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a universal thin film transistor platform for flexible and curved displays

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FlexTrans (a universal thin film transistor platform for flexible and curved displays)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-02-28

Summary of achievements:
Focused on design, development, industrialization & technology transfer of solution-deposited organic semiconductor backplanes
Breakthrough truFLEX® technology
o Slot-in replacement for silicon TFT layers
o World leading electronic performance, mobility of >4
o Compatible with existing manufacturing lines for displays both glass and plastic (flat, bendable or foldable)
o Full backplane stack compatible with 150-800 dpi
o Transistors robust enough to operate in the flexure region of flexible displays
Technology platform enables thinner, lighter, and stronger displays at lower cost
World class technology team
o 46 qualified professionals (15 PhDs, 4 MSc’s, 6 BSc’s) with 200+ combined years industrial & R&D pedigree

Overall, the project deliverables have been met and good technical progress has been made. In some areas the project is ahead of plan. For example, delivery of the proof of principle task relating to development of a best-in-class OSC materials set and matched TFT interlayer stack is ahead of plan. Similarly, substantial progress has been made in developing engineering Process of Records (PORs) to underpin transfer of the truFLEXTM materials onto display manufacturers’ lines. Commercial interest in the project outputs is high with two large display manufacturers in Asia keen to collaborate. These organisations have already signed Letters of Intent to commercialise the truFLEX/TransFlex technology.

Progress has continued on developing our Products & Processes, we have documented our Process of Records (PORs) and are developing them as necessary to meet the customer's specifications and requirements.

Through our successful execution and qualification on the Gen 1 platform, we are actively working with our customer to also qualify at Gen 3.5 technology. The project has assigned resources on both sides and is an excellent opportunity to further develop its products and processes and to enter the Market with a robust product. We plan to complete this qualification in late 2019 and then become qualified at Gen 3.5 soon after.

This should generate Revenues & grow our market share across our customer base, subsequent customer qualifications should follow. We are also looking at Licencing agreements with other customers to further grow our business. This should lead to the development of improved back planes for mobile phones, Tablets, Wearables and other applications. The technology could see a paradigm shift in the way back planes are manufactured and used in technology products.

For the consumer, products which are lighter, lower cost and more robust should enter the market in the foreseeable future and be applied across a number of applications and technologies. Future applications can then be developed further as the market develops.

Other customers should also adopt the technology to apply to their products e.g Automotive, Aerospace, Defence, Medical devices, home entertainment

The goals for the Flextrans project have been met as we have developed Processes &Products to meet our customer’s goals and technology roadmaps.
We have completed customer qualifications with more to follow.
We have engaged with several Investors a Partners in this process to further the development of our business
The truFLEX® technology is a new departure in the display industry as we continue to develop a flexible, low cost dynamic solution for display applications
The Flextrans project has helped to enable Smartkem to meet its growth plans and be an innovative organisation employing 40+ people in the UK, Europe and Asia
We were not able to complete the delivery of the product demonstrators, namely D4.1 colour LCD on plastic; D4.2 monochrome OLED on plastic and D4.3 colour OLED on plastic. This is mainly due to a decision by SKEM to replace the original ‘display demo’ partner (a UK based company). This decision was made based on a number of factors: said group was late in producing a demo for SKEM, but more importantly the project cost submitted by the partner was prohibitive and did not represent best value for money to the project.

Since this decision was made, we have;
- Developed our products to meet Gen 1 technology node & qualified with Customer T
- Qualified at 8 Inch TEG process with Customer T
- We have grown the organisation to 46 people
- Renewed our Agreement with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI)
- Signed Agreements with BASF to develop our Intermediate materials on 1KG scale.
- Qualifying other suppliers to further support supply chain needs
- 14 broad patent families filed & across these families we have 50 granted patents in different geographic territories including China, Taiwan, Korea, USA & Europe.
- Employed more R&D personnel to further developing our IP & technology
- Constructing two Clean areas in our current facility to increase both capacity & capability.

Financially, Smartkem is backed by a number of key Investors who have supported the growth of the company, they recognise the progress we have made so far and continue to support and invest so that we are able to further develop our products. This should lead to more opportunities to qualify with customers and to further the truFlex/Smartkem brand.
A decision was taken to collaborate with Asian display makers to prepare the project display demos. This is a technically more challenging approach as the technology demands of display manufacturers are high and unfettered access to their equipment is not always possible. Nevertheless, the benefits of working with display makers as part of the TransFlex project are significant. The benefits include low cost fabrication of demos to the project, development of commercially relevant demos on real display production lines (refer to Fig 1.1 for schematic of mobile phone display being developed). Moreover, these companies represent an excellent route towards short-term commercial exploitation of the project outcomes.

We developed working mobile phone demonstrators with Customer T, they were developed on the customer's Pilot line in Asia. These are LCD demonstrators so we met this goal although this is based on a rigid substrate, not flexible substrate

Further development of our products and processes have progressed us to qualifying at Gen 1 technology with one of the above customers, we are moving to qualifying at Gen 3.5 technology node through 2019. A full qualification at Gen 3.5 would demonstrate another major step forward for the truFlex products and confirm it as a market leading product.

Subsequently, this would equate to further growth of Smartkem in terms of market value and of the brand, added value for Supply chain and possibly further investment by external parties. We plan to qualify with other customers through Q3 19 and onwards which should grow the truFlex brand further.

From an end user perspective, once the product is released to the market, consumers should be able to purchase devices which are lighter in weight and produced with lower costs which may give a more robust performance in terms of 'flexibility and performance' than traditional products. The potential applications are numerous but should add value to the end user experience.