Fellowship a foundation for industrial success

  • 19 January 2023

A Research Fellowship at Gonville & Caius College propelled Dr Giorgia Longobardi to founding a start-up which is on course to become the market leader in gallium nitride power devices.

Giorgia’s Cambridge GaN Devices Ltd (CGD) develops highly efficient power electronics that can offer major energy savings in applications ranging from power supplies for consumer electronics to LED drives, data centres and wireless chargers.

“I would do it another 100 times. I think this was the best choice of my life,” Giorgia says.

“Starting up a company based on your own research is great. Seeing the impacts that the research can have, hiring people who can deliver that technology.

“We are going to have soon an audio amplifier with our chips in it. So what I've done as a PhD student, it's going to be in a beautiful product. It's just super cool.”

Giorgia won the Caius Research Fellowship competition in 2016 and left in 2021, having had a four-year contract extended to allow her to work in Japan for 12 months.

“What the Research Fellowship gave me was the possibility to think freely without necessarily having to do something that a PI (Principal Investigator) was telling me to do,” she adds.

“It was key for growing as a CEO and leader because you had to take your own responsibilities, your decisions. I don't have a secret. It's hard work.”

Going from researcher to CEO is about hiring the right people, learning from others, and asking for advice where necessary, says Giorgia, who works closely with fellow founder Professor Florin Udrea.

CGD is growing quickly, but the energy crisis means consumers want products immediately. Sustainability and the climate crisis was a key driver for Giorgia in establishing her business. Her hope is for long-term growth, rather than reacting to demand.

“Everyone wants something now, but we had foreseen it's even before because it was in our DNA, doing something that could have an impact on reducing energy losses,” Giorgia says.

“There are certain applications that are requesting somehow a faster adoption to our technology. An example is datacentres which consume lots of power.

“Of course there is a development time that we cannot skip. But it's about prioritising the resources for the key products and delivering to customers that can help us meet our goal.”

That goal is market leadership.

“The ambition is there, the investment support is there and the team to deliver that is growing in the way we had planned,” Giorgia adds.

“Our technology is unique with respect to what the other companies have and we are seeing it from the interaction with customers that we are having. The first orders are coming in, and we are very excited to be now in the scale-up phase ready to deliver high volume products to the market.”

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