Innovative Material, Processes and Devices for Low Power Flexible Electronics: Creating a Sustainable Internet of Everything

Project: Research council

Project Details


Smart electronics are an increasingly important part of everyday life. More than ever, they are integrated into an expansive array of everyday products which is evident from the explosion in numbers of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). The current trend is for each device to have its own IP address, but in future individual devices will not require their own IP address as they will be a part of a local network with a single connection point to the internet. This allows greater scalability leading to the Internet of Everything. Flexible electronics on substrates like plastic will be behind the creation of this Internet of Everything as it drives the integration of electronics into everyday objects such as packaging. PragmatIC Semiconductor is a leading developer of large-area electronic logic and memory on flexible substrates and part of the strategic roadmap for this technology is the realisation of so-called CMOS which offers low-power and greater circuit functionality. A significant barrier to achieving flexible CMOS is the lack of compatible p-type oxide semiconductors.

This prosperity partnership addresses this need, and by working with an academic team drawn together from the Universities of Bath, Cambridge and Liverpool, the 5-year project will target new precursors and materials, manufacturing processes, devices and circuit designs, in a concerted and cohesive research program. The additionality of this prosperity-partnership is rooted within the well-founded existing collaborations of the project team, as well as the extensive range of expertise and world-class facilities that the consortium brings together. The outcomes of the fundamental research represent a significant contribution to the global state-of-the-art.

In terms of the technological and commercial outcomes, PragmatIC Semiconductor is well placed to exploit this fundamental research to realise its full impact. The importance of this to the UK economy cannot be overstated. The UK has the world's 6th largest electronics industry with an annual turnover of >£100 billion. This prosperity partnership will contribute to the consolidation of the UK's leading position in design through the development of the underpinning electronics for IoT devices. It will also enable new electronics manufacturing in the UK with associated wider supply chain benefits.

As well as functionality, flexible electronics offers the opportunity for some more sustainable outcomes. The global Electronics Industry is a significant contributor to CO2 emissions and other pollution. The sector is working hard to reduce its CO2-footprint by a switch to 100% renewable energy supplies, however this will only eliminate 60% of the projected emissions, because the remainder of the fixed embedded carbon resides within feedstock chemicals and gases and heating/cooling. PragmatIC Semiconductor has already developed a manufacturing process than uses a hundred times less energy and water than a conventional silicon "fab" and results in thousand times lower CO2e. The company has also committed to the "Race-to-Zero" pledge of reaching net-zero by 2050. Part of this effort of achieving this target lies within prosperity-partnership and together we are evaluating alternative manufacturing processes for parallel rather than serial thin-film deposition. This approach will potentially increase efficiency in terms of precursor chemical consumption, at the same time as reducing energy use. The company's Circular Economy team will make Life Cycle Assessments of the processes arising from the prosperity-partnership and will embed the research across its technology and product development.

Silicon-based electronics became a scalable technology through the development of CMOS in the 1970s. Our aim is for this work to have a similar impact on large-area flexible electronics, allowing the scalability that will lead to the sustainable creation of the future Internet of Everything.
Effective start/end date5/09/234/09/28

Collaborative partners

  • University of Bath (lead)
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Liverpool
  • PragmatiC Printing Limited


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Information and communication technologies
  • Electronic Devices and Subsystems
  • Manufacturing
  • Manufacturing Machinery & Plant
  • Materials sciences
  • Materials Characterisation
  • Materials Synthesis and Growth


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