QustomDot: towards a better and environmentally friendly display quality

UGent spin-off improves display quality with environmentally friendly quantum dots

Scientists from Ghent University have launched the spin-off company ‘QustomDot’ on January 27. QustomDot is a pioneer in the development of environmentally friendly quantum dots, which are innovative materials that improve the color gamut and energy efficiency in displays screens. The company tailors the technology for next generation LED displays, going from high resolution LED TV’s to augmented reality goggles. QustomDot and UGent teamed up with investment funds Qbic II, PMV and VIGO Ventures – good for a € 3 million investment – to bring this groundbreaking research to the market.    

The quantum dot technology from QustomDot has important benefits compared to the current generation of quantum dots and is able to improve a wide range of display screens. In collaboration with big players in the display industry, QustomDot bets on the last new trends such as microLEDs for smartwatches and smartphones.

Environmentally friendly technology “Within UGent,” prof. Zeger Hens (Department of chemistry, UGent) says, “we radically chose to develop an evironmentally friendly and future proof quantum dot technology, free of cadmium. This work, going on since 2014 and supported by VLAIO and SIM-Flanders, forms the technological basis of QustomDot, which is in line with European legislation.” Owing to their high color purity these environmentally friendly quantum dots are especially suited to produce high-quality displays. The technology is furthermore compatible with printing techniques. This reduces production costs considerably and enables new applications such as flexible displays. In addition, quantum dots can lower the carbon footprint of a product because they improve the efficiency of production and energy consumption of a display, important qualities in a new technology.

Funding round to build technology This potential was recognized from the start by several investment funds. Qbic II took the lead investor role and together with PMV and VIGO Ventures they realized an investment of € 3 million. This enables QustomDot to expand the technology further. Sofie Baeten (Managing Partner of Qbic II and chair of the Board of Directors) explains: “ We as Qbic fully support the cutting-edge technology that our Belgian universities and knowledge centers develop. We want to invest in the exploitation and commercialization of this technology.” For PMV the connection to the newest LED applications with an environmentally friendly inset gave the decisive blow. “PMV always tries to invest in technology that apart from a strong commercial potential also represents significant progress in environmental aspects. We are convinced that QustomDot combines these two aspects in a good way,” says Roald Borré, head of Equity Investments at PMV.

The international character of the investment is underscored by the involvement of VIGO Ventures, a Polish investment group that focusses on deep tech hardware and photonics. “As the market of quantum dot based applications ranging from LCD displays, through LED lighting, mini LED screens all the way to smart watch or smart phone displays is on the rise, we foresee that QustomDot with their already lab proven technology can potentially disrupt the above mentioned applications,” according to Marek Kotelnicki from VIGO Ventures.

Kim De Nolf, CEO of the company, is happy with the successful close of the funding round. “It is very inspiring to see that groundbreaking research gets the opportunity to grow in an entrepreneurial context. The fact the we can bring a piece of nanotechnology closer to the market is a big honor for us.”

With both a female CEO and chair, QustomDot proves that deep tech isn’t only a male bastion anymore. Sofie Baeten: “Even in our cases, that typically originate from a strong scientific background, we see more and more that woman take the step toward entrepreneurship. We can only applaud that.”   UGent TechTransfer manages the intellectual property of the university, drives the use of the IP through the creation of spin-offs and licensing, and supports the research community of Ghent University in valorizing their research & creating research collaborations with industry. As a knowledge center, Ghent University strongly invests among other topics in optical technology and optical materials. This works is carried by a total of ten research groups and 23 professors in the Business Development Center NB-Photonics, led by dr. Eva Ryckeboer. QustomDot is the seventh spin-off to arise from these activities, and is unique in its focus on new optical materials. Within NB-Photonics, the group of prof. Zeger Hens will continue to work on quantum dot technology, with a focus on next generation materials and applications.