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31 July, 2006 - 12:12 By Staff Reporter

Personal projector firm looking to make it big following 3i-led funding

Personal video projector company Light Blue Optics (LBO) will double the size of its engineering team over the next nine months having closed a 3i-led seed funding round.

And with commercial interest in the company's technology building fast, Light Blue anticipates raising Series A within the next year, and will, according to interim CEO, Dr Chris Harris, "burst out" of its current Cambridge base in the "near future."

LBO secured £1.34m ($2.5m) from a syndicate led by 3i and backed by NESTA, the Cambridge Capital Group and local business angels. The company currently has an engineering team of nine but will double this in coming months, signalling a move out of its current base at St John's Innovation Centre.

Founded in 2004, LBO has developed a novel, patented laser projection

technology, PVPro, using laser light sources and diffractive techniques.

Because of the way it works, the technology is small enough to fit in mobile devices, is focus-free, low-power, robust, has no moving parts and is low-cost to manufacture.

According to Dr Harris, the proceeds of the most recent funding round will be used to fine-tune the technology to suit the needs of early adopting customers.

LBO has already achieved traction in the defence and aerospace and also automotive markets and is actively working with unnamed customers, not just in the UK, but around the world. Both segments will utilise the technology in 'head-up' displays, where in the case of cars, dashboard information is projected onto the windscreen.

Dr Harris said: “One of the principal aims at this stage is to take the risk out of the technology by getting it into the market with early adopters.”

The market for miniature projectors capable of displaying large, high resolution video images is expected to explode in the next five years as mobile device manufacturers seek to overcome the limitations of current small screens and unleash the vast and growing quantity of rich multimedia content trapped inside.

As with many of the most innovative companies, LBO is still coming across new applications for the technology. A recent trip to SID2006 in San Francisco has opened up a number of new opportunities for the company, with potential customers in previously unthought markets expressing interest in the technology.

LBO plans to retain the maximum value from its intellectual property position and aims to manufacture its own product, probably from an Asian base. Dr Harris indicated 2009 as a key inflection point - by which time the company hopes to be producing millions of units.

While it intends to retain its HQ and engineering centre in Cambridge, LBO said it would also be establishing a presence in the US at the “appropriate time.”

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