DRACULA Technologies, a leading European player in the production of organic photovoltaic energy, was born of a collaborative project between companies and research centres in Valence, France. KIC InnoEnergy France has been incubating the start-up since it began its activities in 2012.
DRACULA Technologies has brought an innovative digital printing process of photovoltaic cells to the market that allows for energy self-sufficiency. These extremely light printed cells can capture solar energy and transform it into power. What’s more, they can be created on demand to any specific customer requested design. The low cost of printing (approximately 1 Euro/watt) and the five-year efficiency lifespan make this solution perfectly suitable for integration with accessories, such as backpacks and luggage, as well as toys and design items.
We interviewed Brice Cruchon, CEO of DRACULA Technologies, to learn more about the company, its products and his entrepreneurial experience.
Please tell us about DRACULA Technologies and its products.
I started working in the innovation sector in 2006, initially with the fluid jetting company Ardeje. This company is also based in Valence, as is the parent company of DRACULA Technologies, and it was their expertise in ink printing technologies that helped us to create our own start-up, in late 2011. DRACULA Technologies’ core activity is the production of specifically designed organic photovoltaic devices that can be produced on demand. Our goal is to become the European leader in this sector.
How did you choose the name for the company?
Actually, we racked our brains to find a name that enabled us to stand out from the crowd. All photovoltaic company names seem to refer to the sun, so we wanted to avoid that. We also wanted the company name to act as a branding and marketing tool for us – we think we have done that!
How do you digitally print with this product?
Once we have digitalised the design selected by our customers, we can print on it the various layers that will compose the solar panel. Our ink-printing technology is compatible with a wide range of materials for both indoor and outdoor use. For instance, DRACULA Technologies provided equipment for the sand marathon runner, Benoît Laval, who is also CEO of the outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer, Outdoor Raidlight. Our technology allowed him to charge his GPS while he was running rather than having to stop to do so, or needing to carry a solar panel, weighing about a half a kilo, on his back while he ran.
What is the competitive advantage of digitally printing organic photovoltaic solar cells?
This is a real breakthrough in photovoltaic technologies! Our positioning is unique: we not only create solar panels but also the energy storage device, and so integrate the whole solution into the end product. The challenge lies in the fact that we can’t modify the initial production of a product, (be it a backpack, strollers, packaging, etc. often manufactured in Asia), and so need to integrate our technology into the end product. Our solution is so innovative that we have even received a regional award for it; we are proud to have won the “Technology and High Technology” category of the Artinov Prize.
What are your target markets?
To date, our target markets are the sports, outdoors, mobility (loading a GPS or a smartphone on the go) and packaging industries. We collaborate with market leaders for packaging solutions that include both lighting and power. They will sell the final, customised product to a niche on the luxury market. For instance, our solution will allow you to have a drink with your friends while your smartphone charges via a USB plug connected to a mini solar panel that is positioned on your champagne bottle.
How did you benefit from KIC InnoEnergy’s support?
KIC InnoEnergy has incubated our company right from the beginning of our activities. First of all, KIC InnoEnergy encouraged me to follow coaching classes designed for young CEOs such as myself. As a CEO it transformed me entirely as I went from managing people to managing a whole business. Thanks to KIC InnoEnergy’s business coaching, I learnt all the tools and work methods that I still use today. Last but not least, KIC InnoEnergy connected us to important decision-makers and design and communication advisors who helped us think innovatively about how to integrate our technology into their products.
What are your plans for the coming months?
We are currently hiring a business developer to strengthen our sales force, accelerate our development and reach a larger number of customers. We also plan to hire and train production technicians to accommodate rapid business growth. In terms of product development for 2014, we are working on developing a range for both lighting and power, as well as standardising the prices for basic printing.
Do you have any recent successes that you would like to share with us?
DRACULA Technologies proudly presented its expertise and innovation to Ms. Fleur Pellerin, former-minister delegate for SMEs Innovation and Digital Economy of France, on her visit to Valence. She was particularly interested in our technology and the unique solutions we have to offer.