On December 4, 2017, the newly created MPG (Molecular Plasma Group) invited upwards of 70 representatives of the Luxembourg materials industry to an Open House. The occasion was officially to celebrate MPG’S first atmospheric plasma machine sale to the Swiss organisation PICC.  For Luxinnovation, this illustrates how building a trusted relationship and benefiting from the advantage of clustering activities can create real economic impact.

A large number of customers and partners were gathered at Technoport in Foetz to mark MPG’s historic delivery to Plastics Innovations Competence Center (PICC), an “innovator and problem solver” for the plastic industry. The new “umbrella” trademark MPG, which regroups the company FUNCOATS (application development) and the company APEMCO (atmospheric plasma equipment and services) was also officially launched with the “Made in Luxembourg” label for their products.

These milestones were partially made possible by the successful collaboration between diverse members of Luxembourg’s eco-system, which includes the Ministry of the Economy, FEDIL, Luxinnovation and the Luxembourg Materials & Manufacturing Cluster, Technoport, Nyuko, BIL and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Good collaboration creates impact – from invention to business idea to reality

Marc Jacobs, Chairman at MPG, guided participants through the events of the day, which included a brief history of the many steps that led up to this first sale.

It all started with Dr Claude Becker in January 2016 who is the founder of Funcoats and inventor of the Leaf technology at LIST. When Dr Becker realised the potential value in terms of practical application thereof he needed to find a partner or partners to support him on the business side. He therefore reached out to Luxinnovation to ask for help and guidance.

At the very first stage, it was essential to build a relationship of mutual trust – a key element of business collaborations – between Dr Becker and the Luxinnovation experts. Dr Becker’s requirements were carefully identified employing a 360 degrees analysis of all aspects of a collaboration. Starting a company is not unlike cooking: it takes a multitude of ingredients, a blend of flavours that make the final result taste better, a particular water temperature and, of course, the time to cook.

Where the Luxinnovation cluster network really helped was in finding him industrial partners. In March 2016, Dr Becker was introduced to Mr Jacobs who came on as the cornerstone investor, business advisor and board member and in August 2016, the deal was closed laying down the foundations and development plan for two related companies: FUNCOATS and APEMCO. VFB nv and AC Greiff joined in as investors and are represented in the board by Jan Vansant. Regis Heyberger also joined as CEO of APEMCO and FUNCOATS

There were many other ways that Luxinnovation and the Luxembourg Materials & Manufacturing Cluster supported further development of the two start-ups. These included:

  • Exchanges on structuring legal setup
  • First introduction to financing institutes such as BIL
  • Exchanges on the strategy to acquire intellectual property and secure competencies from Belgian research and technology organisation VITO
  • Support with the application for state aid by Luxinnovation national funding experts
  • Participation in B2B missions initiated by a cluster partner and Luxinnovation, e.g. Airbus Germany, SME partners in the Netherlands
  • Support for participation in Horizon 2020 programmes by Luxinnovation European funding experts
  • Participation in Fit 4 Digital, a performance programme for SMEs offered by Luxinnovation
  • Inclusion with speaker seat at the Future of Materials Summit sponsored by The Economist

Helping to shape and grow companies

Regis Heyberger, CEO at APEMCO and FUNCOATS, explained the plasma technology and its various functions and applications, which include adhesion improvement, hydrophobicity as well as many other types of surface functionalisation. Rene Winkin, CEO of FEDIL, offered up his congratulations on the success story.

Also on the speaking roster at the Open House was Marco Walentiny, representing Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Étienne Schneider, who referenced Luxembourg’s strong foundation of materials R&D oriented companies, public support mechanisms and public initiatives like the National Composite Centre and the support from Luxinnovation which are helping to “shape and grow the company”.

Johnny Brebels, Head of Cluster Initiative & Flagship Projects at Luxinnovation, declared the collaboration a “textbook example of how to start up; building a trusted relationship and benefiting from the advantage of clustering activities. In conclusion, a perfect example of how a win-win approach based on mutual trust, give-and-take and active participation in cluster activities can help kick-start a new business venture.”