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September 9, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 7:01pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Former Cable & Wireless Plc chairman Lord Young, who says companies rarely keep quiet when he’s involved in them, has given details of his venture capital company’s investment in Cambridge Display Technologies Ltd, the company with the Light Emitting Polymer technology which Lord Young says could at the very least bring thin screen displays to every desktop. Lord Young’s Young Associates, which he describes as a ‘virtual bank’, has put together an international group of private investors through a Netherlands-registered company formed exclusively for the Cambridge funding, Light Emitting Polymer Investments BV. This company will invest some 6.6m pounds over four years, 2m pounds immediately which will give it an 18% stake in Cambridge Displays, and a further option of additional investment of up to 4.6m pounds in the next four years, which would see its stake increase to 31%, making it the largest single investor. Following the appointment of Danny Chapchal as chief executive last year (CI No 2,993), Cambridge Display embarked on a course of becoming a licensing and technology transfer company, with its patented Light Emitting Polymer technology. According to Chapchal, the company wanted the cash injection to enable it to pursue its strategy of judiciously limiting its licensing activities. In other words, until the technology is really proven and accepted, the true value of the licenses is hard to establish. The company is therefore being selective about which companies it wants to sell licenses to. So far, it has sold ‘low information’ licenses, for applications using less than 100,000 pixels, to Phillips Electronics NV, Uniax Corp and Hoechst AG, and one high information license, for a very specific application, to Californian Astounding Technology Inc.

Race is on

Although it says it has had many people knocking on its doors in the past few months, it wanted the cash behind it to be able to take its time and license only those companies that have something to bring to the party. Lord Young’s company backs a variety of businesses, not all of them in technology, but he does seem to have a penchant for technology start-ups. His interest in Cambridge Display was fired by his involvement with UK company Powerdesk Plc, which offers personal computers built in to a variety of desks and tables, with just a thin screen on show. Lord Young says on a trip to Japan to discuss thin screen technology, he realized the enormous demand there would be for flat screens, not just for notebooks, but more significantly for desktops, as soon as the price comes down. He says the race is on to develop an economic flat screen display, and he believes the key with any new technology is in the time it takes to get to market. He reckons Cambridge Display has another couple of fences to overcome before the technology is perfected, but says what attracted him to put what amounts to his own personal money into the venture, was the possibility that if it succeeds, the market for LEP technology is virtually unlimited. In a recent internal study, Phillips apparently came up with almost 70 ideas for applications using the technology. Lord Young takes over from David Mann as non-executive chairman of Cambridge Display Technology Ltd, and another of the new investors, Godfrey Bradman, joins the board.

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