Novares Group SA has announced plans to invest up to €50m in the development of technological innovations over the next five years, with a first €5m investment in two tranches in FlexEnable, a plastronics start-up specialising in smart surfaces.
The automotive supplier set up Novares Venture Capital in February to support new businesses and start-ups with technical expertise that add value to its products.
These include plastronics and mechatronics, the Clamart, France-based group said 27 April.
The company made a €2.5m investment in the UK-based FlexEnable in April, with an equal amount scheduled for 2019, providing that market feedback on the innovation remains positive.
This, said Novares, will give the group “a significant equity stake” in FlexEnable.
Based in Cambridge, UK, FlexEnable Ltd is specialised in organic thin film transistor (OTFT) and plastic electronics (plastronics).
According to Novares, FlexEnable is “the only company to have successfully industrialised flexible OTFT technology with more than 600 related patents.”
As part of the partnership, the two companies will develop innovative glass-free flexible electronic displays and sensors or “smart surfaces” for automotive applications.
Novares’ expertise in designing and manufacturing automotive parts will be combined with FlexEnable’s bendable, wrappable, glass-free plastic electronics technology in the process.
“The flexibility provided by this technology, together with Novares’ integrator know-how, can give automotive designers a much larger variety of shapes to work with, and replace the present flat screens that are not ideally suited to the current shapes of cars’ interior,” the French supplier said.
Novares said its venture capital arm will further invest in technological innovators in the near future.
“Open to current or future partners and co-innovators, such as Actronika and Quad, the new fund will reinforce the Group’s strategy, in terms of strategic mergers and acquisitions (M&A) combined with strategic research and development (R&D) activities,” said Pierre Boulet, Novares CEO.
This, he added, will support Novares’ new solutions for clean, light, connected and autonomous cars that are user-friendly, incorporating HMIs (human machine interfaces) with an improved passenger experience.
Also commenting, Chuck Milligan, CEO of FlexEnable, said the investment will help supply ‘low-cost, highly-reliable, conformable and shapeable displays’ to the automotive display market, which is set to grow to $22bn by 2022.
Novares also signed a multi-year framework agreement for collaboration with public research organisation CEA (Atomic Energy Commission) in 2017 to industrialise and commercialise existing and new technologies for future connected, autonomous, electric and hybrid vehicles.