The business potential of polymer solar cells is reviewed and the market opportunities analyzed on the basis of the currently reported and projected performance and manufacturing cost of polymer solar cells. Possible new market areas are identified and described. An overview of the present patent and intellectual property situation is also given and a patent map of polymer solar cells is drawn in a European context. It is found that the business potential of polymer solar cells is large when taking the projections for future performance into account while the currently available performance and manufacturing cost leaves little room for competition on the thin film photovoltaic market. However, polymer solar cells do enable the competitive manufacture of low cost niche products and is viewed as financially viable in its currently available form in a large volume approximation. Finally, it is found that the polymer solar cell technology is very poorly protected in Europe with the central patents being valid in only France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Several countries with a large potential for PV such as Portugal and Greece are completely open and have apparently no relevant patents. This is viewed as a great advantage for the possible commercialization of polymer solar cells in a European setting as the competition for the market will be based on the manufacturing performance rather than domination by a few patent stakeholders.
This paper was originally published in Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells (2010) 94, 1553–1571.