Organic-Electronics Startup Plextronics Raises $14M

plextronicsimage1In another sign that greentech investments could be back on the rise, organic electronics company Plextronics said today it has raised $14 million in financing.

Pittsburgh, Penn.-based Plextronics has developed technology to make conductive inks and materials for printed electronics, specifically for organic plastic solar cells and for organic light-emitting diodes used in flexible displays and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The company, which raised $25 million in its second round of funding in 2007, is calling this newest financing the second phase of that same round.

Most of the money — $12 million — comes from Solvay North American Investments, which is part of Belgium-based international chemical and pharmaceutical group Solvay Group. That represents Solvay’s second investment in Plextronics, making the investor the largest minority shareholder in the company, according to a press release.

Several other existing investors also contributed to the second-phase funding. While those investors weren’t named, the company already counts Applied Materials’ venture arm Applied Ventures, Firelake Capital Management, Birchmere Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures, Newlin Investment Co. and Innovation Works among its backers.

Plextronics plans to use its newfound cash to grow its research, development and pilot manufacturing programs — specifically its lighting and solar materials and inks — and move those products toward commercialization and mass scale. The company, which was founded in 2002 as a spinout from Carnegie Mellon University, installed a $6 million pilot line earlier this year.

Plextronics also has set an ambitious goal of using its technology to deliver 15 billion printed electronics devices by 2015. The company will need to overcome some obstacles to reach it, especially for its organic solar technology, which has traditionally faced challenges such as low efficiency and short lifespans.

But it looks like it could have some help from its latest investor. In the press release, Plextronics CEO Andy Hannah also said that the support from Solvay extends beyond financing, which might indicate another announcement — such as a commercial partnership or contract — on the horizon. Léopold Demiddeleer, a general manager at Solvay, said the company already has its own R&D efforts involving organic electronics and called Plextronics “a perfect partner for one of Solvay’s most promising innovation platforms.

Image courtesy of Plextronics.