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Sandeep Nijhawan
SVP & GM, Clean Energy Group-Intermolecular Inc.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Intermolecular Inc (NASDAQ: IMI) develops new generations of technology for the communications, consumer electronics, medical device, automotive, and entertainment markets for the semiconductor and clean energy industry. Founded in 2004 and headquartered in California, the company holds a market cap of $267.71 million.

The clean energy is a very big segment which includes emerging application, glass coding, solar cells, light emitting diode (LED), advanced batteries also other energy efficient technologies. As the company serves R&D across the verticals for the products mentioned above, we see many common drivers across these industry segments such as products and their applications. Significant price elasticity across the segment is another driver. Reducing price relative to traditional alternatives is needed to catalyze the widespread adoption of technologies in this new market. Taking a look and digging deeper, the cost of the devices in these segments is driven by new material innovation, processes, integration schemes, device architecture and manufacturing methodologies. As a result those companies that can successfully develop relevant, scalable and proprietary technologies will have an edge over their peers in price, volume and time to market.

Over last decade, there has been an unprecedented rise in cost of developing new technologies and this has been another driver common across the semiconductor segment and more importantly in the clean energy segment.

Right Collaboration on Engagement Model

Technology companies are driven by innovation. So it's key that the company's value proposition is to deliver innovative products and R&D to its clients. The basis to drive innovation is to ensure that the collaboration on engagement model is done rightly. To do the collaboration with another company right, the company needs to see to it that structurally, contractually or setting of the right expectations with the clients is done properly. With the right framework, the collaboration can go on smoothly without any hindrance. In order to see the products are developed accurately, a company with innovation as its core value needs to ensure that its engineers are joined at the hips with the application nuances and expertise. The company should plan and put the correct people into disciplinary teams that are overlapping the application know how with their strength and methodology of doing certain types of R&D much faster and better. If a company has proprietary tools, the team should use them to do more experiments. The data gathered from these experiments will automatically generate new data and concepts and hence the team will be able to innovate faster. The team should be from different markets and this in turn will help the team get fresh ideas to solve the problems that clients are facing. Having software that manages shares and extracts the right parametric from the data will help make decisions faster.

Way to Decrease the Cost

A company with innovation at its core has to be ready to pay the high costs to do Research and Development. In the past 15-20 years, R&D has been performed with high volume producing tools which does not speed up the process which ultimately leads to price in the cost. Manufacturability comes into the late R&D cycle. At Intermolecular, we solve this problem using our proprietary platform called High-Productivity Combinatorial (HPC) R&D technology. HPC has three pillars. High Processing is the first pillar which has been developed to make the processes faster. Developing a matched automated characterization method helps accelerates experimentation. Last is the informatics software suite which enables the engineers and scientists to look at the experimental data very fast and make decisions of what experiments they are supposed to do to make R&D happen faster. Collectively because of these pillars, we tend to get 100 times accelerations in faster R&D.

The Road ahead

Accelerating R&D, developing new technology faster and decreasing the time to market the products has been the primary goal. They also want to have more and more collaborative development programs. We want to realize the vision of developing the new technologies and bringing that to commercial use with the existing collaboration partners in the clean energy industry. Seeing a tremendous growth in the segment is also important. Making the High-Productivity Combinatorial (HPC) R&D technology the defacto standard for doing research in the high tech industry is a very important to us.
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