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Sink or Swim

in a move to strengthen its science, CDT renewed Friend’s relationship with the company. In April 1997, Friend became an executive board member and R&D director. As Chapchal describes it: “I said to him, you are claiming all the credit for inventing this thing, so now you are going to nail your flag to the mast and sink or swim by it.”

Chapchal also coaxed in a new round of investors. A group of entrepreneurs headed by Lord Young of Graffham, formerly chairman of the British telecommunications company Cable & Wireless and secretary of state for Trade and Industry in the British government, agreed to invest up to $7.5 million over four years. This was, says Chapchal, “one of the best deals I have ever done.” He is particularly pleased about the long-term nature of the investment. “I was acutely aware that no matter how good I am at managing, I have got a bunch of techies’ who want to spend money. If I had that amount of money in one year it would all go.”

Having refocused on technology development, CDT has made rapid progress. The company has now covered the spectrum with its LEPs. As well as the red, green and blue emitters that are essential for full-color images, CDT has created a palette of other colors. “There are a lot of monochrome applications that people want,” says Burroughes. For example, toy makers and companies wishing to display their corporate image in lights might be candidates for proprietary colors.

It isn’t just the technology that is racing ahead. The science proceeds in leaps and bounds, producing results that sometimes seem too good to be true. “I never thought we would get this good,” enthuses Friend. Indeed, the latest materials appear to be more efficient in emitting light than theory allows. This provides plenty of science to delight the academic scientists back at Cavendish Laboratory. Says Friend: “I never thought I would have such fun with it.”

If CDT is successful, those playing with glowing plastic toys and bendable display screens might eventually be mouthing the same sentiments.

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