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Future's bright for Glasgow high-tech firm

A Glasgow-based high-tech start-up has appointed a star Silicon Valley academic to its board, signalling a new focus on the North American market for its "wearable" micro-LED displays.

Dr Tom Baer, director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center, professor of applied physics at Stanford University in California and a visiting professor at Strathclyde University, will join mLED as a non-executive director.

mLED, a spin-out from Strathclyde University's Institute of Photonics, specialises in micro light-emitting diode displays which can be used in eye-level and near-to-eye displays in consumer electronics products, binoculars and rangefinders.

The displays can also be used in smart watches and so-called augmented reality devices, such as the Google Glass headset which allows information - such as directions from a satnav device - to be superimposed close to the eye.

Founded in 2010, mLED has so far raised $2 million (£1.19m) in investment and has already made sales in Europe, North America and Asia.

The company's signature micro-LED emitters are one-fifth of the diameter of a human hair, meaning that display screens made from them have higher resolution and clarity than conventional LED technology.

The company claims its micro-LED displays are around 30 times brighter than competing technologies (important for outdoor use in bright sunlight) and require one-tenth of the power, saving battery life.

mLED chairman Nick Kuenssberg said that Baer's extensive experience of hi-tech start-ups and Silicon Valley contacts would be an important strategic asset for the company. "Like everything in life, who you know is as important as what you know," said Kuenssberg. "This appointment is a huge vote of confidence in the company."

Although the company's annual turnover is currently in the "tens of thousands of pounds", according to Kuenssberg, that is projected to reach up to $200m annually (£120m) by 2020, with the US, Korea, Italy, Germany and France being seen as leading markets.

The company expects to announce its first major contract with a significant global player later this summer. Although unwilling to name the customer, Kuenssberg revealed that mLED is in discussion with companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Philips and other blue-chip players.

Kuenssberg added that the prospects for the company were excellent as mLED has only one major competitor developing similar products on a commercial basis, the Californian company LuxVue which was recently acquired by Apple for $400m (£238m).

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