The history of semiconductor blue laser development

Blue semiconductor laser was the unrealized Polish hope for global technological dominance. In 2002, Polish journalists, researchers and government officials believed that the locally developed technology was going to become the worldwide standard for high-performance lasers. An experienced researcher and member of the management board of the newly founded academic spin-off TopGaN, tasked with the commercialization of the laser, prepared in 2002 a strategic plan forecasting that his company would control 31% of the global market by 2004, but the actual sales turned out to be close to 2% of the forecast value.

The comprehensive historiographical and bibliometric study presented the international and Polish developments of blue semiconductor lasers. Using multiple data sources, including Factiva business news service, INSPEC and patent databases, Krzysztof Klincewicz explained why the ambitious, publicly funded project of Polish blue semiconductor laser at Polish Academy of Sciences turned out to be a commercial failure. Polish researchers developed a unique method of manufacturing the semiconducting material, needed for laser production and had major advantages in the advanced materials research, but were less successful at engineering the end product. The efforts were impacted by traditional mentality of researchers from public research institutes, inexperienced in technological marketing and corporate planning practices. Moreover, the public funding mechanisms turned out to be problematic for a high-risk, innovative R&D project.

Interestingly, the book described also the than unknown Polish company Ammono, established by Robert Dwiliński, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Warsaw, who developed an innovative method of producing gallium nitride (GaN) and established strategic co-operation with the leading Japanese laser manufacturer Nichia. The company was “discovered” by means of bibliometric analysis of patents and citations, while it intentionally was keeping low profile and was unknown in Poland and abroad. Soon afterwards, in July 2010, Ammono was featured by Richard Stevenson in the prestigious “IEEE Spectrum” under the title: “A little Polish company you’ve never heard of is beating the tech titans in a key technology of the 21st century”.

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