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QD Vision lands venture backing

02 Apr 2013

Latest round of finance includes funds from the CIA division In-Q-Tel, and will be used to ramp production of quantum-dot devices.

Massachusetts-based QD Vision, which makes optical components to enhance liquid crystal displays, says it has closed a $20 million round of financing that will be used to further expand production capacity.

The latest round includes support from all existing investors, North Bridge Venture Partners, Highland Capital Partners, In-Q-Tel, DTE Energy Ventures, Passport Capital, Novus Energy Partners, and Capricorn Investment Group.

According to a US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) filing dated April 2, the company’s first since May 2011, QD Vision has raised $11.7 million of the proposed round, with no fewer than 13 investors contributing.

In-Q-Tel is the venture finance division of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and its presence highlights government interest in the photonics technology for defense and security applications.

Consumer electronics
The new funding comes just a couple of months after the company launched its “Color IQ” product at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The technology is being deployed by consumer electronics giant Sony in its “Bravia” range of televisions, to enhance the color reproduction of the LCD screens.

The quantum dot nanoscrystals developed by QD Vision act like a phosphor when illuminated by blue LEDs, producing red and green light that is said to improve the color of LCDs dramatically, compared with those backlit using standard white LEDs.

Jason Carlson, CEO of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spin-out, said in a statement announcing the latest funding: “Since the public announcement of our Color IQ product launch in select Sony LCD TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, QD Vision has been very focused on production ramp up activities.

“I appreciate the continued strong support of our investors, as we aggressively expand our high volume manufacturing operations and continue to build the global QD Vision team.”

According to the firm, Color IQ is capable of delivering 100% of the NTSC standard for LCD TVs, compared with a more typical value of 60-70%. Color IQ is also said to work with all major LCD applications, including mobile handsets, as well as displays used by the military.

Defense potential
Just over a year ago, QD Vision won a $1.4 million contract with the US Department of Defense to develop prototype displays based on electroluminescent quantum dots, while back in 2011 the company also landed a $0.9 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to work on infrared quantum-dot materials designed to emit in narrow wavelength ranges.

Intelligence-related applications provided much of the early traction for QD Vision, with In-Q-Tel first making an investment in April 2008, after the company secured more than $5 million in federal contracts.

At the time, co-founder and CTO Seth Coe-Sullivan had said: “Government-sponsored R&D programs represent a vital part of QD Vision’s commercial technology development strategy.” Solid-state lighting applications provide another potential market.

But it is LCD TVs and mobile devices that now present the company with an opportunity to truly scale its production capacity, and Jamie Goldstein from investor North Bridge Venture Partners predicted:

“Color IQ delivers a far more immersive viewing experience, and will change the way consumers see televisions and ultimately other LCD displays. We look forward to seeing the products in the market place.”

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