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Regional Report Triangle January 2013


Size matters in solar

""To have a bright future, solar energy must be made as inexpensive as traditional sources, and Semprius Inc. thinks it has developed technology that can achieve that. The Durham-based company makes the world’s most-efficient solar panels, which convert 33.9% of the energy in sunlight into electricity, according to independent tests. Traditional panels use solar cells — the mechanisms that absorb sunlight — made of silicon. Semprius’ are gallium arsenide, more expensive but more efficient than silicon, which has a maximum efficiency rate of slightly more than 20%. That allows the company to keep prices competitive by making each cell small. The breakthrough put its panels among MIT Technology Review’s 10 most-important technological milestones of 2012.

Founded in 2005, the company developed its technology with a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010. Since then, venture-capital firms have invested $40 million, and German electronics giant Siemens AG bought a 16% stake in June 2011. “That was a springboard to take it from a research-and-development operation to a full commercial-production company,” says Russ Kanjorski, Semprius’ vice president of business development. In September, the 65-employee company began production at a new $89.7 million, 50,000-square-foot plant in Henderson. It plans to add 100,000 square feet and increase its workforce to 250 within five years. The private company would not disclose revenue.

It supplies panels to Siemens, which announced plans in October to sell its solar business. That, Kanjorski says, doesn’t affect the conglomerate’s stake in Semprius. Still, it’s lining up other major customers. In November, it won a contract to supply solar panels for an electricity-generation demonstration project at Edwards Air Force Base in California. If the project is cost-effective, it could mean expansion to other bases. “That’s really a great opening step to build business with the Department of Defense,” Kanjorski says.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Drug developer Biogen Idec and Japan-based pharmaceutical company Eisai will partially combine manufacturing operations here. Weston, Mass.-based Biogen Idec will lease part of Eisai’s plant to package medicine. Fifty of Eisai’s 225 RTP workers will join Biogen Idec’s more than 1,000 in RTP. Financial terms were not disclosed.

CARY — Mike Capps stepped down as president of Epic Games (“Rapid-fire Growth,” October 2012) after 10 years at the helm of the video-game developer, which makes the Gears of War franchise. He will remain on the board of directors.

RALEIGH Highwoods Properties bought EQT Plaza, an office tower in downtown Pittsburgh, for more than $90 million. The real-estate investment trust will spend an additional $8 million on improvements. It’s the company’s second recent office-tower purchase in Steel City.

SANFORD — Core-Mark Holding Co. will pay $45 million for wholesaler J.T. Davenport & Sons, which will become a subsidiary of the South San Francisco, Calif.-based provider of products, marketing and technology to convenience stores. Davenport, which opened in Morehead City in the late 1800s and moved to Sanford in 1917, services about 2,000 convenience stores in eight states.

MORRISVILLE — Drug developer Oxygen Biotherapeutics will collaborate with Wilmington-based contract-research organization Pharmaceutical Product Development to complete a clinical trial of an oxygen treatment for traumatic brain injuries. It’s expected to be finished by late 2015. Financial terms were not disclosed.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Research Triangle Park-based RTI International will acquire MPR Associates for an undisclosed amount. The Berkeley, Calif.-based company conducts education research for governments, nonprofits and businesses.

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