Organic photovoltaics developer Konarka Technologies and Konica Minolta Holdings have signed a comprehensive R&D collaboration and strategic investment agreement. The deal calls for an investment of $20 million by Konica Minolta in Konarka and for the companies to start full-scale collaboration in April in the joint development and distribution of organic thin-film PV.
The investment by Konica Minolta pushes the total amount of start-up capital taken in by Konarka from strategic partners, venture capital firms, and other investors to around $200 million, since the company was founded in 2001.
The companies plan to organize their respective strengths in materials, optical, and coating technologies as well as joint development. The goal is to improve OPV performance by increasing conversion efficiencies, extending lifetimes, and lowering manufacturing costs, and to realize mass production of next-generation PV.
Konarka's roll-to-roll process, which uses existing coating and printing equipment, is said to simplify manufacturing scale-up, and have significantly lower capital and labor costs than previous generations of solar cells.
Once the joint development milestones are successfully completed, the companies expect to establish a joint venture company in Japan to produce OPV panels, with Konica Minolta becoming Konarka's lead Asian business partner.
“Konica Minolta positions the organic thin-film photovoltaic business as one of the most promising in the environment and energy field, next to the organic light-emitting diode business, where our photographic film manufacturing technology is leading mass production,” commented Masatoshi Matsuzaki, CEO of Konica Minolta. “We are pleased to be collaborating with Konarka, the first and world leader to commercialize organic thin-film photovoltaics because of its state-of-the-art polymer technology and its mass-production facility in New Bedford, MA.”
“We are delighted that Konica Minolta recognizes the value of Konarka's patent-protected thin film solar material that is lightweight and flexible, uniquely lending itself to a wide range of applications where traditional photovoltaics are not effective,” said Howard Berke, executive chairman and cofounder of Konarka.
“With our collaboration efforts, Konarka and Konica Minolta are well positioned to deliver efficient, next-generation photovoltaic panels to meet the growing demand for personal and commercial solar energy solutions around the world,” he concluded.