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Chinese VC firms find sweet spot in British touch screen maker

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-26 10:07

A screenshot of Cambridge Touch Technologies from its official website. [Photo/camtouch3d.com]

Chinese investors have injected funds into a United Kingdom-based startup that develops smartphone screens that allow users to text underwater.

Cambridge Touch Technologies, also known as CTT, invented the touch screens for phones and other devices that function in the rain, when submerged, and when users are wearing gloves.

Chinese investment companies Puhua Capital and CM Ventures contributed to a recent funding round for the company that garnered a total of $10 million.

CM Ventures provides investment and advisory support for technology startups. CM Ventures also invested in CTT in a previous funding round last year, when the Shanghai-based fund went under its former name of China Materialia.

Puhua Capital is an equity investment company based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, that focuses on early-to mid-stage projects.

Other investors in this latest funding round included Japanese chemical company Kureha Corp, Japanese automotive touch panel company Futaba Corp, London-based venture capital companies Downing Ventures and Amadeus Capital Partners, and UK growth fund Parkwalk Advisors.

"We're delighted to welcome our new corporate and venture capital investors from Japan and China, as well as having the continued strong support of our existing investors, who together form a world-class group that will help scale CTT quickly to exploit the market opportunity for its technology," said Corbin Church, chief executive of CTT.

Part of the funding will be used to expand CTT at its headquarters in Cambridge and to flesh out Asia sales and support offices in the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Japan.

"CTT has grown rapidly over the last several years, and we're looking forward to being able to continue executing on our growth plan and sharpening our commercialization focus within the consumer electronics, automotive, and industrial markets," said Church.

"The partners we have and the injection of new capital means we can expect to enable our customers to begin rolling out the technology at scale in the near future."

Smartphone users will know that operating a touch screen in the rain is often frustrating because water droplets interfere with the device's sensors. CTT has developed a solution to the problem that it calls UltraTouch, which combines algorithms together with advanced materials.

The system uses a piezoelectric film, on which mechanical stress produces an electric charge, along with an artificial intelligence system that senses both touch and force simultaneously.

With most major smartphone companies innovating toward waterproof devices, CTT believes it can provide manufacturers with some of the highest-performing underwater screen technology.

The piezoelectric film also functions through material, so users can keep their gloves on during a cold day.

CTT says UltraTouch can be used on smart displays inside vehicles, on wearable electronics, and is also compatible with foldable phones, which phone makers including Samsung and Huawei believe will become increasingly widespread in the near future.

Beyond the planned expansion into Asia, Church says the investment will help CTT move toward commercial roll-out of its technology. CTT says the company has successfully developed engineering samples for customers in several markets over the past year and demonstrated capability for mass manufacturing.

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