The power of paper electronics - Cambridge scientist talks on TED



A leading Cambridge scientist has showcased her ground-breaking work with printable electronics this week on the world-famous technology talk platform, TED2013.

Dr Kate Stone, the founder and CEO of UK company Novalia, joins a long line of high-profile speakers in the world of technology, entertainment and design to share her idea – a paper poster with embedded circuitry, which can interact via a mobile device app to produce percussion music.

TED has reached millions of online viewers presenting 'ideas worth sharing' over the past several years. Now Dr Stone is seeking to take her idea to an exciting new level by adapting the principle to a range of other exciting uses.

Through a crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, she’s inviting others to share her vision and become part of the Novalia story by helping to take her dream that vital leap forward.

“The future potential for this technology is enormous and unlimited,” says Dr Stone.

“Imagine being able to touch a shop display and the product information is instantly downloaded to your smartphone; a magazine you simply touch to personalise the cover; a printed advert with a build-in social media sharing button. Or what about a medicine-bottle label that reminds users to take their pills? It’s an unbelievably exciting field to be involved in – and we really hope the Kickstarter community will be as enthused and energised as we are!”

In return for their support, some Kickstarter donators will receive ‘rewards’ - gifts of Novalia’s drum posters, which ‘play’ instruments through blue-tooth technology to an app on some versions of iPhone and iPads. There are also stand-alone posters in which the poster is the speaker. The poster will be demonstrated during Dr Stone’s TED talk.

Kate began experimenting with electronics in her bedroom as a child – running wires under the carpets, hiding switches behind posters and putting an FM transmitter inside a carved-out book. She used the book to eavesdrop on her parents, though she says she was more interested in the idea of technology hidden within a generic object than in what her parents were saying. “I liked the idea of an everyday object doing something different,” she says.

After studying a PhD at Cambridge University she almost bankrupted herself by buying an industrial printing press to understand the process and find out if combining electronics and paper in the way she wanted would actually work. It did.

Since then she has travelled the world researching modern methods of making the age-old medium of paper more relevant to today’s technology-driven consumer society and has been in demand for talks to leading companies and conferences along the way.

Through her work with Cambridge University and valued ink suppliers, Dr Stone is also developing a unique graphene-based ink. Graphene is a novel substance composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, extracted from graphite, with astonishing flexible and conductive properties.

The Drum Poster and the technology that supports it is now ready for full production.  Kickstarter pledges will pay for the set up and production of the very first print run.

Britain has a long history of innovation in printing paper from the first British printing press set up at Westminster in 1476 by William Caxton through to the modern print & packaging industry that is the 5th largest producer in the world.

“The dream is only a fingertip away from being a reality”, says Dr Stone. “ Your pledges will help bring Novalia’s technology into the mainstream. But more importantly, they will also contribute to advancing British scientific exploration in printed electronics. So often Britain leads the field in innovation, only to be pipped-to-the-post by better-funded markets. This is our – and your – chance to put Britain on the map when it comes to scientific greatness.”

To contribute to Dr Stone’s on-going work and find out more details, visit:

To view Dr Stone's TED talk, visit:

For full details of Dr Kate Stone’s work, go to the Novalia website:

Supporting images/artwork/video:





TED Blog:

Novalia is a leading company in the area of printed electronics. It was founded in 2006 by Dr Kate Stone and is based in Cambridge, UK.

The company consists of a diverse team of seven people with skills ranging from embedded electronics, software development, print & ink making, graphic design, wireless technology and physics.

Kate started the company in her garage and after a few years developed a vision and business plan to attract VC backing from Solon Ventures, London, enabling the business to move to the Cambridge Science Park.  Total investment now stands at just over a million pounds.  Novalia has also been very successful in receiving numerous UK government funded grants in projects with a range of partners.  The business is now based in small village just a few miles north of Cambridge.

The team focuses on developing methods to combine traditional print with conventional electronics to add capacitive touch based interactivity to print and also to connect printed products to the Internet via a user’s mobile device.  There is a strong focus on design for high-volume manufacture which does not require hand assembly and can therefore be manufactured in local rather than remote markets. Wherever possible, the team applies for patents on these processes and now has an impressive thirty patent families with around fifteen of them granted in various territories.

Kate is often in demand as a speaker at various events ranging from TED (Amsterdam, Longbeach), future of digital marketing (London), future foundation (London), e-learning (Zurich), Graphexpo (Chicago), Fashionware CE week (New York).  Kate is often invited to present her vision of the future of print and interactive technology within leading companies; a recent example was to an audience representing the staff at the committee office for the British Parliament.

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Karen Thomas – PR and Media Manager (07967) 320944

Dr Kate Stone – (01223) 234 420 / (07572) 113 586

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