Who can forget the Plastic Logic Que proReader -- a textbook study on the vaporous gadget. Start with an incredible (but truthful) claim to have developed plastic semiconductors that could be used to fabricate flexible e-reader displays. Then follow up the breakthrough with the all-important consumer tease: an amazing (for the time) 8.5 x 11-inch e-reader with a gesture-based UI that would launch in the first half of 2009. Unfortunately, the Que never shipped and was ultimately canceled, partly because of reliability issues associated with manufacturing those early Que displays and partly because of the launch of a rather disruptive Apple tablet you might have read about. Fast forward to today and we've got the state-owned Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (Rusnano) announcing a $700 million investment in the US-based Plastic Logic Inc. Why? Are you listening? Plastics. Here's how this "unprecedented" investment was described by Georgy Kolpachev, Rusnano's managing director:
"Flexible plastic electronic displays will provide another major milestone in how people process information. Entering this new disruptive segment at the stage of its inception gives Russia a chance to win a leading position in global market of future electronics."
The investment will be used to pay off Plastic Logic's debt including a $50 million loan the company took out after approaching financial collapse. The rest will be used for a second plastic electronics factory in Russia (a sister to the Dresden Germany plant) which is expected to start production in 2013 or 2014.
Update: Press release added after the break offering more details on the "world's largest commercial plastic electronics factory" that will be capable of producing hundreds of thousands of "next-generation plastic electronics displays" per month.
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RUSNANO Finalizes Investment in Plastic Logic: $700 Million Total Investment Project Will Include Building World's Largest Commercial Plastic Electronics Factory in Zelenograd
Moscow, Russia and Mountain View, California – January 18, 2011– The Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO) and Plastic Logic today announced they have finalized details of RUSNANO's investment in the company, which is the global leader in the emerging field of plastic electronics. The investment project, which will total $700 million, includes building the world's largest volume production factory for Plastic Logic's next-generation plastic displays in Zelenograd, and aims to establish a commercial plastic electronics industry in Russia.
Plastic Logic has received an initial investment package of $300 million: Under the final agreement, RUSNANO is providing an initial investment of $150 million into the equity of Plastic Logic. Plastic Logic's lead investor, Oak Investment Partners, a multi-stage venture capital firm, is investing an additional $50 million as part of the project investment plan. In addition to the equity investments, RUSNANO will provide partial guarantees for debt financing in the amount of $100 million.
Over the next few years, additional equity and debt will be raised totaling approximately $400 million.
"We evaluated multiple locations and potential partners across the globe for our second factory. We determined Russia with RUSNANO as an investment partner was the best fit for our business," said Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta. "RUSNANO has demonstrated it is fully invested in our goal to commercialize plastic electronics. We are gratified by the RUSNANO investment package and the continued commitment of Oak Investment Partners in bringing this disruptive technology to market."
"Plastic Logic is one of the most promising new technology companies in Silicon Valley," said RUSNANO Managing Director Georgy Kolpachev. "This is an unprecedented investment of close to a billion dollars in the future of plastic electronics to help create one of the largest commercial centers for it in Russia. This investment signifies the potential that we see in the future of plastic electronics across a variety of commercial and consumer products: Flexible plastic electronic displays will provide another major milestone in how people process information. Entering this new disruptive segment at the stage of its inception gives Russia a chance to win a leading position in global market of future electronics."
Plastic electronics technology has the potential to revolutionize the design and production of electronic devices. This technology has many economic, manufacturing, form factor and environmental benefits, assuring that it will replace silicon in a variety of devices in the future. Plastic Logic is the leader in the development of this technology for commercial purposes and has developed broad and deep intellectual property in the technology and is actively advancing this technology in its labs and in manufacturing facilities. Plastic Logic's first application of the technology makes possible an amazingly thin, lightweight, robust and flexible active matrix display that is unmatched in the marketplace. The display is at the core of Plastic Logic's first commercial consumer electronics product, a next-generation electronic reader for business that is currently under development.
The Zelenograd factory, scheduled for production starting in 2013/2014, will have the capacity to produce hundreds of thousands of units of next-generation plastic electronics displays per month. Plastic Logic said it plans to employ 300-plus at the new Zelenograd facility.
Zelenograd was a natural choice for the home of the company's second and largest commercial plastic electronics display factory, according to Konrad Herre, Plastic Logic vice president for manufacturing, who led the site selection process. "Zelenograd is at the center of the electronics, microelectronics and computer industry and is the equivalent of Silicon Valley in Russia. Zelenograd has invested in the development of a Special Economic Zone with an excellent infrastructure for high tech industry, and is home to the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology (MIET), which gives us access to a highly educated and trained workforce."
At the same time, Plastic Logic plans the continued investment in its first high-volume, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Dresden, Germany, which opened in 2008, as well as its technology R&D center in Cambridge, England.