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|Surrey NanoSystems' NanoGrowth equipment delivers the conditions for the growth of precision CNTs at both the temperatures and densities needed for state-of-the-art CMOS ICs.|
* second-round venture capital for silicon-friendly carbon nanotube growth process
Surrey NanoSystems has secured second round funding of £2.5 million (~US$4.2m) from Octopus Ventures, IP Group, The University of Surrey and other investors. The capital will help to commercialize an innovative low-temperature growth process for carbon nanotubes, targeted for use as an interconnection technology in semiconductor devices. The innovation will help silicon integrated circuit manufacturers to overcome a critical problem that threatens the evolution to next-generation geometry sizes, speeds and power conservation.
Octopus Ventures, a specialist investor in early-stage and expanding companies provided £1.75m (~US$3m). Surrey NanoSystems' initial venture capital investor IP Group - through IP Venture Fund - together with The University of Surrey and other investors provided £0.75m (~US$1.3m).
"The semiconductor industry urgently needs a new interconnection technology. If you can solve the problem of growing precision carbon nanotubes at silicon-friendly temperatures - and we have - it opens up a massive potential market," says Ben Jensen, CTO of Surrey NanoSystems. "We expect to be the company that is able to offer a viable new interconnection process for high-volume semiconductor fabrication, one that really exploits the incredible performance properties of carbon nanotubes."
Manufacturers currently use copper to provide the vertical interconnections required for integrated circuit (IC) fabrication, but this material is running into technical difficulties as the geometry sizes of ICs shrink. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be structured to act as extremely efficient conductors, but their adoption as a replacement for copper has been hindered by the fact that conventionally-grown CNTs require temperatures of around 700 degrees C, too high for semiconductor processing. In contrast, Surrey NanoSystems' fabrication system and process allows CNT structures to be grown at silicon-friendly processing temperatures of 350 C or less.
Surrey NanoSystems was established in 2006 as a spin-out from the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), with the help of individuals having a successful background in the design of thin-film deposition systems. ATI had developed pioneering intellectual property concerning the fabrication of CNTs at low temperature. This combination of know-how allowed the company to quickly develop an architectural platform called NanoGrowth. This equipment implements a unique process incorporating ATI's patented know-how, and several unique additional techniques, that deliver the conditions for the growth of precision CNTs at both the temperatures and densities needed for state-of-the-art CMOS ICs. The initial development effort was supported by first round funding from IP Group, who specialize in commercializing intellectual property originating from research-intensive institutions.
The initial focus of Surrey NanoSystems has been the provision of equipment to developers researching and prototyping CNTs to advance the performance and integration density of semiconductors and electronic devices. The company's focus is now optimizing its technology for the mass-volume manufacturing environment, by scaling the hardware and refining and scaling the materials processing technology.
The new funding will support this evolution, allowing Surrey NanoSystems to greatly extend its engineering and development capabilities with a new technology laboratory, several brand-new systems of its own design, and more staff. These resources will be used to scale the company's materials growth technology from its current 100 mm wafer size capability, to the 300 mm sizes used in commercial wafer fabrication plants. Surrey NanoSystems will also add an industry-standard SEMI interface to its process equipment, allowing it to be integrated easily onto standard wafer-processing cluster tools. Alongside this development work, Surrey NanoSystems is pursuing technology partnerships with both semiconductor manufacturers and volume cluster tool suppliers, to shorten the path to market for its technology.
About Surrey NanoSystems
Surrey NanoSystems produces highly advanced systems for Carbon Nanotube growth at High and Low (350 deg C and below!) temperatures – Our highly modular, systems expand the uses of CNTs making their integration possible for the next generation of silicon chips, removing roadblocks to their continuing development.
Octopus Ventures, a subsidiary of Octopus Investments, is a venture capital company that focuses on identifying early-stage business opportunities that show significant potential for explosive growth. Octopus Ventures has access to a network of over 100 independent investors that make up the Octopus Investor Group. The group backs UK entrepreneurs and aids in their success by providing both knowledge and industry contacts. The majority of group members are highly experienced leaders in their field who have built or are building businesses. Their time and experience, given alongside that of Octopus, provides companies with the type of developmental assistance and resource that is usually beyond the means of most small businesses. In the past 10 years, the Octopus Ventures team has invested over £28m into 32 companies and generated a realised return of 3.5x cash on cash (equivalent to 49% IRR). Across the entire portfolio (including those investments not yet realised), Octopus Ventures’ IRR is 20% (IPEVCG guidelines 31st December 2008). In October 2007, Octopus Investments launched Octopus Titan VCT 1 & 2 which raised more than £30m. Octopus Ventures is the Investment Manager of this fund. The focus of the fund is to generate real returns on investors’ money over the long term by investing into unquoted companies with strong growth potential. The typical deal size ranges from £500,000 to £2m and the portfolio is expected to encompass investments in 20-25 unquoted companies. The fund is structured as a twin VCT to enable it to make investments of up to £2m per company, twice the amount possible for single VCTs. To date, seven companies have received funding. Following the strong investor demand for Octopus Titan VCT 1 & 2, Octopus Titan VCT 3 plc was launched in May 2008 and has raised just under £19m. Like the previous Titan VCTs, Octopus Titan 3 is designed to deliver strong returns to investors through investment into 20-30 smaller UK companies. To date, six companies have received funding from Octopus Titan VCT 3. http://www.octopusventures.com/
IP Group is an intellectual property (IP) commercialization company that specializes in commercializing university technology. Founded in 2001, IP Group listed on AIM in October 2003 and moved to the Official List in June 2006. It has made two acquisitions to date - Techtran, a company set up to commercialize university intellectual property under a long term contract with the University of Leeds, in 2005 and Top Technology Ventures, an investment adviser to early stage technology venture capital funds, in 2004. IP Group has formed long-term partnerships with ten universities - the University of Oxford, King's College London, CNAP/University of York, the University of Leeds, the University of Bristol, the University of Surrey, the University of Southampton, Queen Mary (University of London), the University of Bath and the University of Glasgow. The Company's portfolio is diverse with exposure to five main sectors - Energy & Renewables, Healthcare & Life Sciences: Non-therapeutics, Healthcare & Life Sciences: Therapeutics, IT & Communications and Chemicals & Materials. To date, eleven portfolio companies have listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, one on PLUS Markets and there have been two trade sales.
The University of Surrey is one of the UK's leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world-class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life - helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 140 companies employing 2,700 staff.
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