(Editor’s note: 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 developers who aspire to be part of the new new thing. This Eindhoven Business Briefing dedicated to High Tech Campus Eindhoven is part of our Tuesday Tech series.)
Finally, some details about Oaktree Capital’s acquisition of High Tech Campus Eindhoven, and it might turn out to be a bigger deal than we originally thought. And a lot more complicated.
The sale of High Tech Campus Eindhoven closed 1 October. The largest research campus in Europe now is owned by the largest troubled asset management company in the world, which in turn is owned by the largest alternative asset management firm in the world. Got it? HTCE is now owned by Americans and run by a German.
The first insights into all this was just posted in the form of a podcast on the HTCE’s website, and it’s a solid interview by Ingelou Stol, HTCE’s communications manager.
Ingelou interviews Hermann Dambach, 57, Oaktree’s general manager for the campus. Dambach is a native of Frankfurt, Germany who has worked for Los Angeles-based Oaktree since 2004 as a managing director. He has, of late, been in charge of assessing research campuses for Oaktree. He’s visited a lot of campuses and Oaktree has “bought a lot of them,” he notes in the interview.
“Having the ability to compare, I can assure you none of the European parks has the scale and format of HTCE,” Dambach said. “The number of buildings, quality of the buildings, the types of the buildings and sheer number of tenants, more than 12,000.”
And that’s what’s the Dutch media has overlooked in this story – the absolute scale of this deal and the ramifications of one of the largest American investment firms buying Europe’s largest and – arguably – most important R&D campus.
HTCE has more than 235 companies including NXP, one of the world’s most crucial semiconductor companies, and most of the R&D for electronics giant Philips, as well as a new 5G Hub, a new AI Innovation Center and the largest startup ecosystem in the Netherlands.
Both Dambach and Jan-Willem Neggers, managing director of the campus when it was controlled by Dutch entrepreneur Marcel Boekhoorn, were anxious to address the local angst the acquisition has caused, with some Dutch politicians even discussing new regulations to review any purchase of strategic properties by foreign entities.
When Ingelou asked Neggers about those concerns, he said:
Please don’t be worried about this – we should have and can have bigger ambitions than being worried about a foreign owner. HTCE and Brainport want to play on a global level. We have internationally recognized companies selling all over the world. We have great inventions. Let’s stop being worried, embrace it … let’s see it as a chance to learn from a world-wide investment house doing business all over the world.
The main point both Neggers and Dambach made was that the Oaktree acquisition is an endorsement for Brainport, the economic development agency that includes Eindhoven.
LA-based Oaktree, founded by legendary contrarian investor Howard Marks, has $155 billion in assets under management. But Toronto-based parent company Brookfield Asset Management has $600 billion in assets under management. Brookfield acquired controlling interest in Oaktree in 2019.
Though it’s still not clear exactly why the North Americans want HTCE, what is clear is the campus now is backed by the most formidable financial resources in the world.
In the interview, Dambach referred to the “sizeable land bank” HTCE has acquired under Boekhoorn, undeveloped land ready for expansion. Dambach predicted the campus will add another 5,000 employees “over time.” Existing buildings will be renovated and possibly reconfigured, he said.
The common goal of both Oaktree management and local officials is to keep the campus No. 1 in Europe, he said. “Very few people know this is the fastest growing region in the Netherlands,” Dambach noted. His goal is the same as Brainport … to retain talent in Eindhoven.
“We want to retain talent here; no need for them to move to Amsterdam, no need for them to move to Berlin,” he said. “This should be the No. 1 choice for R&D-focused companies.”
There were several interesting tidbits dropped in the interview. They include the possibility of energy production on campus, energy that could be shared with the city.
Dambach also made a passing reference to Kadans Science Partner, a Dutch firm that owns and operates science parks in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany. Oaktree sold Kadans to Paris-based AXA Investment Managers in 2020. Will HTCE ultimately go to Kadans? Stay tuned … this deal will make ripples across Europe for years to come.
Speaking of High Tech Campus Eindhoven, one of the newest tenants is Axelera. Axelera AI is developing a hardware and software platform for AI that will “make the industry more integrated, efficient and accessible,” according to its website.
Apparently, the company was created by Bitfury Group, a blockchain software and hardware firm based in Amsterdam, and with global operations. Bitfury designs and produces hardware that keeps cryptocurrencies and blockchains secure, including custom semiconductor chips and mobile data centers.
Axelera is led by CEO Fabrizio del Maffeo, former director of AI at the Bitfury. Very interesting ….
AlphaBeats to begin pilot with Dutch police
AlphaBeats CEO Han Dirkx was in Gouda recently to oversee the start of a pilot Dutch police will be doing with AlphaBeats and VRelax. Police throughout the entire country are part of a large group of beta testers using the app.
AlphaBeats has the exclusive license to use a neurofeedback algorithm developed by Dutch electronics giant Philips. Combined with artificial intelligence, the technology determines user stress by measuring breathing levels or heart rate variability via a smartphone or connected fitness device. Then, a unique algorithmic audio layer triggers the brain to produce alpha waves for a mental state of “wakeful rest.”
The common goal is to improve the mental fitness of police officers … the people who ensure that we feel safe and who therefore also have an above-average amount of stress to handle.
“We have never been able to implement our vision ‘inner peace creates outer peace’ so literally,” Dirkx said. “Extremely grateful that we can work on this together with the Police innovation team.”
Police will use AlphaBeats for 10 minutes each day for four weeks.
Extreme Tech Challenge
LUMO Labs is the regional partner for Extreme Tech Challenge, a big global pitch competition fed by regional events. The Netherlands/Belgium is a new region and they just launched a new website and LinkedIn page.
The regional finals are set for March 2022, and winning startups advance to the global finals set for June 2022. The Extreme Tech Challenge is presented by TechCrunch.
This is a big deal because the Extreme Tech Challenge is bringing together startups, corporations and investors to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Which is also the LUMO Labs mission. Eindhoven-based chipmaker NXP and High Tech Campus Eindhoven are supporting partners.
There is a kick-off event scheduled for 19 October from 4 p.m to 5:30 p.m. at the new AI Innovation Center at High Tech Campus Eindhoven.
Categories include advanced materials, ag and food, biotech and clean energy. You can see all the details here.
Maurice Geraets with NXP, medical robotics pioneer Maarten Steinbuch, Paul van Son with the AI Innovation Center and LUMO Labs co-founder Andy Lürling will talk about Extreme Tech Challenge and the opportunities available for startups.
Send an email to register for the event: [email protected]
INSPIRINGFIFTY DEEP TECH AWARDS NOMINATIONS OPEN
The conventional thinking used to be – may still be in some circles – that womenfolk weren’t meant to be in deep tech. Now, new initiatives are recognizing the women – the engineers, educators, physicists, entrepreneurs and businesswomen – who forged ahead and kicked in the doors.
Nominations are open for InspiringFifty Deep Tech Benelux+ Edition, recognizing women excelling in deep-tech careers as startup and scale-up founders, researchers, government policy wonks or making a contribution in any area. Get them on the list!
Nominations close 1 November and the big event recognizing the InspiringFifty Deep Tech will be 1 December.
You can submit your nomination here.
AccelerateHER is the overall organizing entity in the Netherlands and in other countries for this global program.
FE+MALE TECH HEROES RETURNS TO HTCE ON 12 OCTOBER
This has become a must-attend event for Eindhoven’s tech players … What began as the Female Tech Heroes in 2019 is now the more inclusive Fe+Male Tech Heroes, a night to recognize the female tech pioneers and their male supporters.
The theme for 2021: “Is the sky the limit?”
Featured speakers are Oana van der Togt, Senior Business Development Manager Space & Scientific Instrumentation at Dutch research firm TNO, and Margot Nijkamp-Diesfeldt, co-founder of ESTI – Ecosystem Thinking Institute.
Fe+male Tech Heroes events sell out quickly, and while they aren’t taking registrations for this event, you can join the community and get notifications for future events.