2017 Katharine Burr Blodgett Medal and Prize

Professor Cliff Jones of the University of Leeds for inventions in the area of liquid crystal displays, and his role in the founding and commercial success of Displaydata – a leading supplier of graphic electronic labels for the retail sector.

Professor Cliff Jones combines a deep understanding of physics with entrepreneurial flair.

After having invented the Zenithal Bistable Display and founding Displaydata Ltd., his technical leadership has led to millions of units sold to the retail sector.

Jones began his career at the Royal Signals and Rader Establishment, Malvern (later Defence Evaluation and Research Agency), where he led the technical work for a multimillion-dollar collaboration with Sharp aimed at producing HDTV. This led to many awards, including the IOP’s Charles Vernon Boys Medal in 2000.

It was in in 1995 that Jones co-invented the Zenithal Bistable Display, an ultra-low power LCD that applies sub-micron gratings to an otherwise standard device. Seeing promise for application in electronic paper, Jones raised venture capital to form ZBD Displays Ltd., which became the UK Civil Service’s first venture-backed spinout in 2000, raising more than £50 m in total.

Acting as chief technology officer until 2013, Jones steered the company through licensing and fabless manufacturing business models to become a systems provider. Now Displaydata, it is the world leading provider of graphic electronic shelf-edge labels, with more than $22 m a year in sales. It was the 2012 recipient of the IOP Innovation Award, placed fifth in the Sunday Times Techtrack that same year, and was Europe’s second fastest growing technology company according to Deloitte.

Jones received the 2005 Ernst and Young Central Entrepreneur of the Year for Science and Technology award for his role in founding the company. This commercial success is rooted in novel physics associated with confinement of liquid crystals, topological defects and polarity that were unique in LCD but are now of major interest internationally. Jones’s accomplishments extend beyond physics to include novel manufacturing and ultra-low-power RF communication.

In 2013, he moved into academia after winning an EPSRC Advanced Fellowship. He has since co-founded a second spinout, Dynamic Vision Systems, which makes wirelessly switchable contact lenses, and acts as its CEO.