From inspiration to innovation. Reinventing RFID and flexible electronics
What inspires innovation? Dr Richard Price, Chief Technology Officer at Pragmatic, has been at the cutting-edge of the deep technology industry for over 20 years. Here Richard shares some personal insights into his background and career journey, explains his passion for flexible electronics and outlines Pragmatic’s vision for the future.
Where did your interest in deep tech come from?
My mum was a pharmacist and sometimes I would help in the dispensary, counting out pills or printing labels. I remember watching her measure out coloured liquids and mix these together. Experiments at school, particularly something that looked dangerous were also exciting. I had a huge chemistry kit at home which I would play with in my room which ruined at least one carpet! Learning about scientists like Einstein and Marie Curie inspired me to study chemistry and physics.
What was your first job?
My parents ensured that I had a range of jobs whilst at school which covered everything from bar/hotel work, working in a print factory to loading trucks with boxes. This gave me a great experience of real-life work which I have taken into my career. My first professional job was as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bath where my research covered environmental catalysis and fundamental structure-property relationships of new materials.
How has your career in technology progressed?
I have always been passionate about the boundary of emerging science/technology and its commercialisation. After my postdoc I was keen to work on early-stage technology, so I moved to London where I worked as a research scientist on materials for Organic LEDS (OLEDs). This was early days for OLED technology, and it has been great to see the technology rolled-out in screens for cell phones and TVs. My next role helped me to gain management and business development experience working on many early-stage start-up ventures across a wide range of industry sectors from biotech to electronics. This eventually led to Pragmatic being founded.
Why is Pragmatic’s technology different?
Pragmatic has developed a platform technology where we can design and manufacture electronics at a different cost-point and form-factor from the traditional silicon chip industry, opening up a broad range of new applications that were previously not addressable by those devices. Our first products are based around Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which is a well-established industry, but with our cost advantage we are enabling our customers and partners to connect many more objects than ever before – extending the Internet of Things to the Internet of Everything.
What is your key focus in 2020?
Despite the difficulties due to COVID-19, 2020 has been a year of continued transition from technology development and rapid progress into volume manufacturing. Our primary focus is our ConnectIC® products which we manufacture with our FlexLogIC® automated production-line. ConnectIC allows our customers to add intelligence to everyday items. Within FMCGs (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) these unique digital identities allow brands to link them to digital content that can be accessed either by operators in the supply chain or the end consumer. Content can be dynamic, related to the time and location of use. Brands can also use data to connect directly with consumers to provide detailed information on provenance, allergens, authenticity etc. as well as delivering engaging multimedia content. Building on this we are helping customers to drive efficiencies in other sectors including waste management and pharmaceuticals.
There are many potential use cases for Pragmatic’s technology. On the horizon is a new generation of electronics for biology where the combination of flexible form-factor and ultra low-cost can democratise wearables for personalised healthcare. Another that is particularly topical is item-level digital tracking of pathology samples. It is an exciting time and I am proud to be involved in this important work.