Company: Poro Technologies Ltd
Position in Company: Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer
Academic background: MEng and DPhil University of Oxford
Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer
What does your company do?
Porotech focuses on the development of high performance and energy efficient Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductors by applying cutting-edge material technologies and solutions to realise the full potential of GaN. Porotech aims to revolutionise the optoelectronics industry by improving the extraction of light from LEDs to reduce the amount of light lost and wasted within the LED affecting overall device efficiency.
Porotech, incorporated in April 2018, utilises technology developed in Professor Oliver’s research centre, the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride. It is co-founded with two postdoctoral researchers; Materials Scientist Dr Tongtong Zhu and Materials Chemist Dr Yingjun Liu.
Rachel Oliver is Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge. She works on the materials which are used in energy-efficient LED light bulbs to improve the efficiency of these devices. Professor Oliver is the Director of the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride which conducts world leading research into nitride based semiconductors.
Alongside her academic research and entrepreneurial activities, Professor Oliver is heavily involved in advocating for greater Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within STEMM and leads The Inclusion Group for Equity in Research in STEMM (TIGERS), a network of scientists which campaigns to make STEMM more equitable.
What have been some of the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge was raising the money to get the company off the ground! Porotech is developing manufacturing processes and scaling them up to the industrial level. That means we need lab space and lab equipment, and they don’t come cheap! We were thus trying to raise a sizeable chunk of money in our seed round - £1.5 million – which was certainly challenging! As a female founder, with a very busy academic career and primary responsibility for caring for my child, I found the process particularly difficult because a lot of relevant meetings and events happen in the evenings, when I don’t necessarily have childcare available.
What do you believe are the important characteristics that a spinout founder should have?
I think it’s really important to have a clear vision for what you want to achieve. You also need to be really resilient, because there will be a lot of bumps in the road!
How would you characterise a successful spinout company?
The key to a successful spinout is having the right team in place. You need a group of talented individuals, all passionate about the company and its future, who between them bring together all a really diverse skillset, from the technical side, to sales, management, administration… the works!
Do you have a message for other women academics who may be thinking of spinning out their research?
Go for it! And when you do, be aware there are lots of different ways to get support and training to help you push forward. Courses like RisingWISE are available to help women specifically develop an entrepreneurial skillset.
“The key to a successful spinout is having the right team in place.”