EBB: Carbyon’s $1 million prize a huge endorsement of Eindhoven’s deep-tech ecosystem by American innovators

(Editor’s note: We’re devoting this HighTechXL edition of the Eindhoven Business Briefing to HighTechXL and Eindhoven’s deep-tech ecosystem. Dispatches Europe tracks the tech scene – startups, scale-ups and mature companies – in Eindhoven because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers, physicists and developersEBB is part of our Tech Tuesday series.)

THIS is a big f**kin’ deal! High Tech Campus Eindhoven-based Carbyon has been all over the news, all over the world, with their $1 million incentive prize from XPRIZE. But the coverage has lacked very important context – Carbyon really came together at HighTechXL, a key contributor to Eindhoven’s deep-tech startup ecosystem. With Elon Musk putting up the prize money, we celebrate this as a huge endorsement of HighTechXL and Eindhoven by the world’s richest man.

Carbyon was one of 15 teams awarded $1 million each in the XPRIZE competition on 20 April by Dr. Peter Diamandis’ LA-based non-profit X Prize Foundation. Funded by Musk, this XPRIZE category – one of many – put up $100 million to create a circular carbon economy. That $100 million prize for carbon removal is “the largest incentive prize in history fighting humanity’s biggest problem,” according to the foundation.

Which is where Carbyon comes in.

Carbyon, a multinational team with highly skilled internationals from Belgium, Turkey and other countries, is developing equipment to capture CO2 from the air and store it underground. The High Tech Campus startup was named the Milestone Award winner of the XPRIZE Carbon Removal. This incentive prize worth $1 million, a direct investment by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation, is part of the four-year global XPRIZE competition

This new capital is the best kind of funding because XPPRIZE takes no equity for that $1 million. It’s a major investment with no strings attached, Carbyon team members tell Dispatches. The team will use it to further develop their working prototype, said Hans De Neve, Carbyon CEO and inventor of the CO2 removal membrane technology.

“For us, winning this award means that we are recognized. XPRIZE is, so to speak, the world championship within our field,” De Neve said. “The fact the jury ranks our concept among the 15 best in the world means a great deal to us. It is fantastic that three years after the start of our company we are already participating at this level.”

While this is a major, major investment for De Neve and his team, the XPRIZE is also proof of concept for HighTechXL … that it can, in fact, assemble high-performing teams around technology from CERN, the European Space Agency and major corporations such as Philips, then turn them into real businesses.

Dispatches was there at the second FasTrackathon, when De Neve presented to potential team members.

In De Neve’s case, Carbyon came out of research he’d been doing at TNO, the independent, government-funded R&D center on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. He brought that concept to HighTechXL in 2019, part of the second FasTrackathon, then the second cohort following HighTechXL’s pivot to strictly deep-tech from a tech-agnostic accelerator.

That was a wildly courageous pivot because deep-tech, unlike, say, apps, fintech and consumer-facing digital startups, takes years and tens of millions in capital to get to market. Now, it’s finally paying off as the capital pours in and Eindhoven’s ecosystem make global headlines.

Hey, Elon: The best is yet to come, with new cohorts forming throughout the year. (See below.)

You can read a full profile of Carbyon here on the HighTechXL website.

PhotonDelta and HighTechXL

April has been a period of a lot of big announcements, including PhotonDelta receiving 1.1 billion euros in funding. Simultaneously, PhotonDelta is entering a new partnership with HighTechXL.

At mid-month, the Eindhoven-based accelerator for the integrated photonics industry, announced it will receive 1.1 billion euros in public and private investment to transform the Netherlands into the leader of the next generation of semiconductors. Without regurgitating that whole Physics 101 “how photonics works” explanation, suffice it to say photonic computing uses light (which is, of course, photons) from lasers rather than electrons for processing.

That’s the future because the unique qualities of photons mean faster processing on an ever more minuscule computer chip circuitry.

This investment in PhotonDelta ensures that Eindhoven remains the most important innovation hub and deep-tech ecosystem in Europe, focused on producing the next ASML, which dominates photolithography, and NXP, which is a key supplier of advanced chips to multiple industries including automotive.

Now, for the local angle, HighTechXL and PhotonDelta will combine expertise and collaborate to identify integrated photonics technologies. Then HighTechXL will build teams around them to take the tech to market, further strengthening the Brainport ecosystem and establishing the Netherlands as a world leader in integrated photonics.

Career opportunities at HighTechXL

Okay, HighTechXL builds teams of entrepreneurs and tech talents around the most advanced technology in the world … technology developed at CERN, European Space Agency, TNO, Philips, PhotonFirst and other global innovators.

As teams mature, the venture builder/business accelerator connects them with the investors and mentors they’ll need to emerge from Eindhoven’s deep-tech ecosystem as viable businesses. With partners Philips, ASML, TNO, High Tech Campus Eindhoven and BOM, they challenge, support and push teams to become Brainport’s next Unicorns.

If all this sounds like fun, why not join HighTechXL?

HighTechXL openings for:

Collaboration Officer

HTXL is expanding its partnership base to include more renowned corporates, universities, regional, national and international initiatives. 

Next to scouting for and reaching out to new partners, you will represent HTXL during events and think of new approaches to partnerships and how to further strengthen the innovation/startup ecosystem that will benefit the ventures we build in our 3 x 3 months program.

At HTXL, you will work closely with the CEO, the Program and Marcom teams.


• building and maintaining relationships that bring genuine value to the parties involved

• bringing relevant stakeholders together to create a startup-friendly ecosystem and strengthen the innovation capabilities in the region

• experience in building (commercial) partnerships

• experience in working with corporates, education & technology institutes and government

Director of Technology

The tech team (HTXL & external experts) reviews more than 300 technologies on a yearly basis, 50 of which are assessed in-depth. This leads to a short list of technologies we make available to tech-minded entrepreneurs and innovators as a first step in starting a new company.

The director of technology scouts new technologies, works as a liaison to major corporations and research centers and also works directly with new startup teams.


• a deep technical background and experience in, for example, machine building, high-tech equipment development, photonics, medical device development or other disciplines

• a significant, far-reaching professional network

• experience in building partnerships

• interest in coaching and supporting startups in the early stages of technology development with technical expertise, networking and mentoring

You can see more details here.

Send your CV and motivation letter to Esther Peeks: [email protected] 

Casting Day

The next big event for HighTechXL is Casting Day on 12 May. If you’re ready to explore possibilities in the startup world and join a purpose-driven deep-tech venture, HighTechXL has multiple options for you to consider.

‍Meet startups searching for co-founders (CEOs, CTOs and CBOs), team members, mentors, advisors and interns.

Plus, there will be several alumni teams you can meet, including Aircision, Incooling and Infitiv.

What do you want from this event?

You may just want to explore possibilities in the startup world, or you may be looking for a job opportunity with a deep-tech venture or with the HighTechXL team.

‍At Casting Day, you can also learn more about becoming a mentor or adviser for a startup or explore the many internships available at HighTechXL and alumni ventures.

‍There’s a little something for everyone.

‍HighTechXL is looking for people with experience or interest in the following areas:

• Engineering (Mechanical, Software, Industrial, Biomedical, Mechatronics, Electrical)

• Physics

• Industrial design

• Business and Innovation

• Marketing

• Finance

• Product development

You can register here and don’t forget to upload your CV.

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