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EBB: Should Eindhoven focus on constant innovation rather than on building huge companies?

Editor’s note: This 27 June 2023 edition of the Eindhoven Business Briefing is part of Dispatches’ Tech Tuesday series. We cover the startup world because so many of our highly skilled internationals are entrepreneurs.)

The Netherlands, particularly Eindhoven, is one of the most industrialized areas of Europe, home to giant global tech companies making advanced semiconductor tools and the deepest of deep-tech equipment. So, it’s an ecosystem where teams aspire to build the next ASML or NXP.

But should they?

Dispatches had the rare opportunity to interview Karl McCormick, a longtime expat who spent years working for the most important computer chip companies including Intel in The Valley, and Philips on High Tech Campus Eindhoven.

McGoldrick has been at the ramparts of multiple tech revolutions and is, in fact, the guy who put a camera in your smartphone as well as the technology for flexible screens. A guy who used to have dinner with the late Andy Grove, the hard-driving visionary CEO who turned Intel into the chip supplier of the 1990s and 2000s. (“Intel inside”).

McGoldrick was at Intel when it chose ASML (which nearly went bankrupt twice) as a supplier of the photolithography machines that etch circuits onto silicon chips.

“I was there when Intel chose them – after much deliberation and scrutiny – as a supplier,” he said. “I actually worked with Intel when we made the choice to switch from Nikon as a sole supplier of photolithography tools to ASML.

“It was a huge decision because Intel is a company that builds a new fab every year. Once ASML got that deal, that was huge. And then they exploded, you know?”

So, McGoldrick knows of what he speaks.

Currently, he’s CEO of LionVolt, developing the next generation of 3D solid state battery technology here at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. As a life-long innovator, McGoldrick sees the Netherlands as the source of futuristic technology, technology that gets made in other places.

When startups are delving into unexplored tech territory, the first thing is to make sure they can create a product, he says. “The second thing is, ‘How you scale that product? So would you scale it here in the Netherlands, like building gigafactories? Or would you export the technology and scale it somewhere else?”

The Americans and Chinese are relentless at scaling up quickly, he notes. “I think we have incredible IP incredible technology, but it’s taking way too long” to get to market.

“I think that decision obviously doesn’t have to be made today or tomorrow. But given everything we just said, it will be a huge decision.”

A veteran of 15 startups, McGoldrick says he wants to change the conversation and say, ” ‘Hey, we’re not here to create huge companies. We’re here to create a technology, a breakthrough technology, then bring it to a certain point and sell the bloody thing.

“Let other people do what they’re good at. We will generate new technology, and we put all our energy into institutional R&D … and startups to make the breakthroughs and create that culture and be become incredibly good at that.”

TNO predicts more dominant Dutch tech companies are coming

Speaking of creating the world’s most advanced technology, the Netherlands already owns the deep-tech world, with two of the most crucial companies – ASML and chipmaker NXP – in the semiconductor space. A new report from the Dutch research & development institution TNO finds this is just the beginning.

Innovation Origins has a good synopsis: “The rapid development of technologies such as AI, quantum and photonics are creating new opportunities for Dutch high-tech, TNO concludes in a report.” That includes creating multiple new ASML-level companies. So, this fits neatly to our overall vision of Eindhoven as the most advanced deep-tech hub in the world.

Deep Tech Connect: A Deep Tech Innovation Forum

A reminder, because this is coming up in 24 hours …  HighTechXL – Europe’s only deep-tech venture builder and accelerator – is collaborating with Silicon Valley-based Extreme Tech Challenge to create a major tech forum.

HighTechXL and Extreme Tech Challenge will present Deep Tech Connect: A Deep Tech Innovation Forum on 28 June at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven Conference Center. Based in San Francisco, Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) is the world’s largest startup competition for entrepreneurs addressing global challenges.

This inaugural Deep Tech Connect will be a full-day innovation showcase and deal-flow exchange with roundtable sessions for deep-tech investors, not an XTC pitch competition, and will include the CEO of Europe’s most valuable deep-tech company.

Peter Wennink, president and CEO of ASML, will present the keynote address. ASML is the only company in the world that produces extreme ultraviolet photolithography machines, equipment essential to making the world’s most advanced computer chips.

ASML, founding partner of HighTechXL and a member of the Eindhoven Startup Alliance, was recently named Europe’s most valuable tech company with a market capitalization of more than $247 billion.

In addition to a rare public appearance by Wennink, the event will include a pitch showcase with select deep-tech startups, investor breakout sessions focusing on AI and big data, quantum computing, space, semiconductor, TechBio and networking sessions.

You can sign up here on Eventbrite.

WEB 3.0 Center coming to HTCE

High Tech Campus Eindhoven officials have talked on the record in the past months about a Web3 Center joining the AI Innovation Center and the 5G Hub. The official announcement is close, but details about just what the center will include are still under wraps. We assume AI and virtual reality will figure into the mission of the facility. But there could be much more.

Timing is everything in life, and the timing of the AI Innovation Center came just as artificial intelligence became the driver in software, with Microsoft and others buying in.

It will be interesting to see if HTCE can continue the streak.

Innovation Origins Gerard & Anton Awards

The 2023  Gerard & Anton Awards are coming up on 31 August. These awards, presented each year by Philips and Innovation Origins, recognize Eindhoven’s most promising startups. Previous awardees including SMART Photonics, SendCloud, Carbyon and Axelera AI. Basically every important emerging tech company in the city.

Now, you can nominate your crew, but it has to be by 1 July.

You can send your nomination to: [email protected]

inPhocal in KPMG award finals

Speaking of awards, look out for these guys.

The inPhocal team divided and conquered earlier this month. While some of the team was in Paris at Viva Technology, CEO Robert van Tankeren was pitching at KPMG’s Dutch Tech Innovator Competition. Which, of course, he won. The event identifies and celebrates the most innovative tech companies around the world, beginning with national competitions in 25 countries.

inPhocal will compete during the global final in Lisbon later this year, where we fully expect them to bring home the prize again. Physicist Martijn Boerkamp developed the inPhocal laser technology at HighTechXL, technology that can print on curved surfaces.

It’s always about the money

While early stage capital is drying up in the rest of Europe, Eindhoven startups continue to raise serious investment.

Startups that have just raised new capital include:

Gilbert Technologies, which has developed a precision inhaler for lung patients, just raised 7 million euros from DeepTechXL, based at High Tech Campus Eindhoven.

STENTiT, based on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, has received 12.5 million euros from the European Innovation Council. CEO and co-founder Bart Sanders has developed a regenerative stent that has multiple applications.

SandGrain, a startup that focuses on “trusted authentication,” a new solution for security and circularity, closed a 1.3 million euro seed investment round led from DeepTechXL.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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