US firm Silicon Laboratories which is listed on the Nasdaq
stock exchange, announced on Tuesday the acquisition of spinout ChipSensors
Limited, an early stage technology company, based at the University of Limerick.
Last April another spinout firm in Limerick, Stokes Bio, was sold to a US
firm. The sales raise questions about the payback from the multi-billion euro Irish
public investment in third level research.
Silicon Laboratories, based in Austin, Texas, said ChipSensors
creates innovative single-chip CMOS sensors designed to detect temperature,
humidity and gases. ChipSensors’ technology complements Silicon Labs’ touch,
proximity sensing and recently acquired MEMS technology, expanding the company’s
capabilities in CMOS (complementary
metal-oxide-semiconductor- - a technology for constructing integrated
The US firm says ChipSensors, a fabless
semiconductor company, has an experienced management and technology team with
extensive materials science and mixed-signal design expertise. The company has
leveraged these capabilities to develop novel sensor technology that addresses a
wide range of target markets such as thermostats, automotive climate control,
printers, wireless sensor networks, security systems, gas leak detectors, white
goods, and food and drug transportation.
Historically, sensors have been manufactured using specialized materials and
manufacturing processes that demand external support circuitry and post-assembly
calibration. ChipSensors’ proprietary, patented technology can enable the
sensors, signal conditioning circuits and RF transceiver functions, together
with the microcontroller and memory, to be integrated and calibrated in a single
CMOS IC. These highly integrated devices provide a cost-effective solution to
precision sensing for high-volume applications.
"Joining forces with Silicon Labs provides us with an exceptional
opportunity to both collaborate with a team that has a reputation for the
highest caliber mixed-signal engineering and potentially grow the design team in
Ireland to take advantage of the strong local technical talent," said Tim
Cummins, CEO and founder of ChipSensors.
Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Equity Fund had a 40%
shareholding in ChipSensor. The total sale price is reported
to be around €10m.
The company was launched in 2005 after securing an initial
investment of €100,000 from the Bank of Ireland Kernel
Capital Equity Fund - - an early stage equity fund supported
by Bank of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and private
The Government has put faith and public money in its 'smart economy' strategy
and Finfacts has raised questions about the plan first announced in 2006 to be
recognised as a 'world class knowledge economy' by 2013.
It is not a surprise that startup high tech firms would aspire to be acquired
by bigger US firms. However, while it may be a good move for the promoters and
investors to cash-out, it highlights the difficulty of public policy achieving
the goal of developing and funding firms that can become scalable and contribute
value-added back to the Irish economy.
Silicon Laboratories hasn't said that it is planning to
invest in and expand the ChipSensors operation in Ireland.
Early stage takeovers are usually motivated to acquire the technology.
SEE: Finfacts article, Aug 2010;
Irish Innovation: Ireland banking on the faith-based smart economy strategy