13 February 2024

LiU alumnus and doctoral student Ivan Martinovic swapped Swedish winter for a warmer climate and headed for Silicon Valley. As of last November, he represents the LEAD company Polar Light Technologies, which has been accepted into Berkeley SkyDeck’s sought-after incubator programme Innovation Partner Program.

Charlotte Perhammar

Ivan Martinovic radiates a lot of energy despite a lack of sleep and jetlag when we meet him at LEAD’s office in Mjärdevi. The previous day, he spent nine hours on a flight from the US to Sweden to celebrate Christmas before returning to California. He will be spending a total of three months at Berkeley, to network and learn from the very best.

Crucial cooperation with LEAD

Polar Light Technologies, PLT, is a startup in the semiconductor business, founded by Per Olof Holtz at Linköping University in 2014. The company is built on solid material physics research, and its journey from research to commercialisation has now begun. This journey was kickstarted when the company was brought to the business incubator LEAD, which is owned by LiU via its subsidiary LiU Holding AB.

According to Martinovic, LEAD saw a good opportunity for successful company development, one reason being the well-functioning collaboration between research and the strong innovation network in the Linköping area. Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar

"Having access to coaching from LEAD has been crucial to us being able to take the first steps to find out whether PLT’s idea would have a chance to take off. LEAD has provided huge support, and the fact that we’re still with them is proof that it has worked,” says Ivan Martinovic.

LEAD helps new innovative companies enter the market and contribute to society. A majority of the business ideas accepted come from LiU.

Woman standing out doors against a grey wallCatharina Sandberg, CEO at LEAD Photo credit Christian Ekstrand "Our goal is that they, as soon as possible, become independent companies that can live up to their goals and visions. By contributing knowledge, competence, and networks in the early critical phase of company development, we help them minimise risks, says Catharina Sandberg, CEO at LEAD, and continues:

“In the case of Polar Light, we saw that they would benefit from getting closer to an international market to succeed. When we visited Berkeley SkyDeck in September, we realised that they would be a perfect match for accelerating the company in its current phase.”

From LiU to Silicon Valley

Ivan Martinovic has always been passionate about technology, which is why the Master of Science programme in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering suited him perfectly. The programme is advertised as one of LiU’s most demanding programmes, something that attracted Ivan:

“I was after the most difficult programme, and LiU had it. It involves a lot ofA tall, black office building situated at a crowded street Photo credit Ivan Martinovic technology and maths, but still has a broad focus which makes it possible to work with almost anything after graduation. I had no idea at the time that it would lead me directly into the startup world.”

And now it has given him the opportunity to spend three months with SkyDeck at Berkeley as a representative of Polar Light Technologies.

Can you describe a normal day at Berkeley?

“A normal day at Berkeley is loaded with new knowledge and impressions. The programme which is part of the incubator programme consists of both theory and practice. We have workshops and lectures, and the idea is that our newly gained knowledge is to be put into practice immediately. And this is easy in an innovative environment such as Silicon Valley.”  

If he wants to pitch an idea, his colleagues are always only a phone call or email away. Everyone does their utmost to help each other and it’s a very cooperative environment. It has also turned out that PLT’s business idea stands out in a positive way here.

A man standing in a office lobby speaking in a cell phoneThe colleagues at Berkeley are always just a phone call away. Photo credit Sullivan Gaudreault “We’ve been given a unique opportunity to measure ourselves against the international semiconductor market, and we’re doing really well here at Berkeley. Semiconductor research in Linköping is world class, and this is confirmed here in Silicon Valley and at SkyDeck, as PLT’s technology is groundbreaking,” says Martinovic.

The programme at Berkeley will end in February. Ivan will then bring all his knowledge and contacts home, so that he and his colleagues at PLT can take the next step in the company’s development. Its long-term goal is to build a semiconductor industry in Sweden.

Doctoral studies at LiU

Graduating from LiU not only led Ivan to Silicon Valley but also to a doctoral position in Electron Microscopy of Materials at LiU. A research area that is fully in line with PLT’s operations. After an intensive and informative period in Silicon Valley he is looking forward to being able to spend more time on his doctoral studies. A man in blue jacket and light blue shirt sitting on a couchThe Berkeley program ends in February. Then Ivan looks forward to continuing his doctoral studies at and to working further with PLT's continued journey towards a future growth company. Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar

 
Semiconductor research in Linköping is world class, and this is confirmed here in Silicon Valley and at SkyDeck.
Ivan Martinovic

More information

Facts about the research

Polar Light Technologies develops semiconductor components in the form of microLEDs that will enable the next generation of monitors and projectors. They can be used, for example, in AR applications such as smart glasses and to project information on the windshield of a car. 

The technology is based on pyramid-shaped structures with so-called quantum dots that emit light. Thanks to this, PLT has created one of the world’s smallest LEDs for monitors. This allows for very high pixel density on a very small screen that is also bright.

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