New investment and international growth has become a distinct possibility for the unique large screen display technology behind the bankrupt University of Cambridge spin-out, Screen Technology, following its acquisition by hi-tech manufacturing specialist, Shearline.
Shearline Precision Engineering Ltd, based in Ely, has bought the ITrans videowall system along with all the underlying patents and intellectual property from Screen Technology's administrator, McTear Williams & Wood. The price remains undisclosed but is believed to be well below the £3 million of assets that Screen Technology's former CEO, Campbell Cromar, said the company had when it went into administration in May.Shearline's relationship with Screen Technology pre-dates this acquisition, having supplied the tiles at the heart of its videowalls and even provided investment in the form of a six-figure loan - though only a fraction of the £20m Screen Technology raised in its lifetime for the ITrans system.
Charles Maltby, technical and commercial director of Shearline, was also a former product development director at Screen Technology and is believed to be keen to take the iTrans products forward - now rebranded under the title, Shearvision. However, it is not certain Shearline will take on all the system's manufacturing needs in-house. Earlier this year Screen Technology set up its first high volume automated production system through a partnership with a low cost manufacturer in Taiwan. Talks between the partner and Shearline are anticipated.
Shearvision is based on tiles, developed at Cambridge University labs, that take the image from a conventional LCD display screen and magnify it slightly using structured light guides. The tiles can be joined to provide a seamless large screen showing an image that can be viewed easily from all angles and distances as well as in areas where reflections caused by strong sunlight or artificial lighting are otherwise problematic.
Shearline has already begun marketing the displays, which it says fit a gap in the market between the household size of the plasma and LCD screen and the massive LED video screens. This makes it ideal for environments such as shopping centres, department stores, railway stations and airports where other display technologies suffer from glare.Maltby said: "We are delighted to have acquired this innovative technology, which has considerable potential and is compatible with other platforms such as OLED with which it could be integrated."Plasma technologies are typically used for smaller screens, up to about 60 inches, while LED video screens are used for very large displays, usually over 200 inches.
This has left a gap for a `medium sized' display screen."There is considerable demand but until now, there has been no acceptable solution."Although Campbell Cromar had claimed that Screen Technology was only a couple of months away from generating the type of revenues that would enable it to function as a going concern, the company had to call in business rescue specialist, McTear Williams & Wood, as administrator.
Chris Poulton of McTear Williams & Wood, said: "With the continuing uncertainty in the economy we know that many early stage companies are finding it very difficult to attract investment once their current funds are exhausted; in those circumstances it is important to take advice early before cash pressure becomes too intense."The key to success is our early involvement so that core assets can be protected and a proper process put in place to realise their full value."
4 November 2009