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Things heated up quickly in Veldhoven on January 31st, when 13 selected startups from 9 countries visited the HQ of ASML to talk business. The type of business most people don’t know exists: we’re talking about nanostructures, gamma rays and antimatter.

Calling it high tech doesn’t do it justice: it should be called extreme tech. ASML is the world’s leading innovator in the field of semiconductor technology. Creating lithography machines that can make chips with more computing power than a supercomputer just 2 decades ago, ASML doesn’t even flinch when discussing topics like these. Actually, the startups had a tough time convincing the 20+ experts from ASML that their tech was up to par. And if it was, the question isn’t “is there a business model?”, the question is more like: “can it generate hundreds of millions in revenue?”.


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A company like ASML thinks big and acts big. It also commits to the projects it supports. Also for this Challenge, with Jan Smits (Executive VP), Paul van Attekum  (Senior VP Strategic Business Development) and Frank Schuurmans (VP Research) involved. These fine gentlemen represent more than 100 hundred years of experience at the top of their field, and they were all available to meet and have meaningful discussions with. Knowing this is the first time ASML has opened up its HQ to startups like this, you could feel the excitement in the room: this could be the start of something big.

The goal of the day wasn’t just to get to know each other, but also for ASML to select one of the startups to start a pilot program with and to offer two other startups a spot in the ASML Accelerator Program (incl. 200 hours of coaching from ASML’s experts – which means a lot in this field), which they created with HightechXL, the famous Eindhoven-based, high-tech accelerator. To sum up the competition:

Pilot program with ASML
Winner: CAILabs develops innovative photonic components that enable solutions in Telecom, Datacom and Laser Manufacturing.
Runner-up: Inprentus designs, manufactures and sells ultra-high precision gratings.

ASML Accelerator Program
Winners: FMC commercializes a disruptive material innovation i.e. eNVM based on ferroelectric hafnium oxide. RoboSculpt creates Precision Medical Robots which in the future will assist surgeons to do what is currently impossible.
Runner ups: LeydenJar develops pure silicon anodes that can generate up to 50% more energy density in Li-ion battery cells. Swisslitho is a unique tool for rapid prototyping of nanodevices and nanostructures.

One thing requires a special mention. To get a better idea of how ASML (a Philips spin-off) turned its own startup into a multi-billion company, all startups got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a tour in the ASML Experience Center, guided by ASML specialists. Everyone got a first-hand – through 3d glasses – experience on how ASML’s high-tech machines work in practice. It’s kind of mind-blowing if you think about it.

Are you interested in working together with large companies to prove your solution and scale up in a case of success? Check out our other Challenges.

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