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17 May, 2012 - 08:32 By Tony Quested

UK-Russia plastronics research axis planned

Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee

Plastic Logic is bringing UK and Russian academics into an innovative Cambridge-Moscow research axis to promote plastic electronics technology as a catalyst for a new industrial revolution.

In an interview with Business Weekly, CEO Indro Mukerjee said there was already buy-in to the plastronics blueprint from academics in both territories.

The alliance would involve research collaborations and academic exchanges, principally between Cambridge and Moscow.

Mukerjee said it was time to show the world the full power of plastronics as a game-changer in the design and manufacture of both consumer and non-consumer products. He believes Plastic Logic’s flexible displays technology is central to the revolution.

He said: “Given the roots of plastronics within the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, principally through the efforts of Richard Friend and Henning Sirringhaus, we felt there was a wonderful opportunity to advance the cause  of plastronics throughout global industry.

“Our Russian researchers also have some exciting ideas to develop the technology and collaborating with our Cambridge R & D team can only be beneficial. As well as this cross-pollination in house we felt there was a broader play – to involve academia at the highest possible level in each country.

“So we are building links between our Russian researchers and the Cambridge academic scene. We intend to create a centre of plastronics excellence in Russia, feeding on our own Anglo-Russo research – and discussions are already taking place about academic exchanges and collaborative projects that could be pursued in either or both territories.

“There is some excellent science in this research area in Russia and their expertise is highly rated by Cambridge professors. The respect is mutual. We would like to further drive the initiative down into university culture by extending the programme to include sponsored student exchanges.”

Mukerjee was speaking after the company revealed it was halting eReader product development and manufacture to concentrate on what it called wider market opportunities for the technology.

Plastic Logic said that jobs in Cambridge and Dresden would be lost as part of the pivot but Mukerjee declined to say how many until proper processes had been followed within the business. As announced here yesterday, the company is closing its US operations, leaving a triple R & D and manufacturing model spanning Cambridge, Germany and Russia.

Mukerjee insisted the job losses were a consequence of the change of strategy and that the company didn’t engineer a situation to lose headcount. The support of Rusnano, Russia’s state-owned nanotechnology powerhouse, which helped Mukerjee create the new strategy, means that the company is well placed financially having raised the best part of $1 billion.

Mukerjee said: “We sat down with our major investors and took stock of our technology and its capabilities. Approaches from third party companies brought home to us the potential of our technology in much wider applications and we felt that this new approach would be more profitable for the business going forward than focusing on the eReader development and production function.

“Even companies who would have been our competitors in eReader production are approaching us to talk about incorporating our flexible displays into their own products on a licensing model.

“The change of strategy was well thought through and in many respects we have been brave in being so open and honest about our reasons for it, regardless of what any critics might say.”

The company intends to showcase some of the potential applications for its technology at a Cambridge ‘open house’ in the near future. It says it is already fielding approaches from a number of third-party partners keen to incorporate plastronics displays into their products.

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