2009 Business and Innovation medal

Sir Richard Friend and Dr David Ffye

Cambridge University / Cambridge Display Technology

For guiding the company Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) to a pre-eminent position in the development of light-emitting polymers and in the development of the technology for flat-panel displays and lighting.

Light emitting polymer have huge technological potential. They can produce images of equal or better quality than CRT or LCD technology but from much lighter, thinner form factor, less complex to manufacture, more energy efficient modules. These polymer displays have already been commercialised into hand-held or mobile devices such as MP3 players and mobile phones, and in the near future are expected to migrate into TV manufacture. The technology is predicted to have a huge impact on everyday life. Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) is the world leader in development of light-emitting polymer technology, including materials and manufacturing process technology for these applications.

The discovery that certain polymers can emit light when an electric current is passed through them was made by Jeremy Burroughes under the guidance of Professor Richard Friend with assistance from Professor Donal Bradley, Dr Paul Burn, Professor Andrew Holmes and colleagues at the University of Cambridge in the late 1980s. Realising the potential for the technology, Friend and colleagues promoted the spinout of the intellectual property into Cambridge Display Technology. Funding was provided by the university, business ‘angels’ and local venture capitalists.

David Fyfe joined CDT in 2000 after the company’s original shareholders had sold the company in 1999 to two US-based private equity investment partnerships. He then led the expansion of the company from a laboratory-based research company to one which built a manufacturing process development line near Cambridge and entered the manufacture of inkjet printers in California to enable CDT’s technology to be applied on an industrial scale. From 2000 until late-2004 when David Fyfe led the company to a NASDAQ listing, nearly $80 million in new funding was raised to support the expanded activities and accelerate advancement of the technology. A number of key partnerships were formed in this period, including one with Sumitomo Chemical of Japan who after forming a joint venture for materials development in 2005, purchased the company in September 2007 and have subsequently expanded it to its current UK employment of 160, mainly scientists and engineers.

CDT has licensed its technology to eleven companies including Panasonic, Seiko Epson, Dai Nippon Printing and DuPont. It is the acknowledged leader in its field.