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Smart systems raise interest from European private investors

Smart systems raise interest from
European private investors

COWIN successfully turns EU research projects into attractive business opportunities that support the growth and launch of start-up companies. On October 10 in Brussels’ ENIAC building the inaugural COWIN Investment event assembled 70+ innovation stakeholders representing research, industry, entrepreneurs, and public and private funders active in smart systems.


10 companies that benefitted from COWIN’s support in the definition and implementation of their growth strategy presented their strategic positioning and development plan to 15 pan-European private investors, all members of COWIN’s network. These 15 venture capitalists represent more than 3B€ in managed funds. More than 80 one-on-one meetings took place during the event’s networking session. According to Paul Thurk, Managing Director Europe at Arch Ventures, “the COWIN Investment place 2013 was a great event presenting interesting companies active in ICT hardware. Europe has vast and important research in the physical sciences, but too often the VC community focuses on software, internet and other areas that are perceived to require lower investment levels.  Such a focus risks missing some really great and significant opportunities. The organization of the COWIN Investment place is a great step toward counteracting this trend.” 

The 10 selected companies represent the potential of innovative smart systems technologies. The companies’ activities cover various application fields including Mobile, Industrial, Environmental, Medical Devices, Diagnostics and Security. Based on the exploitation of EU research projects results, each company has developed a unique value proposition and an attractive competitive positioning. They all benefit from COWIN support and although most of them are early stage companies, they are all generating sales and setting-up strategic partnerships to support their growth.

The 10 selected companies were:

puce jauneAtlas Neuroengineering (Belgium) develops and commercialises experimental neuroscience tools that record and stimulate neuronal activity. Atlas’s implantable devices are used to investigate brain diseases and disorders.

puce jauneAtten2 (Spain) develops, manufactures and sells optical online sensors for fluid monitoring. The main value proposition of Atten2’s products is the reduction of maintenance and replacement costs. Atten2 also performs related services.

puce jauneDelfMEMS (France) develops and commercializes radio-frequency micro-electro-mechanical-systems. Next generation mobile devices will increasingly rely on tunable and low loss components to deliver high performance multi-standard and multi-mode devices at a reasonable cost.

puce jauneExcelera (Spain) eases the integration of sensor systems in all kind of devices and markets. Excelera’s products simplify sensor systems design and boost their performance while reducing costs and time-to-market.

puce jaunefrec|n|sys (France) is a contract manufacturer for remote and battery less sensors in harsh environments.

puce jauneHolografika (Hungary) wants to reshape the 3D Industry. HoloVizio is the only 3D display system that simultaneously fulfills all criteria of true 3D display.

puce jauneivD-Company (Germany): ivD-Platform produces a complete diagnostic system for laboratory-like analysis for near-patient testing.

puce jauneMultiphoton Optics (Germany), MPO offers its Two-Photon Absorption technology for optical component packaging and other markets.

puce jaunePercipio Robotics (France) offers extreme robotic micromanipulation to perform mass production of assembled miniaturized products in high-technology applications.

puce jauneTazTag (France) provides system integrators, solution providers and corporations with B2B Secure Mobile products.

VCs were impressed with the high quality of the companies pitching at the COWIN Investment event. According to Marc Lambrechts of Capricorn Venture Partners, “many events dedicated to introduce companies to VCs are organized in Europe, but COWIN brings a key differentiation with a very good selection of companies, very well prepared and with a focused offer and positioning.” The efficiency of the event’s organization was also largely appreciated for its ability to facilitate networking and interactions. It’s very likely that in the coming months, the fruitful contacts and discussions which occurred will result in new strategic collaborations and investments.


As summarized by Khalil Rouhana, Director of Components and Systems for the DG Connect European Commission, COWIN aims at bringing a new dimension in supporting commercial exploitation of EU research project results. The added-value of this initiative coordinated and driven by Mrs Géraldine Andrieux Gustin from Yole Finance relies on the unique expertise of the team combining technical and market expertise, business development competencies and access to finance.

The COWIN partners, consisting of Yole Développement, Euripides, VDI-VDE/IT, Zabala Innovation Consulting and TBP have built an attractive ecosystem combining research centers, industrials, public and private investors with a focus on ICT hardware and smart systems. COWIN also contributes by structuring a relevant value chain for ICT hardware.

COWIN’s ecosystem, combined with its members’ expertise, is a powerful tool for supporting European innovation and entrepreneurship while exploiting EU research results to generate value and employment. COWIN’s experts work daily with technology companies and entrepreneurs to refine their business case into a pragmatic approach. COWIN is indeed operations-driven, facilitating interactions and collaborations with strategic partners across Europe. Luis Boada, Sales & Marketing with Excelera, said “COWIN excels at providing young companies with access to leading European companies. It’s a unique and great opportunity offered to young companies.”

COWIN’s goal is to blend the Silicon Valley’s spirit and efficiency in focusing on the specific smart systems and ICT hardware thematic.

As stated by Jean-Luc Mate, Vice President at Continental Automotive France and President of EURIPIDES², the EUREKA cluster for smart systems, “Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian, defined the concept of the innovator-entrepreneur in the ‘50s. Europeans are fascinated by the capacity of Americans to transform ideas into profitable businesses. COWIN is the first EC-launched initiative to demonstrate that this transformation could be possible anywhere, as long as we contribute the same technical ideas, market applications and investment to make it happen. My dream is that COWIN will become a stable best practice process within Europe. Like Americans, Europeans also love to dream -- this time we just need to keep our eyes open”.

COWIN is a first step towards supporting entrepreneurship and the growth of innovative companies. New instruments designed by the European Commission for Horizon 2020, the new European framework programme for Research and Innovation, will increase the support provided to innovative SMEs. During the COWIN Investment place, Bernd Reichert, Head of unit at DG Research and Innovation presented the scheme of the SME instruments, which is based on three main phases spanning proof of concept to commercialization. Through this scheme, selected companies could raise up to 3M€ in grants, based on the quality of their business plan and development strategy. A total of 400M€ will be dedicated to the ICT field.

ICT hardware is a strategic field for European competitiveness, but it requires dedicated support to ensure company growth. Europe has the assets to fuel its economic dynamism with smart innovation: world-class research centers, top players in the microelectronics industry, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists active in ICT hardware. According to a Yole Développement analysis, the smart systems market opportunity is real, with an expected CAGR of 13% to 20% depending on market segment.

The growth is achievable, the European Commission is supportive, so let’s make it happen. In simulating the Silicon Valley’s spirit in Europe, COWIN-like activities can be the major breakthrough that turns European Commission investments into business successes that generate growth and employment.