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Deal with HighTechXL accelerator allows TU/e to focus on scouting Eindhoven talent

(Editor’s noteWe started the Eindhoven Business Briefing in 2017 because we had more news in our headquarters city, which has a huge expat population, than we could possibly post. This week, we’re including Netherlands-wide news in a second expanded edition. Also, the first version of this post misindentified Steef Blok in a photo.)

STEEF BLOK

While Berlin, London and Stockholm get the publicity, Eindhoven has a strong claim to the title of “Europe’s best-integrated tech ecosystem,” with some of the world’s ultra high-tech companies linked to the technical university.

Now, that ecosystem is moving to the next level as Technical University of Eindhoven and HighTechXL enter into an advanced level of collaboration starting with pitches on 26 February.

One of the bigger 2017 developments in Eindhoven’s startup ecosystem was the announcement TU/e would start sending its startups to the HighTechXL accelerator.

Much like Stanford University in the Silicon Valley model, Eindhoven’s ecosystem depends on TU/e to recruit and shape its tech talent, talent the city, the region and all of the Netherlands depend on.

In the course of any given day, TU/e professors and researchers see students who have potentially billion-euro ideas.

Over the years, TU/e has produced some extraordinary startups including Amber Mobility, Usono and BitSensor.

Merck Glass, which created “smart” liquid crystal glass technology that can lighten and darken, began at TU/e as Peer+, founded by Casper van Oosten and Teun Wagenaar in 2008, then was sold to Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck in 2015. 

TU/e professor Maarten Steinbuch has created several robotic surgery companies including Preceyes in what essentially is his own in-house incubator.

Last December,  HighTechXL and Technical University of Eindhoven agreed to join forces. TU/e sets up or scales up as many as 70 companies per year. Starting next month, TU/e startups will apply to the HighTechXL accelerator starting with 20 candidates in 2018.

The move comes because TU/e produces so many tech startups it needs to connect with other entities “to pull them all through the funnel,” said Bert-Jan Woertman, TU/e commercial director. “We need to connect with others to create a bigger platform for all the technologies we’re working on every day.”

TU/e administrators see their roles as front-loaded, said Prof. Steef Blok, director of TU/e’s innovation lab. “We put all the capacity in the front of the process; scouting, screening, etc. Then, we need parties who take it over,” Blok said.

“Our vision is that when we put two times more capacity in scouting, we’ll have two times more output,” Blok said. “The question became, ‘What are we going to do with the output?'”

And that’s where HighTechXL comes in.

The arrangement allows TU/e to focus more assets on scouting under Robert Al, the head of Business Development.

In the past few years, the university has changed its focus, Al said. “We used to focus only on researchers because in that case, if there’s going to be any (intellectual property) it would be owned by us. Nowadays, we focus more and more on the students as innovators regardless of whether there’s IP, because it’s an economic driver that makes the Netherlands as a whole a stronger tech player.

“The company ‘Netherlands’ has to perform with what we deliver to the society,” said Al. “So we support entrepreneurship.”

You can read the full TU/e interview here.

Vention and TU/e building the first circular car

Speaking of TU/e, rapid-prototyping startup Vention Technologies is a partner with TU/ecomotive, the university’s electric car division, which builds cars every year. (You can see a segment about Vention here in a December Eindhoven Business Briefing.)

For 2018, the team is building the world’s first circular car.

From Vention team member Yama Seraij:

Building upon previous years’ experiences, 22 students from 9 disciplines will build a fully road-legal car to be delivered by June 2018. The car – Noah – is a 5th generation TU/ecomotive car, weighing only 350 kg. It has a top speed of 100 km/h and is at least 90-percent recyclable.  On the same day of the launch of Falcon Heavy, in presence of other partners at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, they unveiled the design of the world’s first circular car.

Instead of participating in Shell Eco-Marathon Europe, they are going to make a road trip to major European cities, visit embassies, car manufacturers and advocates for circular design in the conservative automotive industry. Great to see how TU/e fosters entrepreneurial spirit and visionary leadership among students with this kind of setup. It also has clear spillover effects for our region. To name just a few, Amber Mobility startup and of course Vention Technologies, half of our staff have been part of TU/ecomotive at some point. We support them with our expertise and production facilities.

More later as we talk with the players.

RABOBANK STAYS TRUE TO ITS ROOTS WHILE FINANCING STARTUPS

One of the most remarkable trends in the Netherlands, especially compared to the United States, is the role conventional banks are playing in the startup eco-system.

Utrecht-based Rabobank is the Netherlands’ second-largest bank by assets and a global financial power. Rabobank started out lending to farmers, and those roots are still apparent in its approach to funding startups, which includes those here in Eindhoven.

Rabobank has just launched a 60 million euro VC fund focused on investing in early-stage fintech and agritech.

Rabobank is investing in companies that dovetail with the bank’s strategic direction across four themes, said marketing and communications adviser Edwin Blok – van Enck, including Data4food and new tech as a business model enabler.

The bank has also created Teckle, a 5-person growth and innovation desk which helps startups, scale-ups and fast-growing companies.

Finally, Rabobank has its own internal Moonshot accelerator. Moonshot is integrated into a new blockchain project that includes a consortium of some of the largest banks in Europe.

Graduating companies include we.trade, the trading platform for the blockchain project, and Peaks, an investment app.

(You can read the full Rabobank post here.)

The Next Big Thing for KPN

Don’t forget: Amsterdam-based telecom company KPN and HighTechXL are collaborating, searching for The Next Big Thing for KPN as another big corporation looks for inspiration from small, nimble teams.

KPN and HighTechXL are putting on a hackathon Thursday, 22 March from 11:30 – 17:00 in Eindhoven. KPN is looking for smart, connected and secure hardware with AI, blockchain and data challenges to create The Next Big Thing for KPN.

The Next Big Thing challenge will seek out the best and brightest high-tech minds to shape the future of the cable/mobile giant.

Startups can register for the challenge with a free ticket along with a few paragraphs about your motivation and why you consider yourself a change-maker.

Email this description to [email protected] no later than tomorrow, 21 February.

KPN officials will review your application and confirm your participation within two weeks of your registration or no later than one week before the event.

If you just want to attend, you can register here on Eventbrite.

Advantech: From Taiwan to Eindhoven

Taipei, Taiwan-based Advantech justed opened a new office and demo center in Eindhoven. 

The Eindhoven operation is Advantech’s European Service Center.

Through mergers and acquisitions, Advantech now has more than 400 local hires in 14 offices in 10 European countries. The tech firm opened operations in Barcelona and Stockholm last year, operations that include collaborations with local industries, governments, educational institutions and research organizations, according to a news release.

The completion of the European Service Center is Advantech’s first step towards becoming Europe’s most comprehensive IoT solutions provider, with a target of 350 million euros in revenue by 2025.

Advantech is active in industrial automation – both software and hardware. The company offers software solutions for smart city applications and is aimed at the Internet of Things and digitization of industry.

Technical documentation seminar

Here’s a free seminar that could help your startup, scale-up or established company.

Constant Gordon, who’s a regular at Eindhoven startup events, is offering a free seminar on technical documentation and product specification. Yeah, this is kind of the not-so-glamorous side of the tech world, but a super-important one.

The workshop helps people understand the key ingredients required to create good documentation.

You can sign up here. And maybe he’ll give you a ride in his glider!

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