The Royal Academy of Engineering is joined tommorrow evening by eminent polymer pioneer Professor Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS for lecture V of the Prime Innovator series to discuss the challenges of introducing radical innovation into the manufacturing environment.

Professor Sir Richard Friend holds the Cavendish Professorship of Physics in the University of Cambridge, where he has worked on the fundamental physics of organic semiconductors, drawing in collaborations from materials science, chemistry and engineering. With a reputation for academic excellence and bold commercial innovation, he will offer an insight into his fascinating field of work, at the Academy’s event on 1 February.

While carbon-based molecular semiconductors were seen as ‘scientific curiosities’ in the 1990s, they have now been engineered to provide very effective semiconductor operation in a wide range of devices, including light-emitting diodes, field-effect transistors plus solar cells and when made into polymers, can be coated or printed over large areas.

Sir Richard’s work has revolutionised optoelectronics and continues to have far-reaching consequences for energy efficient applications in screens, lighting and solar energy. Current applications of such polymer technology include cheap organic solar cells and e-paper displays, with the polymers’ robust, flexible and low-weight properties making it perfect for such products.

Excitingly, the technology has the potential to lower materials and manufacturing costs well below current semiconductor technology levels, which could make it suitable for large-scale adoption of solar cells and help to boost renewable energy prospects.

In his talk, Sir Richard will suggest how scientific innovation can be developed to have commercial applications, drawing on his experience as co-founder of a trio of university spin-out companies - Cambridge Display Technology (1992), which received the Academy’s McRobert Award in 2002, Plastic Logic (2000) and Eight-19 (2010).

Sir Richard is a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Society and received his Knighthood for services to physics in 2003. He received the Academy’s prestigious Silver Medal in 2002 and has received several honorary degrees and international prizes in recent years, including the 2009 King Faisal Prize for Science and was shortlisted for the world’s largest award for technological innovation, achieving the accolade of 2010 Millennium Technology Laureate.

Sir Richard said: “I believe the way we currently use electronics is determined by some undesirable characteristics of the technology. The use of silicon and other inorganics in the production of semiconductors, defines the way this type of semiconductor can be used.”

“What is interesting is what we can achieve by making much larger areas of organic semiconductor structures at lower temperatures and therefore put them on flexible sub straights so the technology could be put on almost any surface”

“At Cambridge University, we have shown that scientific innovation can be developed to have commercial applications. It is exciting and satisfying to see an academic breakthrough in organic semi-conductors become a business-orientated engineering reality and shape future applications of optoelectronics,” he added.

Prime Innovator V lecture takes place on 1 February at:
The Royal Academy of Engineering
3 Carlton House Terrace
London SW1Y 5DG
6.00pm for 6.30pm

Download the flyer (1.13 MB)

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton