Demcon sells minority share in Qmicro


Enschede provided breeding ground for micro systems company growth

Qmicro, which develops and produces gas analysis systems for industrial process analysis and laboratory technology was acquired by the Swiss sensor specialist Sensirion. The acquisition broadens Sensirion’s portfolio of sensor and analysis solutions and enables Qmicro to continue to grow thanks to its access to the exchange listed Sensirion’s network. The company domiciled in Enschede in the Netherlands was founded in 2013 and established a close working relationship with Demcon, technology developer and producer, that twenty years earlier also had its start in Enschede. Demcon took a minority interest, provided accommodation and management support, and assisted Qmicro with the industrialization of its innovative products. Today, Qmicro stands ready to conquer the world market together with Sensirion.

Qmicro (16 employees) develops MEMS-based gas analysis systems for the (chemical) process analysis and laboratory technology markets. Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) combine electronic, mechanical, and sometimes chemical components as well, on a chip. They are manufactured using techniques from the semiconductor manufacturing industry and can fulfill a range of functions. MEMS help make all kinds of devices and products smaller, and consequently often faster, more accurate and/or cheaper. Qmicro’s products – micro gas analyzers – are used to control industrial processes and characterize gases. A specific example is a micro-gas-chromatograph capable of determining the composition of gas mixtures.

Demcon became involved in Qmicro from the very beginning. “We saw an opportunity to become more actively involved in the micro and nanotechnology world,” Demcon CEO Dennis Schipper explained at the time. “Qmicro’s knowledge supplements our service portfolio, for example the miniaturization of components for the mechatronics systems we design.” Qmicro’s managing director and co-founder Mark Kok also saw opportunities for synergy: “Between our micro-systems-related activities and what Demcon does on a larger scale. For example, we can develop micro-actuators for them.” Qmicro was housed at Demcon in Enschede. This way it was easy for the two companies to call on one another’s expertise and make use of one another’s facilities – Qmicro’s laboratory for assembling MEMS chips and Demcon’s cleanroom. Demcon engaged Qmicro’s employees in its own projects and, conversely, supported Qmicro with the industrialization of its products.

Last year Qmicro moved to a larger establishment in Enschede so it could continue to grow. As a result the company now stood on its own two feet and was able to prepare itself for the step towards the global market, which it will now take under Sensirion’s wings. Mark Kok is happy that it is able to combine forces with Sensirion. “This enables us to scale up our processes more efficiently and to accelerate our growth.” Qmicro will become Sensirion’s competence center for micro gas analyzers in Enschede. Together they want to combine their MEMS, industrialization and development of affordable sensor solutions expertise in order to even further miniaturize Qmicro’s products. That makes them easier to integrate into their clients’ systems, which increases application, and therefore sales, opportunities.

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Mark Kok and Dennis Schipper are happy with Qmicro’s step forward. Kok: “Since our initial start-up we have grown from four to sixteen employees with the support of Demcon and others. We have introduced multiple new products and this has attracted the attention of Sensirion with whom we can now continue to grow.” Schipper: “Qmicro has matured in our incubator and we have made a contribution to this. With our Incubate Program we support young companies in their growth with our knowledge and experience, our laboratory and production rooms and, if desired, with financing. In addition, we are able to offer additional services that smaller companies often do not yet have in-house, such as PR, HRM, ICT and quality control. Perhaps there is some idealism here as well, but I especially see the synergy. Because we can in turn learn from these starting and developing companies, and through them we can explore new markets.” The sale of its minority interest in Qmicro to Sensirion provides Demcon with room for new investments in promising start-ups, explains Investment Director Jemy Pauwels: “We invest a great deal in technology that has the potential of providing solutions to social problems. We do this with capital, but above all, also with our expertise, people, facilities and accommodation. In this respect we are primarily interested in companies that can be of strategic importance for us, for example because of the markets in which they operate.”