On the wall in “The Strip” at Eindhoven’s High Tech Campus is a quote from Albert Einstein “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” This pretty much defines the mindset of those who are fortunate enough to work in this mecca of R&D. I had the opportunity to visit and learn more about this unique center of innovation last week during ASML’s portion of IMEC’s Technology Forum Press event.
Calling the center “an open innovation ecosystem that is so rich and diverse, it distinguishes itself from all others in the world” Frans Schmetz, managing director, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, talked about the history of how this campus came to be, and what its goals are. Originally occupied by Philips, the company conceptualized this “breeding ground for innovation” in 1998, with the intention of pulling together researchers that would give a boost to the power of Philips. In 2003, they opened it up to other companies and organizations with similar goals, and today the campus is home to 90 companies and over 7000 researchers ranging from technology start-ups to multinational companies and organizations like NXP, IBM, Dalsa, TI, and “knowledge institutes” such as Holst Center, a combined effort of IMEC and TNO.
According to Schmetz, the companies involved share the same vision of developing technologies that will “make people’s lives healthier, more comfortable, and more interesting.” Individual user requirements include sustainability, efficiency and user friendliness. After Schmetz’s introduction, we had a chance to see some of what he was talking about.
While 3D technologies haven’t yet been incorporated into the showcased prototypes, there were certainly some applications that will benefit from them in the near future, and may actually be integrated into the final versions. For example, Frank Simonis, of Nanodialysis, demoed a prototype for a wearable artificial kidney the start-up is developing. While the core technology involves sorption filtering with nanomaterials for hemodialysis, the part of interest to me was the fact that it is ICT enable for remote sensing, monitoring, and wireless data transmission to smartphones, PDAS and the wearer’s healthcare network. Simonis told me the electronics are being worked on collaboratively by TNO, with involvement from CEA -Leti.
Another demonstration that caught my interest was a wireless indoor tracing and tracking system, which promises to be a great improvement over the emergency alert devices designed for the elderly or disabled currently available. Rather than simply activating a phone call to an emergency alert call center, this device contains, among other things, a GPS locator that can identify where inside a home someone may have fallen. Scientist Ron Niesten of Anthony, the company developing the device, showed me the electronics inside the prototype – a 2D system-in-package (SiP) design that would clearly benefit from stacking heterogeneous technologies, and even more so by adding IMEC’s stretchable substrate to create a wearable “smart patch”.
The opportunity to get a glimpse of the future is one of the reasons why I love this job. I get to see some very cool things way before they’re a reality. The artificial kidney, for example, still has to go through animal trials (2010), further miniaturization (2012), and clinical trials (2012-1013) before it can be put into production (2014). But its existence could extend the life of someone in renal failure for years (with annual replacement). While it’s true that many concepts never make it out of the lab, it seems that the ones who have an infrastructure like the High Tech Campus behind it have a great advantage. It’s no wonder it’s been dubbed “the hotspot for human innovation.” – F.v.T.