European R&D centre created

Paul Boughton

Bristol, UK-based reconfigurable start-up Elixent has been bought by one of its key investors, Matsushita, to create a strategic European R&D centre in the region.

Matsushita is setting up the Panasonic Strategic Semiconductor Research and Development Centre around the company, said a spokesman for Panasonic. Elixent was set up in 2000 by a team from HP Labs led by Alan Marshall, who died suddenly at the end of May.

The Centre is part of Matsushita's corporate operations, headquartered in Osaka, Japan, rather than the Panasonic Semiconductor division in Kyoto. It is expected to look for other acquisitions to build the centre, and would not comment on the value of the deal.

Elixent has had over $40m of investment from Panasonic Digital Concepts Centre, the Silicon Valley based venture capital arm of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd and Toshiba Corporation, as well as the original investors 3i, GIMV and NIF Ventures and backing from HP Labs.

Panasonic Semiconductor already has a design centre in the UK in Wokingham, but this is being run down and the director, Tony King-Smith, has moved to become vice president of marketing at Imagination Technologies, which has a research and development group in Chepstow.

Matsushita plans to use the D-Fabrix technology developed by Elixent in its Unipher platform for chips that are used across the whole range of Panasonic products.

Elixent's management declined to comment on the deal.

The deal creates a strong research centre in the region, but creates a problem for several companies as 17 other companies were working with Elixent on the technology.

One of the key investors, Toshiba, has been evaluating the technology for the last three years to sit alongside its MeP processor, and has developed a test chip, and was an investor in Elixent, and that is now in doubt folloowing the deal. Pansonic would not comment on whether the Centre would work with outside companies, saying it was too soon to tell. However, there is scope for local collaboration as Toshiba also has a telecoms research lab in Bristol, led by Prof Joe McGeehan of Bristol University.

Earlier in the year Elixent shed its six-strong sales and marketing team and seen chief technologist and co-founder Alan Marshall leave to focus on product development, saying it was already engaged with 18 out of its 20 target customers, and expected the first part using its technology to be in a camcorder on the market by the end of this year. As a result the focus was on the third generation version on a 65nm process.