Oxford Advanced Surfaces (LON:OXA) said this morning that managing director Mike Eason has given in his notice and will quit the company in August.
The former technical director was appointed boss in 2009 and had been leading the commercialisation of the company’s lead product, an anti-reflective coating called VISARC.
Chairman Michael Bretherton said: "The board would like to thank Mike Eason for his valuable efforts to date and is pleased that he will continue to be involved and contribute over the next six months while we identify and bring on board an experienced chief executive to lead the Company in the next stage of its development.
“The directors believe that 2011 will be a turning point for the company and a year in which we are able to build recognisable value for shareholders.”
Along with VISARC, the group has also developed ONTO, which has the unique ability to alter almost any surface.
This lends itself to all sorts of high-tech applications, from flexible screens and state-of-the-art batteries to a “stick and non-stick” technology that could revolutionise precision electronics.
However, the immediate prospects of OAS hinge on the success of the scratch-resistant, anti-reflective, which can produced at a fraction of the price existing lens coatings.
VISARC is so easy to apply it simplifies what is a complex and expensive coating process.
Currently, the capital cost for the machinery needed to create small batches of glasses stands at something approaching £500,000, according to Eason.
If you wanted to produce coated lenses on an industrial scale then the expenditure rises to £1.5-£3 million.
That’s the sort of specialist equipment used by industry giants Essilor and Luxottica, owner of the Ray-Ban brand.
What OAS is offering is a very simple, straightforward wet treatment.
A spin coating machine costing £60,000 can be used to apply VISARC and is a piece of kit within the reach of the local Rx lab that grinds lenses for opticians.
It also turns a process that can take between three and 10 days into a same-day service.
On an industrial scale, dip coating can be used, and the cost of a plant here can be as low as £200,000.
So the OAS product does two things – it significantly lowers the capital and operating costs of the coating process and changes the supply chain model.
Having already been through the validation process, the group is now on the cusp of transforming VISARC into a commercial product.
However, it has to decide whether to partner initially with a lens manufacturer such as Carl Zeiss, Essilor or Luxottica, which may limit the product’s global spread, or team up with a firm that actually applies the coating.
Eason said recently the group is currently in talks with several potential partners that are “multi-national companies”, and is hopeful of sealing a commercial agreement with one of them by the middle of this year.
It is expected that a deal will involve an upfront payment, a second installment when pilot production gets underway, possibly later this year, and a final tranche when samples are released to the trade in around a year’s time.
The group will then receive ongoing royalties from the sales of specs using its coatings.
And that’s the model OAS intends to use as it picks off other product categories – the licence fee and royalties model.
In total the group reckons it can generate US$70 million a year from VISARC as it rolls the coating out for use in touch screen phones, super-large screens and finally solar energy where an anti-reflective coating would really enhance the efficiency of the panels.
However, this is merely stage one. ONTO brings with it a whole array of new opportunities.
It could be a central component of plastic electronic printing, and the company is working with a partner in this field.