Exagan raises €5.7m to produce GaN-on-Si power-switching devices
Exagan of Grenoble, France, a gallium nitride (GaN) technology start-up that enables smaller and more efficient electrical converters, has raised €5.7m in first-round financing that will be used to produce high-speed power switching devices on 200mm wafers.
The investors include French venture funds with a record of identifying and fostering promising, fast-growth, early-stage technology companies: Technocom2 (managed by French venture capital firm Innovacom); CM-CIC Innovation (the investment arm of European bank group Crédit Mutuel-CIC Group); IRDInov (a regional seed investor in emerging, fast-growth companies); CEA investissement (a manager of funds invested in technology companies, and which invested via the CEA strategic fund); and Soitec (which provides semiconductor materials).
Based in Grenoble (with a branch office in Toulouse), Exagan was spun off from CEA-Leti and Soitec in 2014 (with financial support from each), and licenses materials and technology from both organizations. Exagan aims to accelerate the power-electronics industry’s transition from silicon-based technology to smaller and more efficient electrical converters based on GaN-on-silicon technology. Its GaN power switches are designed to be compatible with manufacturing in standard 200mm-wafer silicon foundries in order to provide high-performance, high-reliability products through a robust supply chain.
Following Exagan’s announcement in May of an agreement with X-FAB Silicon Foundries AG of Erfurt, Germany to produce devices on 200mm wafers, the financing will help to support Exagan’s aim of becoming Europe’s primary supplier of GaN-based power switches for the solar, automotive and IT electronics markets. That aim includes its strategic partnership with CEA-Leti, which is developing applications with some of its industrial partners based on Exagan’s G-FET 650V platform and its very high power-switching performance and extremely low conduction losses (enabling what is claimed to be unprecedented power integration and efficiency levels).
Power integration is key to meeting the growing demand for less expensive and more efficient electrical converters that silicon power devices cannot meet, says Exagan. In contrast, the material properties of GaN devices offer promising power-integration and efficiency gains that deliver higher power densityA figure of merit usually expressed in Joules per cubic inch for capacitorsA figure of merit usually expressed in Joules per cubic inch for capacitorsA figure of merit usually expressed in Joules per cubic inch for capacitors and switching speed at the device level.
“This significant first round of financing validates our efforts over the past five years with Leti and Soitec to commercialize GaN-on-silicon technology and supports our commitment to provide customers with qualified GaN devices in large volumes,” says Exagan’s CEO & co-founder Frédéric Dupont. “We are focused on offering our customers reliable, high-performance devices that are developed with industrial partners already sourcing technologies or products for the targeted markets,” he adds.
“Their GaN-on-silicon technology, which leverages our own materials expertise, opens very interesting opportunities in promising markets such as electronics, automotive and energy,” notes Soitec’s CEO Paul Boudre. “Exagan is well positioned to drive innovation in power switching technology, due to its location in Grenoble among the strong mix of innovative companies and technology-integration clusters,” he adds.
“Based on our experience with the automotive and aerospace industries, we are convinced of the potential markets for GaN power electronic devices,” notes IRDInov’s managing director Jean-Michel Petit. “This is all the more reason to further develop its presence in Toulouse, which has a concentration of competencies in power-electronics applications and many potential future clients.”
Leti has invested many years in developing GaN technologies because it believes they will drive innovation in the power-electronics industry and accelerate development of sustainable-energy technologies, says Leti’s CEO Marie Semeria, who regards Exagan as a European source of new GaN power switches for key industrial partners in transportation and energy as well as broader markets. “Through our partnership with Exagan, Leti will accelerate its investment in this area to further develop our leading expertise in GaN technology and related systems and applications,” says Semeria.