Professor Ian Underwood

Director of International Partnerships



+44(0)131 6505631


3.11 Scottish Microelectronics Centre

Engineering Discipline: 

  • Electronics and Electrical Engineering

Research Institute: 

  • Integrated Micro and Nano Systems

Research Theme: 

  • Optical Systems and Materials
  • Sensors
  • Smart MEMS and Microsystems Technology
Professor Ian Underwood
Professor Ian Underwood


Ian Underwood carried out pioneering research and development in the field of liquid crystal microdisplays between 1983 and 1999.

His early career achievements were recognized by:

  • Fulbright Fellowship (1991) held at The University of Colorado
  • Photonics Spectra Circle of Excellence Award (1994) with Boulder Nonlinear Systems
  • British Telecom Summer Fellowship (1997)
  • Ben Sturgeon Award of the UK Chapter of the SID (1999)

In the late 1990's he contributed to the formation of Micropix Technologies (now Forth Dimension Displays) and consulted with them to design their first generation product line.

He is a co-founder of MicroEmissive Displays (MED) founded in 1998 and co-inventor of its P-OLED microdisplay technology. He served as Product Development Director, Director of Strategic Marketing then CTO.

MED's distinctions include:

  • 2004 Guinness World Record for the world's smallest colour tv screen
  • European Semiconductor Start-up Award (2004)
  • the inaugural IEE Innovation in Engineering Award for Emerging Technology (2005)

MED raised in excess of 40M GBP Sterling and at its peak employed around 70 staff. MED went into administration in late 2008, an early victim of the global financial crisis, shortly after beginning to ship product for its first major order.

In 2005, while with MED, Ian was appointed in absentia to the Chair of Electronic Displays at The University of Edinburgh.

Recent personal recognition includes:

  • Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, Scotland (2003)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2004)
  • Gannochy Medal for Innovation winner (2004)
  • Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2008)
  • Fellow of the Institute of Physics (2008)

In late 2007 he took up the Chair, becoming Head of the Institute for Integrated Micro and Nano Systems (IMNS) while remaining part-time at MED as Chief Scientific Adviser.

Until recently he sat on the Council of the Scottish Optoelectronics Association and the Steering Committee of ADRIA (Europe's Network in Advanced Displays).

He is known worldwide as an authority on microdisplay technology, systems and applications and is co-author of a recently released book entitled Introduction to Microdisplays (Wiley, 2006).

In late 2008 he was appointed to the Scottish Science Advisory Council the body that offers strategic advice on science and related matters to the Scottish Government.

Today he is employed by the University of Edinburgh for four days per week, seeking gainful employment on the fifth day as adviser, consultant, or non-executive director with pre-spin-out technology projects and early stage technology companies.

He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of the SID and sits on the technical program committee of the International Solid State Circuits Conference, the International Displays Research Conference and the Society for Information Display's Annual International Symposium.

In recent years he has made invited presentations and tutorials on microdisplays and related topics at major conferences and events throughout the world including:

  • Eurodisplay 2005 and 2009
  • IMID Korea 2006
  • SID USA 2007 and 2009

Contact Ian by email at

Professional Qualifications and Memberships: 

  • 2008 Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, FREng
  • 2004 Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, FRSE