Rusnano, the state-owned nanotechnology investment fund, has been spending oil wealth like a sailor on shore leave. Now its time to show a return on the investment.
Optogan is producing high-brightness LEDs in St.Petersburg. In October, Optogan announced it has started volume production of X10 modules – LED chip-on-board arrays – for energy efficient light sources with a production capacity of 40,000 units per month.
Plastic Logic (Cambridge, England) has a subsidiary in Zelenograd, and has benefited from an infusion of cash as it makes the transition from producer of an e-reader – the Que – to flexible display provider. But Plastic Logic lacks the demand to justify building a Russian manufacturing plant. One wonders how Rusnano regards its investment.
Then there is MRAM startup Crocus Technology.
Crocus Nano Electronics (CNE), a joint venture between Rusnano and Crocus Technology, has been set up to manufacture magnetically enhanced microcontrollers. Rusnano's financial backing was tied to the construction of a plant in Russia. We are told the plant is under construction and will be operating in the first half of 2013.
The plan has been for CMOS foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) of Shanghai, China to handle the basic processing and for CNE to finish wafers, including magnetic layers.
So why is Crocus now announcing that SMIC will be a full-flow supplier?
A spokesperson tells us everything is on course and that the first wafers from CNE are expected in 2013. However, Crocus has customers in the security market that require twin sources and large production capacity and SMIC will be able to meet those requirements.
Between Optogan, Plastic Logic and Crocus, a lot of money has been promised although not necessarily all spent. In itself that is somewhat typical of the Russian electronics experience over the past 30 years. But some money has been spent and now it is time for those investments to pan out if Russia's oil wealth is going to produce a catalytic effect on its domestic technology economy. If so, it would also have a transformational effect in raising Russian credibility in electronics.