IQE to acquire UK developer of GaN wafer technology

The acquisition of NanoGaN will enable IQE to accelerate commercialisation of advanced blue/green lasers and solid-state lighting products.

IQE plc, a UK-based supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers, is to acquire UK based NanoGaN Limited, a company which has developed a range of unique processes and key intellectual property relating to gallium nitride (GaN) materials and devices. This includes NanoGaN’s proprietary Nanocolumn Technology for producing high quality, free-standing GaN substrates, which can be used as the starting point in the manufacture of blue and green semiconductor lasers and LEDs.

NanoGaN’s proprietary technology is at an advanced stage, and IQE plans to assist in completing the development of commercial products. It will then begin the transfer of the technology to its high-volume production facilities, where it is expected to begin generating sales in 2010, followed by rapid sales growth as the technology is commercialised.

The acquisition complements and enhances IQE’s existing product portfolio by accelerating the Group’s strategic plans to develop a leadership position in the emerging high growth markets for advanced laser projection, high definition optical storage (including Blue Ray products), high resolution laser printing and solid-state lighting for industrial, commercial and residential lighting. NanoGaN’s core technology will also be used to further enhance IQE’s leading position in the supply of GaN products for high-power RF applications.

Strengthening IQE’s intellectual property position, NanoGaN brings with it seven filed patents, and several additional innovations for which patents will be submitted.

As part of the deal, Professor Wang, the CEO of NanoGaN and inventor of the nanocolumn technology, will become Chief Scientific Advisor to IQE. Professor Wang is widely acknowledged as a world-leading advanced materials scientist with significant commercial and advisory experience. He was co-founder of Arima Optoelectronics Corporation, a leading optoelectronics company listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Professor Wang has a history of successfully patenting innovative technologies, and many of his 26 granted patents continue to be used for mass production within the optoelectronics industry. He has also acted in advisory roles, including Scientific Advisor to ITRI (the Industrial Technology Research Institute, Taiwan) and to the Taiwanese Government.

The deal is worth up to GBP3.6 million (about $5.75 million), based on the achievement of milestones relating to the commercialisation of the intellectual property. The initial consideration of GBP0.4 million will be settled by the issue of new shares and cash. IQE has the option to settle the future milestone payments in either shares or cash.

Drew Nelson, CEO of IQE, said “The acquisition of NanoGaN represents a major milestone in our technology roadmap, and reinforces our strategy of being a powerful IP based technology leader in the supply of advanced semiconductor materials to a multitude of high-growth markets.

Professor Wang said “NanoGaN has reached a very exciting stage of development. Our Nanocolumn technology provides a unique approach to overcoming the challenges facing the advancement of blue and green laser technology, high-density optical storage and ultra-high-efficiency solid-state lighting.

“This transaction represents a unique opportunity for the commercialising of NanoGaN’s world leading technology and cements our long term relationship with IQE. We carefully selected IQE as the ideal partner to bring our intellectual property to mass production based on its track record and its experience. In addition I am extremely excited to accept the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the IQE Group, to help further advance their powerful portfolio of IP based production technology for advance semiconductor materials”

IQE uses advanced crystal growth technology (epitaxy) to manufacture and supply bespoke semiconductor wafers (known as epiwafers) to the major chip manufacturing companies, who then use these wafers to make the chips which form the key components of virtually all high technology systems. IQE is unique in being able to supply wafers using all of the leading crystal growth technology platforms.

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