From 1996 to 2012, venture capitalists (VCs) invested $7.5 billion into printed, flexible, and organic electronics, chasing the space’s potential to displace incumbent technologies – as the $2 billion organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display market in smart phones demonstrated in replacing liquid crystal displays (LCDs). These technologies are also forging new markets that were previously not addressable with incumbent solutions – such as the smart packaging industry. VC interest has created considerable hype, leading to investment in the space peaking in 2007 with $990 million. Since then, several high-profile bankruptcies – such as Konarka Technologies, Polymer Vision, and Evident Technologies – have soured many investors’ impression of this space, and investment has since declined, reaching $626 million in 2011. To guide investors in sorting out real potential from the pack, we evaluated technologies on their technical value potential and amount invested, and identified five underfunded, high-potential technologies – electrochromics, electrowetting displays, metal oxide thin-film transistors (MOTFTs), touch sensors, and metal nanowire transparent conductive films (TCFs). However, there are many technology areas, including organic photovoltaics (OPV), thin-film batteries, and microelectomechanical systems (MEMS) displays that are overfunded, with low technical value potential and large investments already committed. Finally, we identified Dow, Intel, and Samsung as the trendsetters among corporate venture capitalists (CVCs), with high investment activity and the investment going into high-value technologies, whereas most CVCs lag with lower activity, with several dabblers, such as GE, missing the mark on their investments.
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