New wave of chip makers

The microprocessor industry may be in a slump, but it remains a cyclical industry. And venture capital (VC) keeps chasing chip technology’s next big thing. The flavour of last month was Bluetooth chipsets, organic thin-film microprocessors and silicon-on-insulator wafers.

One of the biggest tranches of VC funding in the European high-tech industry in recent weeks went to Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR), a UK-based maker of Bluetooth chipsets. It received $19 million (EU19.3m) from a number of backers including Lloyds TSB Development Capital and Scottish Equity Partners, bringing its total funding to more than $80 million (EU81.5m).

CSR has developed a single-chip set for the Bluetooth short-range wireless networking protocol, which it sells to manufacturers of embedded devices, including systems giant Hewlett-Packard. The company began shipping its products in March 2000, ahead of its competitors, and observers say it has successfully maintained that lead. CSR claims it has already shipped over five million of its microprocessors.

A group of VC firms – including Intel Capital – pumped an undisclosed sum into Israel-based Nanolayers, a supplier of organic thin-film microprocessor technology. The company’s molecular chemical solution is seen as compelling because it helps manufacturers to build thinner, more durable layers of a microprocessor than those that use silicon-based layers. Initially, the technology will be used for microprocessor integrated circuits and flat-panel displays, where the pixels on a screen are controlled by layers inside thin film transistors. The company claims its technology is up to 80% cheaper than conventional materials.

Meanwhile, French silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafer manufacturer Silicon on Insulator Systems and Integrated Circuits (Soisic) said last month that it was poised to complete a second-round of funding worth about EU10 million. No further details were disclosed. The company is taking a different approach to improving the efficiency of microprocessor manufacturing. SOI technology is a technique that involves coating a thin layer of silicon on top of an insulating material, such as silicon oxide or glass. Soisic is betting its future on the notion that SOI will replace traditional silicon-based microprocessor production methods.


Recently announced deals
Company   What it does   Country   Amount in E (round)   Lead investor  
AEP Systems Security h/w Ireland 8.0m ACT Vent Cap, Enterprise Ireland
ASK Smart cards France 16.0m N/a
Aspects Software SIM card s/w Scotland 7.9m Royal Bank Ventures
AssetHouse Technology Content management s/w UK 4.0m LMS Capital
Bitband Video streaming s/w Israel 5.3m N/a
Cambridge Silicon Radio Bluetooth silicon UK 19.4m LDC, Scottish Equity Partners
Celeris Information security s/w Switzerland 3.3m Armada Ventures
Cobion Security s/w Germany 6.0m Wellington Partners
Columbitech Wireless security s/w Sweden 2.7m Ledstiernan, Servisen
CoreOptics Transponder technology Germany 22.0m Crescendo Ventures
Corigin Mainframe access s/w Israel 5.1m N/a
Cube Optics Fibre optic components Germany 10.0m Carlyle Europe Venture Partners
Cril Telecom Software Mobile network s/w Belgium 7.6m Softbank Europe Ventures
EGAR Technology Financial application s/w Russia 2.5m International Finanace
EnOcean Radio module provider Germany 5.0m BayTech Venture Capital
Havok Computer game s/w Ireland 7.0m N/a
Interxion Managed svcs provider Netherlands 20.0m Goldman Sachs
IPAG Wireless components Germany 4.5m N/a
Nanolayers Organic semiconductors Israel N/a Millenium Materials Tech Fund
Netinary Wireless security s/w France 2.0m Sophia Euro Lab
Polight Technology Holographic data storage UK 5.5m Cambridge Gateway
PowerPaper Microelectronic batteries Israel 3.0m Bank of America Capital Partners
Semagix Knowledge mgmt services UK/US 10.2m N/a
Sintec Media Broadcast mgmt s/w Israel 10.2m Ascend Technology Ventures
Spectel Conferencing apps Ireland 15.0m Investcorp
Telisma Speech recognition s/w France 10.5m 3i, AGF Private Equity
Xyleme XML content technology France 11.0m Deutsche Bank
All currencies converted into euros at current exchange rates

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics