice companies, especially those from the design sector, to work with the technology,’ he said.
Plastic electronics allows circuits to be produced at relatively low cost by printing electronic materials onto any surface, whether rigid or flexible. The process differs from the assembly of conventional silicon-based electronics and it is hoped by many in industry that plastic electronics will lead to the creation of a whole new range of products.