Kubos Semiconductors is set to accelerate the adoption of augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) technology, reduce the cost of LED lighting and reduce carbon emissions with its high efficiency microLED technology. Supported with strategy and investment readiness by Innovate UK’s business growth service Innovate UK EDGE, the microLED technology company is eliminating some of the current limitations of LEDs through the deployment of new material technology, its proprietary cubic Gallium Nitrade (GaN) process called KubosLED.
Caroline O’Brien, CEO at Kubos Semiconductors, says KubosLED will transform the performance of products that use microLEDs, such as microLED displays, AR/VR, general lighting, street lighting, and communications applications. She says it is also the biggest innovation the sector has seen for many years. “The existing standard LED technology used in lighting was developed 30 years ago and despite millions and millions of investment into LEDs the past few years, there has only been incremental improvements. I think we are the biggest revolution in 30 years.”
The technology will improve efficiency, particularly for red and green colours. This will make microLEDS viable in AV/VR technologies – poor red microLED efficiency has been a significant factor in the slow rollout of AR/VR to date.
Currently, LED products have a short battery life and systems generate a lot of heat. O’Brien says the big companies – Google, Meta and the like – are working around these limitations but that technologies such as AR and VR are not going to take off properly until these limitations are addressed. “Everyone wants AR/VR products to be high resolution, portable, lightweight and not hot, particularly if the product is going to be close to your head, such as a headset.”
O’Brien says incorporating KubosLED into lighting and displays will lead to significant carbon and cost savings. “We have calculated that we can save millions of tonnes of Co2 emissions – 125 million tonnes per annum worldwide if it’s 100% adopted. That’s something like 30 coal fire power stations that wouldn’t have to be used.”
Innovate UK's business growth support
O’Brien says Kubos has benefited hugely from Innovate UK EDGE’s business growth support. As well as guiding Kubos through funding processes, its dedicated innovation and growth specialist, Stephen Goddard, has helped with pitch presentations, reviewing decks, evaluating pathways, raising the profile of the business, strategic thinking and connections to potential investors. Kubos has also taken part in investment readiness training and has been able to test its pitch in front of investors. “It’s been great having someone independent to talk to and discuss challenges and opportunities with,” says O’Brien. “Innovate UK always has ideas to solve problems and it gives feedback. It’s been invaluable really.”
Wider Innovate UK support
In terms of engagement with other Innovate UK Products and Services, Kubos recently won a £700,000 Future Economy Investor Partnership (FEIP) grant from Innovate UK and has raised an equal amount of external investment into the business. This will help it improve energy efficiency over the next two years, by which time it plans to have signed its first licencing agreement. The aim is to licence the technology with big companies to have maximum impact. The FEIP grant is also enabling Kubos to open a development office in Wales. As a fabless company, Kubos doesn’t do the manufacturing itself but relies on its partners – the Compound Semiconductor Centre in Wales and the Institute of Compound Semiconductors at Cardiff University.
The company has received several other grants in the past, including a BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) grant of just under £500,000 and an Innovate UK Fast Start: Innovation grant worth £50,000.
Kubos has already had technology patents granted in several key territories and secured its first major customer. It has grown to a team of seven, including contractors, and plans to recruit a few more employees over the next two years.
It’s been great having someone independent to talk to and discuss challenges and opportunities with. Innovate UK always has ideas to solve problems and it gives feedback. It’s been invaluable really.”