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XL Day: New teams revealed as HighTechXL dominates in deep-tech startups

(Editor’s note: This edition of the Eindhoven Business Briefing – part of Dispatches’ Tech Tuesday series is dedicated to HighTechXL and XL Day. See our index of ecosystem players at the end of the post.)

HightechXL has revealed Eindhoven’s latest cohort of deep-tech ventures. Five new companies are using the latest research to solve some of the biggest problems from killer stress to killer fires in California.

XL Day is the coming-out party for new teams coalescing around technologies from CERN, Philips and TNO after the HighTechXL FasTrackathon last June. The Phase 2 team from the original March FasTrackathon also presented.

In 2018, HighTechXL pivoted to a venture-building effort from a conventional tech accelerator in what Guus Frericks calls a “community-based approach” as opposed to the U.S. model of VC funding.

At the end-of-year event, HighTechXL CEO and co-founder Frericks detailed this completely unique, rigorous method of deep-tech venture building in which “HighTechXL threw open the door to anyone who had a desire to join a team and work on a technology.” About 100 people joined the original FasTrackathon, with the opening stages “shaped by teams who don’t know one another working on technology that’s still developing,” he said.

GUUS FRERICKS EXPLAINS THE HIGHTECHXL APPROACH TO VENTURE BUILDING

The next step was selecting the most promising teams to enter the accelerator phase, then adding corporate talent from ASML, EY and Philips. Team requirements include validation, supply-chain development, commercial traction and – if not an MVP – co-creation agreements with companies or research institutes

“It’s very tough and a lot of people drop out,” Frericks said.

The survivors took to the stage at High Tech Campus Eindhoven’s Conference Center Friday, 13 December, to present their concepts, report on their progress … and to make a pitch for capital to the sellout crowd of about 300 as they go down the road to taking the technologies to market.

MARCO VAN HOORN PITCHES FOR KEIRON

Keiron

Marco van Hoorn pitched for Keiron, which is developing technology from TNO, the Den Haag-based research institute, to scale up lab-on-a-chip technology.

Keiron’s long-term goal is to build a machine that can create a fully integrated lab-on-a-chip from scratch. “There’s a new era coming for labs,” van Hoorn said, an era that will eliminate patient test mixups, reduce plastic and waste and reduce costs.

Keiron’s team is working with TNO’s laser induced forward transfer, or LIFT, technology that – at least in theory – will bring standardized, mass-production capability to the fragmented lab-on-a-chip industry.

This technology, which falls under microfluidics (the manipulation of fluids on the microscopic level), could integrate different printing techniques onto one device. Future development could include printing silver electrodes on PDMS substrate and platinum electrons on glass substrate, van Hoorn said.

The Keiron model includes selling printing hardware, software and materials. Keiron is raising an initial 1 million euros for R&D, IP, systems prototyping and staffing, van Hoorn said.

ASML and TNO are involved as development partners, “enabling us to chase our dream.” he said.

UVLite

Jan Biert had the day’s most dramatic pitch. Part of the UVLite team, Biert opened with a video of how quickly a spark can turn a Christmas tree into an inferno, followed by slides of the catastrophic damage from industrial fires.

Conventional flame sensor technology has a slow response, low accuracy and limited range, and false reports are a chronic problem, he said. UVLite will replace conventional detectors with IoT flame detector technology from CERN, a technology that has 40 times the range as well as greater sensitivity and accuracy than conventional flame detector technology.

UVLite has potential beyond industrial fire protection including detecting wildfires which ravage California and other drought-prone areas on a regular basis, he said.

The global fire detection market is worth $6 billion now, projected to increase to $9 billion by 2024, Biert said.

UVLite is raising 500,000 euros to build a prototype. In their business model, revenue would come from sensor sales, software updates and consulting. Potential customers include Chemelot, the giant chemical refinery near Maastricht, Royal Dutch Shell and the Port of Rotterdam.

SABINE BUNT PITCHES FOR OPTIFY

Optify

Sabine Bunt gave the Optify pitch – electronic inspection technology built on research from CERN, Nikhef and HighTechXL.

Bunt started with a slide showing Tesla’s autopilot “brain,” which features two chips. Why does Tesla spend the money on redundancy? she asked. Because autopilot failure could be catastrophic … a failure due to the component inspection process itself.

X-ray inspection is the current method of inspecting components on printed circuit boards throughout the manufacturing process. But X-ray inspection can subject circuit boards to excessive cumulative radiation, which can result in damage and component failure including in microchips.

Companies sometimes have to destroy an entire run of components because they might be damaged by an overdose of radiation from x-ray inspection, Bunt said.

To know if radiation levels are too high, manufacturers need hard data on a component’s cumulative radiation absorption during the production cycle. Which is where Optify comes in. Using optical fiber dosimetry technology developed by CERN, Optify has developed an add-on radiation sensor that creates a radiation dose map, Bunt said.

Optify is targeting end users and supply chain partners with revenue coming from hardware sales as well as data.

Optify is seeking a 400,000 euro investment for R&D and personnel, mechatronics and light-matter interaction.

HAN DIRKX PITCHES FOR ALPHABEATS

AlphaBeats

When it comes to changing the world, AlphaBeats has the most ambitious pitch … “musical medicine” as an antidote to the constant stimulation that is modern life.

Han Dirkx started with the problem … stress in the form of beta brain waves is the health epidemic of the 21st century. The solution: Using mature technology developed by Dutch electronics giant Philips, AlpaBeats can help you chill by simply listening to your favorite music 10 minutes per day.

Using real-time monitoring, the Philips technology adjusts the playback clarity of the music users’ brains, the brain hears it, and the brain “learns” how to relax, Dirkx said: “We train the brain to relax using biofeedback and your own favorite music.”

He noted that many companies are trying to fix this stress problem.

But AlphaBeats has three differentiating elements, Dirkx said:

• His startup allows users to listen to their own music

• AlphaBeats is hardware-agnostic

• AlphaBeats uses technology developed during eight years of intensive research at Philips

“We have acquired exclusive and worldwide license for this technology,” Dirkx said, adding that research at Tilburg University shows AlphaBeats to be effective after only four weeks of 10-minute daily sessions.

“The feeback has been mindblowing,” he said.

Dirkx said AlphaBeats is at the center of trends – streaming music, the wearables industry and the mindfulness trend. At this point, AlphaBeats is a B2B play, developing its own software integrated into streaming music providers. “They have the music, they have the clients and we have the solution,” he said.

“We’re in the middle of this perfect storm, turning music into medicine.”

AlphaBeats is raising 1 million to go to market with a beta version then continued development.

Phase 2 team from the second deep-tech cohort also presented

CARBYON

Carbyon uses TNO-developed technology to capture CO2 from the air. The startup is at the right place at the right time with the right solution as “airlines are tumbling over each other to announce their emission plans,” said Marco Arts, chief project officer.

KLM found out customers are willing to pay a little more if that money is used to counterbalance the CO2 of their flights – “that guarantees you the C02 removed while you’re flying and stored underground,” Arts said.

The problem is, he added, “CO2 is playing hard to get … extremely hard to separate up till now. No one could do it in a commercially viable way. It was too expensive, 500 euros per ton.”

Carbyon’s equipment uses less energy and lowers costs to one-tenth of current capturing cost. That’s just one part of what the teams terms “closing the CO2 cycle.”

Putting C02 back in the ground is not a solution, Arts said: “It’s a Band-Aid. Instead of storing CO2, what if we could make fuel out of it? Renewable fuels out of recycled CO2 – that would be a real game-changer, right?”

That’s just the beginning, he added:

Let us think even bigger … shipping and trucking. Imagine if we can neutralize all their emissions, then we can have a global impact on one of the biggest problems of our times.

• To achieve that goal, Carbyon is working on a demonstrator, raising 2 million euros to build it by 2021.

• Carbyon will then raise 10 million euros to go to market in 2023.

“If there’s any place it can be done, it is here,” Arts said. “Let’s take off to a sustainable future.”

Carbyon is working with Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research, Technical University of Eindhoven and TNO, where the CO2 capture technology was originally developed.

Development partners are ASML and VDL.

Deep-tech ventures from the first cohort also pitched, including:

Dynaxion – The Dynaxion team, which is using CERN particle accelerator tech to identify drugs and other illicit materials in shipments and luggage, has raised 300,000 euros in funding. Dynaxion was a finalist at Get in the Ring Berlin earlier in the year and has been named one of the Netherlands’ 40 most promising startups. Dynaxion is raising 600,000 euros for development, then 4 million to create a full prototype.

Incooling – Incooling is developing the world’s first two-phase high pressure cooling system for computer chips. That will boost processing power while reducing the energy footprint of data centers, which are projected to consume 20 percent of the world’s energy as the demand for data increases exponentially.

The players in the Eindhoven tech ecosystem:

ASML is the world’s largest and most advanced supplier of photolithography equipment to the semiconductor industry.

CERN, based in Switzerland, is the most advanced particle physics research institution in the world. CERN collaborates with HighTechXL to take its physics-related research to market.

HighTechXL began in 2013 as a conventional high-tech startup accelerator. It pivoted to deep-tech venture building in 2018.

Nikhef is the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics that performs research in particle physics and astro-particle physics.

Philips is one of the world’s largest electronics companies. It specializes in healthtech including advanced diagnostic equipment, as well as consumer products.

TNO is an independent research organization focusing on advanced applied science.

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