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4 May, 2018 - 10:59 By Kate Sweeney

€5m French cash to accelerate Cambridge automotive tech

Novares, a global heavyweight in plastic solutions, has injected €5 million into Cambridge UK flexible electronics pioneer FlexEnable in an initiative geared to the automotive industry.

The strategic equity investment from the French business will drive FlexEnable’s roadmap to bring flexible organic LCD (OLCD) technology to automotive interiors – changing where and how displays are used in vehicles.

Automotive designers now have the freedom to replace today’s flat screens with bendable, wrappable, glass-free OLCD technology that is better suited to the shapes of the modern car interior while enabling ‘smart surfaces’.

FlexEnable’s proprietary organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) platform enables high-performance flexible displays and sensors on plastic substrates that can be applied to almost any surface.

A core application of this disruptive technology are organic LCDs (OLCDs) which are light, thin and shatterproof and can be bent (up to 10mm), conformed and shaped.

OLCD is the lowest cost flexible display technology – it can be manufactured on existing flat panel display lines and utilises an already established supply chain.

Its scalability to large sizes together with its high brightness and long lifetime make OLCD uniquely suited to meeting automotive lifetime and reliability standards by using already qualified materials and processes.

Chuck Milligan, CEO of FlexEnable, says: “We are thrilled to be working closely with and supported by Novares who have taken a leadership position in bringing smart surfaces to the automotive supply chain.

“With the automotive display market valued at $22 billion by 2022, this investment is a further validation of FlexEnable’s glass-free display technology and licensing business model.

“Currently being transferred into mass production, OLCD is serving the growing demand for low-cost, high-reliability, conformable and shapeable displays to meet the rapidly changing needs of the automotive HMI.”

Novares has created a Venture Capital fund of €50m to invest in the development of technological innovations over the next five years and the equity investment in FlexEnable is drawn from thjat well, according to Novares CEO Pierre Boulet.

“This investment in FlexEnable will support Novares’ new solutions for clean, light, connected and autonomous cars that are user-friendly, incorporating HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) with an improved passenger experience.” he said.

In March, Novares unveiled its Nova Car #1 demo which features FlexEnable’s flexible OLCD in the design of the cockpit.

Called FlexView, this innovation uses augmented reality to improve security and can be easily integrated into modern cockpits.

FlexEnable began the industrialisation of OLCD in July 2017 following a technology transfer and licence agreement with Chinese display manufacturer Truly Semiconductors.

OLCD is expected to be in mass production by the end of 2018 with target markets including automotive, consumer electronics, smart home appliances and digital signage.

Novares generated adjusted turnover of €1.2 billion last year and has 42 manufacturing plants in 21 countries along with research and technical centres. China, India, America and Europe.

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