Konarka Gets A $20M Power Boost From Konica Minolta For Photovoltaics

Konarka Technologies, a Lowell, MA, developer of flexible, nanotechnology-based “Power Plastic” that converts light to energy, will receive $20 million from Konica Minolta in an R&D and investment agreement announced today. The companies will jointly develop and distribute organic thin-film photovoltaics.

Konarka brings to the table its simplified, roll-to-roll manufacturing process, which the firm says can be scaled up with significantly lower labor and capital costs than was possible with previous generations of solar-cell-manufacturing technology. Japan-based Konica Minolta is large, diversified company with its hand in office supplies, imaging, and medical equipment. In the company’s attempt to make inroads in environmental and energy applications, Konica Minolta is developing organic thin-film photovoltaic materials. The firm promises to be Konarka’s lead Asian business partner.

The companies will work together to improve their materials and optical coating technologies to achieve higher conversion efficiency, longer life, and lower manufacturing costs. If the companies are successful, they will establish a joint venture in Japan to produce organic, thin-film photovoltaic panels.

Konarka has revealed at least six new partners or customers over the past year or so who are integrating Power Plasticits photovoltaic material into products such as handbags that store solar energy to recharge electronic devices. Konarka’s other investors include 3i, Chevron, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Good Energies, Mackenize Investments, the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, New Enterprise Associates, Partech International, and Vanguard Ventures.

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