ONE of Hampshire’s most cutting edge companies that pioneered display screens that can roll-up like paper, has folded at the cost of nearly 50 Southampton jobs.
Based in Millbrook, Polymer Vision was set to release the world’s first commercially available flexible display screen until its Dutch parent fell victim to the global recession.
Known as the Readius, the screen was first intended to be released in a mobile phone but later turned into an e-reader – an electronic alternative to books.
It was developed from technology researched at Southampton University and “spun-out” into a private company called Innos.
That was bought by a consortium, including an offshoot of Dutch technology giant Phillips, for an undisclosed sum. It had plans to use its world-leading techniques to replace glass screens in portable devices.
Hopes were high with a £3m investment in hi-tech clean room production facilities in the Millbrook Technology Campus and company bosses claimed they had a year’s headstart in the potentially lucrative global market.
But a lack of funding delayed a planned 2007 launch and now the product looks unlikely to see the shops in its current form.
Polymer Vision chief executive Karl McGoldrick said in April this year that he had got the supply chain in place, but the the product had been on hold since 2008 due to financial difficulties.
“We are ready to go into production but all depends on exactly when the funding comes through,” he had said.
But it could not be arranged fast enough and on July 7 the firm called in the receivers and laid off nearly 50 Southampton staff.
Administrators Smith & Williamson were unavailable for comment on the immediate prospects of the company.
It is unclear what the future now holds for both the firm and the Southampton developed technology behind the 5in black and white rollable screen, which Polymer Vision had hoped would take the world by storm.
It had been expected to shortly be available in colour and to triple the screen area of the average mobile phone while keeping it pocket sized.
Mr McGoldrick, chief executive of Polymer Vision, had previously issued confident forecasts.
“Growth in mobile content has us looking at our mobile phones even more than we listen to them, so rollable displays are an exciting solution for everyone,” he said.
“Replacing glass-based displays as the dominant display option for mobile devices is no simple challenge, but that is what Polymer Vision is going to do.”
The technology is also capable of creating talking labels on food to say exactly how fresh it is, as well as on credit cards for real-time balance displays, among a host of other applications.