ORGANEXT: The next generation of solar cells

Exploiting organic nanomaterials such as ultra-thin solar cells has huge market potential. To reach this potential, ORGANEXT has united research institutes, companies and policy makers to develop sustainable applications in renewable energies and nanoelectronics.

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Including project partners from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, ORGANEXT has created jobs, reduced fossil fuel dependence, and improved both the economic and environmental sustainability of production processes in a wide array of products. And its goals are directly in line with the Europe 2020 strategy, which stresses the need for attaining economic growth in a sustainable manner.

Sharing expertise

Organic nanomaterials have the potential to offer intelligent and sustainable solutions in a number of industries. However, until recently, it was only the public research institutes that had the necessary expertise in this area. For the very first time, ORGANEXT provided a platform for companies to learn from these institutes so that they could develop and commercialise new products using cutting edge technology based on organic materials.

The project combined the strengths of various regional research institutes to form a virtual Euregional Nanomaterials Analysis Lab, in which each partner had its specific competences. This was a cost-effective solution that stimulated the use of organic materials and a reduction in fossil fuel dependence. It also provided small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to state-of-the-art equipment and expertise.

Under the project's four-year lifespan, electro-optical applications like intelligent coatings, biosensors, electrical circuits, and solar cells were developed using low cost production techniques. These low cost production techniques have had a knock-on effect as they give SMEs the chance to compete and enter the market, creating green jobs and strengthening the bio-economy.

In addition, much less material was required to arrive at the same functionality, which has resulted in a more sustainable use of resources.

Exciting innovations

Technological innovation – in both printable electronics and organic solar cells – has been a key feature of ORGANEXT. An exciting example is the organic photovoltaic window that can be integrated into the sustainable house of the future. Another is the printable solar cell that can be embedded in textiles and even curved surfaces.

In fact, advances under ORGANEXT have been so impressive that experts are now predicting that the project could lead to the development of the next generation of solar cells.

Another key feature of ORGANEXT has been education and training initiatives informing the business community about the potential of organic nanomaterials. Young researchers have also been targeted to further promote and develop the concept of bio-economy across the EU. 

The results speak for themselves. Under ORGANEXT, more than 43 companies have set up product development and testing trajectories, while 1 670 individuals have been directly involved in cross-border cooperation projects. 76 initiatives to educate and inform business partners on the economic and ecological possibilities have been carried out, and overall, some 663 people have been trained, surpassing the original target of 270.

Information about the project's impact has also been disseminated to a wide audience; for example, its results have been published in a total of 52 academic publications.

These results all point to ORGANEXT having the potential to position Europe at the forefront of an important segment of the bio-economy.

Due to the success of ORGANEXT, the project has already been presented as an example of good practice in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) benchmark study on cross-border innovation policy.

lsquo;ORGANEXT clusters high-level research centres, companies and policy makers of Euregio Maas-Rhein towards the development of next-generation organic opto-electronics and solar cells for an intelligent and sustainable future.’

  • Prof. Dr. Jean V. Manca, Hasselt University and ORGANEXT Project Coordinator

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “ORGANEXT” is EUR 7 491 457 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 3 745 728 through the “Interreg IV-A Euregio Meuse Rhine” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

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