OE-A Celebrates Five Years, and Looks Ahead to the Future of PE

Wolfgang Mildner, chairman of the OE-A Board of Directors and managing director, PolyIC
The idea of printed electronics (PE) has been around for many years in a wide variety of forms. In the summer of 2004, a group of seven companies decided the time had come to establish an organization affiliated with the VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau - German Engineering Federation) to work together on the needs of the marketplace. The Organic Electronics Association (OE-A) was officially formed at the end of 2004, with 35 member companies.

Today, the OE-A has grown along with the PE industry. The OE-A now has more than 140 members, and starting today, its second annual LOPE-C conference begins in Frankfurt, Germany. Wolfgang Mildner, chairman of the OE-A Board of Directors and managing director, PolyIC, spoke with Printed Electronics Now about the formation of the OE-A as well as the outlook for the future of the organization and the field of PE.

Printed Electronics Now: What led to the formation of the OE-A back in 2004, and how much initial interest was there in the group?

Wolfgang Mildner: A key industrial group of seven companies interested in establishing a network for organic and printed electronics met at VDMA during the summer of 2004. They shared the vision of an international industry platform for collaboration along the value chain. The idea of an association for this emerging industry found great resonance, and the OE-A started with 35 founding members in December 2004, constantly growing to presently more than 140 members worldwide.

PEN: What have been some of the key defining moments for the OE-A?

Wolfgang Mildner: Key activities of the OE-A right from the beginning were the roadmap for organic and printed electronics – right now we are preparing the 4th edition – and demonstrator projects. This fosters cooperation and interaction among the members. These activities are identified, initiated and driven by our very active members and are supported by the OE-A secretariat by providing the “back office” and by organizing the workshops and meetings in Europe, North America and Asia.

Expansion into the U.S. started soon after the formation of the OE-A, and opening an office in the U.S. to provide local service to our North American members was an important step in our international approach. An additional milestone was LOPE-C, where we provide the premier international marketplace for the community -- industry-guided and non-profit.

PEN: How is OE-A helping the printed electronics field grow?

Wolfgang Mildner: OE-A brings together the major players in the field, to speed up development. Our members identify and define common goals and synchronize their activities. With our roadmap activities, we support the industry by identifying the main obstacles/red brick walls that need to be overcome. We foster collaboration by providing know-how about the competencies of the players, which leads to more transparency in the market. OE-A develops long-term strategies for the industry and gives input to governments and funding agencies to support the definition of funding programs.

PEN: How has the PE market changed in the past five years?

Wolfgang Mildner: Five years ago, there was virtually no market for printed electronics. Today, the industry is still far from being mature, but it is now entering its early stage. We have seen investment in fabs over the last two years, ramp-up of production in several fields, and products entering the market in large numbers.

PEN: Where do you see the OE-A and the PE market in general heading in the next five years?

Wolfgang Mildner: We expect that not only one or two applications will be real markets in five years. OPV, lighting, logic and integrated systems are expected to reach large volumes, in addition to displays that are already being produced on larger scales today.

Conversely, organic and printed electronics will be far from being an established and saturated market and will still provide great opportunities for growth in five years.

OE-A membership will further increase internationally to satisfy the growing demand for information exchange, networking and synchronization of R&D efforts in the wider community. Thus we will further support the industry in establishing more applications and developing markets.