With the rapid growth in mega-pixel digital cameras, colour scanners and the internet a new market is arising for the high street retailer to offer a one hour digital photo printing service, in the same manner as is currently provided for 35mm and APS films. At the moment this requires an investment in a digital minilab, which can cost over ?80,000 and is out of reach for most small retailers - especially while digital volumes are still relatively low. However, in future they will be able to compete thanks to new technology being developed by a company "spun out" from research by the University of Warwick.
The new company, Dig-ePrint Ltd, is a joint venture between the University of Warwick and Integrated Global Images Plc (IGI) - based in Milton Keynes. Dig-ePrint is developing a new high output-quality system to expose digital images onto standard photographic paper that promises to be substantially cheaper than current systems. At the heart of the technology is a radically new type of digital exposure head, which should allow systems to be manufactured at a fraction of the cost of competing technologies, whilst maintaining the photographic quality achieved by other methods.
The Dig-ePrint team received a DTI SMART award to take their ideas beyond the drawing board to a prototype system. The company plans to begin commercial production in 2002. The 3 key figures in the new company are: Dr Duncan Billson, Technical Director of Dig-ePrint, who is an entrepreneurial lecturer in the University of Warwick's School of Engineering; Dr Trevor Elworthy, the MD of Dig-ePrint, who has been a director of a number of IT Companies, developing key technologies and international distribution channels for the photo-digital markets; and Clive Higgins who was the former Chairman and CEO of Norsk Data, DPEC (now Granada Computer Services) and Sound Diffusion. Clive is one of the UK's foremost IT entrepreneurs and has spotlighted the new ePhoto markets for significant development over the next 5 years.
Market research has shown that there are over 5000 high street minilabs, 1 hour photo-processing centres and instant print/copy shops in the UK and over 300,000 world-wide. It is believed that between 30 to 50% of these labs will offer some sort of digital printing service during the next 3-5 years, which represents a multi-billion dollar market.
Dig-ePrint is currently in the latter stages of raising finance for the move to production. Dr Billson has been quoted as saying that "Funding has been surprisingly easy to attract so far - investors see this as an exciting new market offering the potential for a good return on their capital. Perhaps it's because we are a technology company producing a product for global markets - not just a dot.com!".
For further details please contact:
Dr Duncan Billson, University of Warwick,
Tel. 024 7652 8026 firstname.lastname@example.org
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