President & CEO
Team Lead Analyst, Imaging & Display
President & CEO
Pierre Laboisse became the President & CEO of Aledia, September 1st this year. He has been in the semiconductor industry for more than 25 years, working at major companies Infineon Technologies, NXP and AMS-Osram, with executive positions, which brought him to the core of all strategic decisions that needed to be supported, made, or contributed to.
Pierre Laboisse joined NXP pre-IPO, and under the leadership of Rick Clemmer which was a great experience. Then I decided to join AMS, under the leadership of Alexander Everke, when ams was a very small company, in terms of revenue. There, he was also supporting and contributing to the vertical development of ams which then became ams OSRAM.
All along his multiple functions, Pierre Laboisse has been deeply involved in major technology breakthroughs which have been brought to market. He has also participated and contributed to the vertical ramp up of some of those technologies.
Team Lead Analyst, Imaging & Display
MicroLEDs have been at the forefront of display innovation. Yole Group is the only company to have followed the technology from the beginning, recognizing that it could be the window to disruptive display innovation.
In its MicroLED report, 2023 edition, Yole Group highlights some conflicting trends in the microLED industry. Therefore, microLED technology promises better performance than OLED on all key metrics. However, as it keeps getting pushed back and OLEDs keep improving, there is now a sense of urgency for microLED to succeed before OLED’s progress erases all opportunities for differentiation, and OLED finds itself so entrenched in applications targeted by µLED that it can no longer be challenged.
But, despite a general sense of fatigue, momentum remains strong, with growing investment and commitments from large companies. As of 2023, $11.5 billion has been spent on microLED development. Startup funding will reach a record high in 2023 alone, exceeding $400 million. However, the past 18 months have seen ups and downs in microLED news, with fab and product announcements often followed by delays…
Yole Group was pleased to spend some time with the new Aledia President & CEO and discuss the future of microLEDs, as the company promotes disruptive display technology with better efficiency and an overall total eclipse of the regular display supply chain. To complement its latest analysis of the microLED industry, its MicroLED report, Yole Group interviewed Aledia’s new President & CEO, Pierre Laboisse.
French microLED display startup Aledia recently completed an impressive €120 million (US$128 million) round. The company has been developing its 3D nanowire technology for more than a decade. It is completing its first fab and positioning itself for entering a microLED industry which, despite a strong momentum, is feeling a sense of urgency to accelerate commercialization. Yole Intelligence expects the first microLED smartwatch to enter the market in 2024, but large volumes are not expected until 2026.
Pierre Laboisse has a clear vision of where microLEDs will be used in the mid-and short term and how Aledia can provide the appropriate technologies, capacities, and IP to gain design wins in multiple markets from smartwatches and large displays to AR glasses and automotive in the coming years. Ahead of CES 2024, he outlines his strategic redesign for the French microLED company in an interview with Zine Bouhamri, Team Lead Analyst, Imaging & Display at Yole Intelligence.
Yole Intelligence is part of Yole Group.
Zine Bouhamri (ZB): Pierre, you are the new CEO of Aledia, but please introduce yourself – for people who are not in the microLED industry.
Pierre Laboisse (PL): I’ve been in the semiconductor industry for more than 25 years, working at major companies Infineon Technologies, NXP, and ams OSRAM MicroLED technology is not new to me. I have been deeply involved in major technological breakthroughs that have been brought to market.
The semiconductor industry is a field of great interest to me. You are always working to develop and bring new technologies to market. That is why I decided to join Aledia. That, and to support a French company to become a technology leader in the field of MicroLEDs.
ZB: What is your view of Aledia’s mission, and the unique value it can bring to the semiconducting industry?
PL: Aledia’s mission is to be the de facto technology market leader in next-generation microLED displays through differentiated technology.
We are developing and bringing to market a fundamental differentiation and innovation. If you think about a specific market, like smartwatches or smartphones, our 3D nanowire and silicon wafer technology is very disruptive and brings a lot of benefits.
Standard benefits for all include brightness, battery management, and power efficiency, but the technology we have also gives us a massive opportunity in terms of volumes because we have gone from eight-inch to 12-inch. This can drive down manufacturing costs.
3D nanowire technology drives huge differentiation. Aledia’s patent position in nanowire technology, for example, brings an opportunity to also have a pretty good overall size-to-cost ratio.
Another opportunity is to leverage our smart pixel or digital RGB in a way that also brings a good size-to-cost ratio to the market.
ZB: Competition is fierce in this industry. There are many investments, for example, ams Osram, Sanan, Stratacache, and JBD. How do you plan to stay ahead and remain an industry leader?
PL: Yes, there are many things happening, but it is not just the technology that you offer but how you differentiate with it and your manufacturing tools or assets. That’s also what excited me about Aledia; there are not many companies that have that already.
Aledia has a sizeable factory in Champagnier. We are in the final stage of the development of our first product, and we’re currently finalizing the manufacturing site. For the last couple of weeks, we have been bringing more equipment and tools there.
That will allow us to grow significantly. We now need to install capacity, which will be very important when this market starts to ramp up, as I suppose a lot of key players will go into the market.
We also have strong internal expertise in different key domains. One is epitaxy processing and design, and we have more than ten years of nanowire technology development.
We have also invested a significant amount of money to enlarge our patent portfolio, which we are rightly proud of. For several years now, we are the number one company for patents in France [nearly 300] in the startup category. That’s pretty important, because strong IP makes a big difference.
The expertise of the staff is matched by their passion and dedication. They are excited to make this venture succeed and can see the direction we are taking the company, which helps us to move faster in the right direction.
We also have strong support from our shareholders. The board and investors are enthusiastic and understand what it takes for the technology to develop and are happy to work with me and the management team. We have completed the latest fundraising round and have raised more than €360 million to date.
Today, I can’t think of any other company that has demonstrated a final product. We are at the forefront of the race.
The technology differentiation we bring to the market, the strong IP that we have, the asset tools, the expertise, and the years of development under our wing put us in the top league, I would say. This is coupled with passionate people who go above and beyond to develop technology and make customers happy. I believe this passion, coupled with our technological edge, will make a difference when competing against other, maybe larger, companies.
ZB: You mention you are increasing the manufacturing capability in Champagnier and finishing product development, but what will be your first product? And what are you targeting as a priority?
PL: There is a lot of detail that I’m not ready to share before I meet with my board at the end of November.
But there are two strategic paths for Aledia. One is a custom silicon design type. Nanowire 3D technology fits into this category. You could think about digital RGB or smart pixel, and how to shrink it.
We also are refocusing on application-specific standard products (ASSPs). These include BLU, or Back Light Unit, products as well as RGB, up to digital RGB, and how digital RGB will shrink to go into a custom silicon design.
In a way, we have to be more focused as a company to be able to embark on this vertical development, which will drive some of the key applications.
The vision market is very exciting, although I differentiate between AR and VR. VR, we know, and we can participate in that with our portfolio.
AR is a long way off in terms of mass adoption and also requires a lot of money for development to be able to participate in that market. However, you need to co-develop with leading customers now.
If you think about the focus that we need to have, it’s very important to take the right path and nurture and cultivate, for example, AR, to ensure that you can participate at a later stage.
The smartwatch market is going to be the one that will help to move the needle for all the different applications. If you can do smaller displays and reach the level of efficiency that the market requires, you’re surely going to develop the next application quickly.
You also have automotive, which is also a mid- to long-term possibility but is a cluster of applications. With microLED, if you really want to differentiate and accelerate, you have to think about how to participate in applications that will be a pipe cleaner for the rest of the market.
Adoption of EVs and autonomous driving, when we reach that point in time, will drive more displays within the car. There is an opportunity, and I think, also a need, to have microLED technology within the car. You can also think about what your heads-up display or windshield could look like in the future. Everything that is a display is potentially an opportunity.
I’m currently in discussions with automotive market players to understand what we can co-create or co-develop together now, as well as in the future.
I want Aledia to be focused on a few good applications, to be able to go through the learning curve and to invest wisely to make the right returns.
ZB: What is going to be your manufacturing strategy? Are you going to be doing everything, all the displays? Or are you only going to be doing the epitaxy and be fabless?
PL: The beauty of who we are is we can do eight-inch, and we can go to 12-inch. For us, that is a critical advantage.
With the capacity we have in place, we will easily reach 220,000, 240,000 wafers a year.
We are establishing a fully integrated pilot line within and throughout our site, which is something I have been pushing because it is key for us.
What I want to do is have everything that differentiates us inside the company and to run on 12-inch lines.
When it is time to scale for larger volumes, we will look externally to partners, ecosystems, or foundries. So, in summary, it’s really a mixed flexi-manufacturing strategy.
There is also the opportunity to expand the current manufacturing site near Grenoble and Champagnier. And that’s important because a lot of capacity will need to be ready in the next couple of years to support this industry.
Mastering the epitaxy and the 8 and 12-inch silicon process is a must for us in order to support the market.
ZB: Is there anything you can highlight in terms of R&D?
PL: R&D is critical, obviously; this has been the bulk of our investment. We’re making rapid progress, whether it’s technologies like nanowire 3D or mass transfer, as well as for application-specific standard products.
I am excited about the fast speed of ramping up from product development to more than functional samples.
One highlight is the chip on TFT development. I’m happy to see that milestone defined and closer to being reached.
Native color technology is also amazing. We will have the possibility to grab a large market share here, and not only in AR.
ZB: How does the native color fit sequentially into your plant?
PL: Depending on how you nurture and cultivate it, you can participate in the long-term market or application that is related to native color technology. Sequentially, it fits nicely; we have a base there.
Coming back to milestones, I will be at CES. Then it will be the right time to elaborate on progress, sharing our strategic redesign and complementing this with proven data points.