Waterloo-based VueReal has received a combined $10.5 million from the federal and provincial governments to scale its cleantech approach to micro- and nano-display fabrication and printing technology.
The money is part of an overall $40 million that VueReal plans to spend developing and expanding its manufacturing solution for microLED display and other semiconductor applications.
As part of the project, the company will continue to enlarge its cutting-edge R&D and fabrication facilities on Phillip Street. The project, which is already under way, is expected to create 75 jobs and increase VueReal’s workforce to 105 people.
Of the $10.5 million in government funding, $8.5 million is a federal investment through Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). A provincial contribution of $2 million is coming through Invest Ontario.
“We congratulate all the cleantech entrepreneurs, including VueReal, who are turning vision into reality with help from SDTC investments,” said François-Philippe Champagne, federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “The Government of Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with these groundbreaking companies as they drive innovation, make their mark as international leaders in clean technology and propel us onward to a cleaner Canada and a net-zero carbon emissions world.”
Vic Fideli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, toured the VueReal facility with Invest Ontario CEO Trevor Dauphinee.
“VueReal’s investment is a vote of confidence in Ontario’s world-class workforce and advanced manufacturing sector,” Fideli said. “We’re building Ontario by working closely with companies like VueReal to create more opportunities for workers today and for generations to come.”
VueReal was founded in 2016 by CEO Reza Chaji. Originally from Iran, Chaji moved to Canada and earned a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Waterloo.
VueReal has developed a manufacturing process for semiconductor applications that enables a more environmentally friendly way to make digital displays and sensors, while significantly lowering power consumption.
The company’s core proprietary technology involves “printing” things like microLEDs and sensors on a surface, rather than traditional silicon-based semiconductor manufacturing, which involves large quantities of chemicals, water and power.
In an interview, Chaji said VueReal is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: making digital-display products for use in such areas as IoT, automobile and aerospace industries, while also selling its micro-printing platform to customers who want to make their own digital-display products.
He believes VueReal’s innovative process will disrupt the industry.
“We want to create this opportunity to do what iPhone did for software, we will do for hardware,” he said. “I was talking to my team, and kind of joking, I said there’s going to be an era in hardware before VueReal and then an era after VueReal.”
During a tour of the VueReal facilities, Chaji and co-founder and Chief Nanotechnology Officer Ehsan Fathi showed Fideli and Dauphinee a variety of applications for VueReal’s technology. One was a car windshield with the potential to show an entire dashboard in the glass in front of the driver.
Chaji said that VueReal already has 240 patents and continues to apply for more.
“The IP that you’ve developed here and will keep here is critical to continued innovation in Ontario,” Fideli said.
Chaji also said that in the early days of VueReal a potential investor in Silicon Valley had urged him to move the company to California. Chaji discussed it with his colleagues but decided to stay in Waterloo and build the company here.
“A big part of it was the University of Waterloo,” he said, noting the supply of talent that UW produces and the shared research that VueReal does with the university.
Chaji expanded on the choice of location in a news release.
“Canada’s great universities, including the University of Waterloo, combined with government research funds, make Waterloo Region a prime location for developing cutting-edge and sustainable technologies,” he said. “VueReal has leveraged this ecosystem to develop its microSolid printing technologies, which enable the creation of smart surfaces for next-generation displays and sensor applications.”
Despite the challenging venture capital market, VueReal has been successful at raising investment in recent years.
The company raised US$10.5 million through a Series A round in 2018, and another US$20 million through a Series B round and follow-on in 2022.