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Starting at Bell Labs and moving on first to Lucent Technologies and then to Agere Systems, Clifford King and Conor Rafferty remained determined to develop a silicon-based digital infrared imaging technology.

Today, two years after launching Noble Device Technologies from home offices, King and Rafferty have succeeded.

“We have our business plan and we are talking to quite a few potential investors including venture capitalists, customers, and the military,” King said. “We are looking for partners and planning to transfer to a manufacturing plant so we can build an array to show customers.”

Historically, optoelectronic equipment has been made using semiconductor materials that are expensive and difficult to mass produce. Making the same high-speed devices out of silicon -- the material of choice for integrated circuits -- dramatically reduces production costs, improves reliability and makes it possible to create large arrays.

Noble Device’s patented process for combining infrared detection with silicon electronics is truly unique in the industry. But without several state programs, King said, Noble Device may not have been a success story.

Moving into a business incubator supported by the Commission on Science and Technology on the New Jersey Institute of Technology campus provided an easy commute for King & Rafferty and easy, economical access to needed labs that meet all federal and state regulations. The Newark campus also is convenient for recruiting employees and reaching customers, he said.

Photo of silicon chip“The facilities here are excellent,” King said. “We wouldn’t have been able to have this sort of facility set up…(The cost) is pretty onerous.”

A recoverable grant from the state's Springboard Fund, administered by the Commission on Science and Technology and the New Jersey Economic
Development Authority, also came "at a perfect time," King said. The $250,000 grant enabled the growing company - which now employs four workers - to market its high-resolution, reliable, and inexpensive short wave infrared image sensors to medical and military customers.

“We feel very fortunate that New Jersey leaders value high technology businesses like us, and have developed programs like Springboard II to ensure that we continue to grow,” King said.

Looking ahead, King voices only one concern: many talented high-tech workers are leaving New Jersey before he – or other start-up companies -- can hire them.

“They quickly find jobs out of state,” he said. “These are really, really good people. Once they make the leap, they won’t come back. But they want to stay here -- if there is an opportunity here.”