Eindhoven Business Briefing: City leaders … Eindhoven already IS the deep-tech capital of Europe

(Editor’s noteWe created the Eindhoven Business Briefing as part of our Tech Tuesday series because we had more news in our headquarters city – which has a huge expat population – than we could possibly post. The future really is being invented here. Send your news to: [email protected])

So, Eindhoven Alderman Stijn Steenbakkers’s “vision” is that Eindhoven should become one of the top startup ecosystems in Europe “and even number one for deep-tech start-ups.” The deep-tech capital of the world.

New flash, alderman … Eindhoven already is. And guess what? The city contributed very little to that success. Earlier this month in the post “Eindhoven wants to be Europe’s number one for deep-tech startups,” Steenbakkers was bemoaning the fact Eindhoven is ranked No. 193 on Startup Gnomes’ list of the world’s Top 300 tech ecosystems.

“That can and should be higher,” he told Innovation Origins, the Eindhoven-based digital news outlet that tracks innovation across Europe. In the I-O post, Steenbakkers talks about his “new” ideas, including a one-stop startup hub. Seriously? Because High Tech Campus Eindhoven already has the largest in the Netherlands – three buildings and counting dedicated to startups. HTC also has a 5G lab and an AI Lab and just announced it will be the first field lab in Flying Forward 2020, an Urban Air Mobility research project.

FROM 2015 ….

To his credit, I-O co-founder and co-owner Bart Brouwers added a section to his original post noting that HighTechXL founder Guus Frericks has not just been merely talking about an effort, but busy building the tech ecosystem for more than five years. HTXL began in 2015 as Startup Bootcamp, a conventional business accelerator. In true startup style, Guus pivoted to a deep-tech venture builder model in 2018.

In that brief time, HighTechXL has built more than 20 teams around advanced technology from Philips, CERN, European Space Agency, TNO and other public and private R&D efforts. The result has been deep-tech startups including Incooling, which is designing a new generation of cool chips and GPUs, working with the top semiconductor companies in the world including Intel in The Valley and Taiwan-based GIGABYTE.

We would also assert that Startup Gnome is just plain wrong … that Eindhoven should be ranked above Copenhagen and other cities at the top of their list. Because ASML, Philips, NXP and other advanced tech companies are headquartered here, not to mention Technical University of Eindhoven and venture fund/venture builder LUMO Labs, this is by far the strongest deep-tech ecosystem in the Netherlands. (No offense to Hayden Young up at Antler in Amsterdam, another guy at another accelerator working every day to make the Netherlands more competitive. Or to the Delft and Rotterdam ecosystems, which are also quite strong.)

At the end of the day, Eindhoven’s success in creating new companies is due to innovators such as Frericks and home-grown Dutch serial entrepreneurs such as Sjaak Deckers (Sapiens), Maarten Steinbuch (Eindhoven Medical Robotics), Jeroen Wijering (JW Player), Johan Feenstra (SMART Photonics) and Michel Decré (INBRAIN Neuroelectronics), who’ve risked everything to build successful tech businesses. And to build Eindhoven into an incredible innovation center.

This is not to even mention all the Additive Industries, Accerions, SendClouds, Shapeways and other scale-ups that started here and have gone global.

We work with startups, scale-ups and accelerators, and if you ask the people who get stuff done, you’ll hear a consistent refrain: “What do the government agencies even do?”

To be fair, bureaucrats are constrained by, well, bureaucracy. When I started our first pure-play digital media company in 2010, my wife Cheryl and I went two years without salaries while funding the effort out of our pockets. In 2012, we pulled together a group of investors, then brought in a venture capitalist. We all took insane risks.

Bureaucrats, by comparison, are completely risk averse. They always get paid. They make sure they keep getting paid by never proposing, endorsing or funding anything that’s the least bit risky. And they do it very, very slowly. The Netherlands’ biggest competitive disadvantage is an economic-development system where too many risk-averse and clueless bureaucrats have too much power over who gets funded and under what terms.

When the public sector is in control, no one wins.

This is the first signed editorial I’ve written since co-CEO Cheryl Boyd and I founded Dispatches Europe in 2016 and I hope it’s the last. I’m confident government officials will finally support Guus and all the entrepreneurs who risk it all … who work 12 hours each and every day to keep Eindhoven on the cutting edge of innovation. We’re not singling out the good alderman, and we’ve reached out to him for comment. If and when he replies, this post will be updated, or will give him his own space to respond.

So, let’s look at some of the great things going on in this No. 1 Deep-Tech Innovation Center.

– Terry Boyd

Flying Forward 2020

This is potentially a huge deal and Eindhoven is a crucial part. Flying Forward 2020 has launched with Eindhoven one of a Europe-wide consortium dedicated to developing the urban air mobility infrastructure and ecosystem.

Eindhoven will be one of the laboratory cities for this effort, along with Zaragoza, Spain; Tartu Science Park in Estonia; the University of Oulu in Finland and Ospedale San Raffaele in Italy.

The Urban Air Mobility Consortium includes Brainport Development, Maastricht University here in the Netherlands, Serendipity and Nalantis with supporting partners including AirMap, LUMO Labs on High Tech Campus, Eindhoven City, Microsoft, Nokia Unifly, SKYCORP and City of Oulu.

If you’re thinking flying cars, we were too. But it’s way more than that. The European Union is planning now for what comes next in personal and public transportation. And this is the rare case where the public sector must lead, because this involves all the public infrastructure starting with pipes in the ground and going up to satellite communications.

Flying Forward 2020 is part of the European Commission’s Horizon2020 Research & Innovation Programme, so there’s lots of capital to deploy. And the goals are ambitious, including nothing but zero-emission vehicles on the roads and in the air in Europe by 2035.

These include autonomous drones for commercial applications, autonomous vehicles, hyperloops, hydrogen aircraft, electric personal air vehicles, electric waterborne transport and clean urban logistic. So no more smokey diesel delivery vans choking city streets.

ASML’s Wennink gets the love from Fortune mag

Fortune, one of the United States’ most influential biz mags, has ASML CEO Peter Wennink ranked at No. 12 on their list of 20 of the world’s top business leaders. Since it’s not a consumer-facing tech company like an Apple or Amazon, ASML is largely unknown outside the semiconductor industry. But this is one of the most celebrated and crucial companies on earth. Fortune notes that under Wennink, ASML is making the transformation to extreme ultraviolet technology for making next-gen chips.

It’s also generating an increasing amount of revenue, with profits growing 49-percent over the past 12 months. And the trickle-down effect of ASML reinvesting in new technologies and creating new suppliers is why Eindhoven is uniquely positioned to keep its position as the No. 1 deep-tech innovation center in Europe.


• Effect Photonics is one of the winners in the Tech Tour’s Deep Tech Program 2020, according to Bits & Chips. The Eindhoven-based scale-up – a spinout from TU/e – convinced a panel of venture capitalists and corporate investors it should be included in the World Tour. In the tour, 50 new companies pitch to investors from all over the world. The World Tour will take place in March 2021, assuming the pandemic isn’t still raging.

• Though it’s based in Maastricht. Mosa Meat, which makes cultured meat from cow cells, has raised a total of about $75 million in funding so far. There’s a lot brewing with this so more as we know more.

Mosa Meat investors include Mitsubishi (go figure) and a number of venture capital firms such as Zurich-based Blue Horizon Ventures focusing on startups in the sustainability sector including next-gen food production.

• Eindhoven’s football team PSV is continuing their partnership with startup Active Esports Arena to reach the younger target group and motivate them to exercise with full-body virtual reality gaming. Both organizations will start organizing Active Esports tournaments when it’s possible again to gather in groups. Active Esports, which has developed advanced VR technology, is a LUMO Labs alum.

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