Ten European power management startups to watch in 2009
February 16, 2009 //
Ten Startups to Watch in 2009 in the European power management arena.
Winchester, UK - The credit crunch is continuing to nibble away at companies big and small in the electronics sector worldwide.
Tough times ahead for all concerned but potentially tougher for those startups that need to run faster on limited resources to gain a foothold in the market.
So as 2009 gradually cranks into gear here are my nominations for 'Ten Startups to Watch in 2009'. The list only focuses on European based startups in the power management application arena that have the most chance of 'making it' to 2010 and beyond. It will be interesting to see how these fledging organizations fare in 2009. Will they all succeed? Will they all fail? How many of them be absorbed by larger rivals? Will one of them grow so quickly they make a bid for NXP or Infineon? Time will tell.
The list is compiled alphabetically.
Arctic Silicon Devices AS (Trondheim, Norway)
Arctic Silicon Devices AS (Trondheim, Norway), which is a startup company led by executives previously with Nordic Semiconductor ASA, has already announced its Snowflake family of analog-to-digital converters which have been designed to consume a fraction of the power of market leading ADCs at better or superior performance.
The Snowflake family consists of the following products: the ASD0500: 13-bit dual channel 15- to 80-MSPS ADC, with power dissipation from 30 to 102 mW; the ASD0501: 13-bit single channel 15- to 80-MSPS ADC with power dissipation from 19 to 60 mW; the ASD0400: a 10-bit dual channel 15-80 MSPS ADC, power dissipation from 24 to 78 mW ASD0401: 10-bit single channel 15 to 80-MSPS ADC with power dissipation from 15 to 46 mW.
ASD employs a design technique where a physical optimum is found for biasing any given analog configuration. The company is targeting portable industrial markets such as medical and instrumentation.
During the first quarter of 2008, ASD secured 25 million Norwegian Krone (about $4.5 million) in a second round of funding.
The second round investors were Incitia Ventures AS and Proventure Seed AS investing 20 million and 5 million NOK respectively. Proventure Seed has already provided 4 million NOK (about $700,000) in October 2007.
ASD's CTO is Oystein Moldsvor who was previously CEO of Chipidea Microelectronica Norway AS.
CamSemi (Cambridge, UK)
CamSemi was named 'NMI Start-up of the Year' 2008 in the UK's National Microelectronics Institute (NMI) 12th Anniversary Awards. The award picks out only one early-stage business per year that demonstrates the most exciting growth potential.
CamSemi was founded to bring to market a new generation of power management ICs that help manufacturers more easily meet the world's increasing demand to save energy but at acceptable cost. CamSemi's products are based on patented and proprietary technologies including intelligent control architectures and PowerBrane ultra high voltage (UHV) process technology. The company's initial product offerings are targeting the switch mode power supply and lighting sectors.
CamSemi's power management ICs aim to optimize energy-efficient offline power conversion. The company's solutions are designed to help manufacturers of mains-powered electronics develop smaller, lighter and more energy-efficient products while also reducing their design timescales and system costs.
Since its inception CamSemi has shipped its 10 millionth C2470 RDFC controller chip. The company's C2470 family of controllers and novel Resonant Discontinuous Forward Converter (RDFC) topology was launched in late 2007 to help manufacturers replace bulky embedded or external linear power supplies with low cost, energy-efficient alternatives.
In November 2008 CamSemi unveiled its C2140 series of Primary Side Sensing (PSS) flyback controllers, which were claimed to offer 'best in class' current and voltage regulation of +/- 5 percent and targets high volume, universal input applications rated up to 8 W.
The innovative PSS controllers are designed to help manufacturers of chargers for mobile phones, Bluetooth headsets, digital cameras and other high volume consumer products cut component count, while developing more reliable and lower-cost designs to meet Energy Star 2.0, European code of conduct and other worldwide energy-efficiency regulations.
CamSemi's C2140 family eliminates the need for optocouplers and all secondaryside feedback circuitry, as well as any additional components that designers may need to specify to improve the current regulation from a typical PSS flyback design.
In May 2008 Denmark's BankInvest Group invested $8 million in the Cambridge-based company. CamSemi's C round funding brought the total sum the company has raised to $34 million (£17 million).
CamSemi was founded in 2002 by University of Cambridge scientists Prof Gehan Amaratunga and Dr Florin Udrea
EnOcean (Oberhaching, Germany)
EnOcean (Oberhaching, Germany), which is a Siemens spinoff, is targeting its energy harvesting technology at wireless sensor networks in buildings, which is predicted to become a multibillion dollar market.
At Electronica 2008 exhibition the company unveiled its new Dolphin system which aims to create new industry standards for wireless sensor networks and speed deployment of battery-less actuators and bidirectional links between sensors.
The core of the company's architecture is a new single-chip ASIC designed for energy and sensor management.
EnOcean claims to already have more than 500,000 radio nodes installed in "sustainable" buildings.
EnOcean's founder is Armin Anders.
G24 Innovations Ltd (Cardiff, Wales)
G24 Innovations Ltd., (Cardiff, Wales) is a startup company that is producing dye-sensitized thin-film solar cells.
G24i's business is based on research conducted by Michael Graetzel at Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. G24i acquired a license to manufacture the technology in Europe, with unlimited worldwide distribution rights, in 2006 and set up a manufacturing plant in Cardiff. The company has already produced a solar-power charger for MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones.
In September 2008 G24i and LED manufacturer Lemnis Lighting agreed to work together to create a range of high performance, solar powered LED lights aimed at both the developed and developing world.
The new lamps will be self sustaining and charge in a wide range of lighting conditions, including low light, cloudy environments. The LEDs are less energy intensive than compact fluorescent products (CFLs) and do not face the same disposal and recycling issues. The new joint development agreement will target three areas: Kerosene lighting in the Developing World; Home lighting in the Developed World and street lighting Worldwide.
In June 2008 G24i received a $20 million investment from Morgan Stanley Principal Investments Inc. (MSPI).
The money gives MSPI a minority stake in G24i while the company's founders, chairman Robert Hertzberg and CEO Edward Stevenson retain the majority of G24i's share capital. MSPI is set to take the lead in continued fundraising over the next two years.
G24i received a second major tranche of funding in July 2008 following a $30 million investment by the new Luxembourg-based renewable and alternative energy fund, 4RAE.
Light Blue Optics (UK)
Light Blue Optics Ltd., (Cambridge, England) is a company founded by photonics researchers from Cambridge University Engineering Department. The company is gearing up to produce small, portable, power-efficient image projectors suitable for use in battery-powered electronic devices such as mobile phones and digital cameras.
LBO's energy efficient holographic laser projection technology creates bright,high-quality video and still images with applications in markets including automotive and consumer electronics. The company demonstrated the new miniature projection systems at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month. The systems are designed to enable new applications for hand-held accessory pico projectors.
LBO plans to make its first product release to OEM customers in the second half of 2009.
Nujira Ltd. (Cambridge, England)
Nujira Ltd., (Cambridge, England), founded in 2002, is a supplier of RF power amplifier technology that tracks output to optimize power efficiency.
This month Nujira launched its Coolteq-I high accuracy tracking technology IP targeting handset RF front ends for 3G, LTE and WiMAX devices that are likely to hit the market in 2011.
The company is demonstrating the technology at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain and said an evaluation system is being made available now for about $50,000.
Test chips for Coolteq-I (for low-power) are scheduled for the third quarter of 2009.
Nujira is targeting major suppliers of power amplifiers and power management devices who may want to integrate the Coolteq-I IP into their devices.
Coolteq-I claims to halve the cost and double the battery life of a 4G terminal RF frontend compared with existing technologies, as well as covering three to five times the bandwidth of a standard design. Nujira suggests only two PAs would be needed to design a front end covering all 14 bands defined in the 3GPP for LTE, and all of the operating modes, compared with the seven or more devices needed with existing technologies.
This month Sumitomo Electric Industries (SEI) announced that it had developed the first cellular network product based on Nujira's patented High Accuracy Tracking (HAT) technology.
The new cellular network solution offers a low carbon footprint plus reduced operating and installation costs.
The new Sumitomo GED21RUP001 Remote Radio Head for WCDMA, HSPA and LTE applications was unveiled on at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
By using a Nujira Coolteq-h module, Sumitomo claims to have achieved world-leading efficiency, beyond that of Doherty-based designs. The new radio head dissipates less power as heat, eliminating the need for a fan, making the device smaller and lighter, with high levels of reliability and water-resistance.
Perpetuum (UK) (Southampton, England)
Perpetuum Ltd., (Southampton, England) was set up in 2004 as a venture capital backed spin out from Southampton University, where the concept for the technology originated. The company develops electricity microgenerators that can harvest enough energy from vibrations in plant and equipment to power sensor nodes and transmit data from them wirelessly.
Last summer Perpetuum won the award for the most promising European green-tech company at the 1st Transatlantic Green Platform event that was part of the 6th World Investment Conference held in La Baule, France.
In October 2008 the company revealed at ISA Expo its new wireless sensor node assessment kit, the wSNAK. The kit is a technology demonstrator to confirm to OEMs and end users the significant advantages and simplicity of condition monitoring systems powered by vibration energy-harvesting.
Earlier in 2008 Perpetuum and CAP-XX Limited (Sydney, Australia) collaborated to deliver what they claimed was the world's first energy harvesting-and-supercapacitor system for powering large wireless sensor networks.
Perpetuum's PMG17 vibration energy-harvesting microgenerator and CAP-XX's supercapacitors have been used at a gas plant in Norway to evaluate the solution.
In operation, the system uses the PMG17 to convert mechanical vibration into electrical energy (source provides 0.5 to 50 mW), and the CAP-XX supercapacitors for energy storage. Ultimately, the wireless sensors nodes can be powered indefinitely. The energy requirements include the power needed to transmit sensor condition data over wireless networks such as IEEE 802.15.4 (Zigbee) and 802.11 (WLAN). The microgenerator will support the power requirements of intermittent radio sensor systems such as Wireless HART, SP-100, and Wi-Fi in industrial applications.
Powervation Ltd. (Limerick, Ireland)
Founded in January 2006, Powervation Ltd., (Limerick, Ireland), features some of the world's most innovative digital power technologists among its senior management team who came together to develop a new class of power-conversion technology that could surpass the capabilities of traditional analog and existing digital approaches to transform the way power is delivered and managed. The fabless semiconductor startup's Auto-control solution is the result of that effort.
In September 2008 Powervation unveiled its Auto-control power-conversion technology. The new chip is targeted for electronic systems used in communications, computing and consumer devices. Early test results reveal system efficiency gains of up to 30 percent, along with a 50 percent improvement in transient response. A tiny footprint adds to the advantages which also include a 65 percent reduction in overall system components when compared to analog solutions. The new chip will be available in the first quarter of 2009.
The chip is based on the firmware implementation of automatic control algorithms that take dc/dc converter circuit parameters such as load, capacitance, inductance, and automatically adapt the power-control function to compensate. The company claims its solution stabilizes voltage conversion and transient response over a wide range of conditions.
Prelonic Technologies OG (Linz, Austria)
Prelonic Technologies OG (Linz, Austria), a printed electronics startup formed in 2007, revealed last month that it has built prototype samples of display-battery modules created by printing on a single substrate. The display-batteries are produced via screen printing on polyethylene terephthalate film (PET film), which is as thin as paper. The company plans to enter the market in 2009 with a product that can provide a flexible active display with integrated push-button for activation and the required battery.
The display-battery modules are designed to can operate as stand-alone solutions for marketing material, greeting cards or gaming cards.
Printed batteries and simple printed displays have been possible for some years but mass adoption has been inhibited by the need to integrate different components together.
Prelonic is ramping up production capacity for volume units with a five-stage roll-to-roll screen printer. The company is quickly moving into a new era of production scale volumes with the intention to progress to rotary screen-printing, gravure and flexi-printing equipment which will support high volume production technologies.
ReVolt Technology AS (Switzerland)
ReVolt Technology AS (Staefa, Switzerland) was formed as a spinoff from Norwegian contract research institute Sintef in 2004. The company claims its technology delivers substantially higher energy density at a competitive price compared to other rechargeable batteries and could replace lithium-ion batteries currently used in portable applications.
Last month ReVolt Technology secured Euros 10 million in a second round of financing that also includes a new strategic investor in the form of RWE, one of Europe's largest energy groups and a pioneer in renewable energy sources.
Participants include existing investors NorthZone Ventures, SINTEF, SOFINNOVA Partners, TVM Capital, Verdane Capital and Viking Venture and Euros 5.5 millon from RWE Innogy, which handles RWE's holdings in renewable energies.
ReVolt has now raised Euros 24 million since it was formed.
The company's founder and chief technology officer is Trygve Burchardt.
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