NIEK RIJNVELD EPIC CEO INTERVIEW
EPIC CEO INTERVIEW NIEK RIJNVELD, CEO, OPTICS 11
In this interview, Antonio Castelo , EPIC’s Photonics Technologies Program Manager, talks to Niek Rijnveld , CEO of Optics 11, a developer and manufacturer of fibre optic interferometry products for industrial and life science applications.
EARLY CAREER In 2007, after graduating with an MSc in Biomechanical Design from the Delft University of Technology, Niek became a Control Engineer at the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO). In 2010, he was promoted to a Systems Engineer and continued designing and developing projects involving lasers and optomechatronics for space satellites and semicon. During this period, he became increasingly interested in how the technology he was working on could be moved out of the lab and into the real world where it could make a real difference to society. In 2012, he was presented with an opportunity to put his ideas into practice through a chance meeting with Prof. Davide Iannuzzi, an experimental physicist, and Hans Brouwer, a serial entrepreneur, who a year earlier had founded Optics 11. The company had been set up as a spin-off from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to commercialise a promising technology based on fiber-top sensing. Niek was hired as Development Manager, Optics 11’s first employee, to help develop the company’s first prototypes together with Grzegorz Gruca, who was doing his PhD at the time and is now serving as the company’s CTO.
COMPANY DEVELOPMENT As Niek recalls, although at that time the technology was very promising and the founders had some market hypotheses, for example, regarding life sciences and structural monitoring, exactly how it could be adapted to meet real market needs was still largely unknown. Accordingly, over the next three years, Niek joined efforts with Prof. Davide Iannuzzi and Hans Brouwer, the founders, to bring the prototypes to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK with the aims of talking to and getting feedback from potential customers and looking for KOLs, i.e., key opinion leaders who could confirm their market hypotheses. By 2014, based on these market insights, they were ready to start developing their first MVP (minimum viable product) in the form of an industrial interrogator, which is still being sold today. In 2015, Niek was appointed Managing Director, overseeing R & D, product development, sales & marketing and purchasing, and in 2016, he was appointed CEO. Following investment from Value Creation Capital in 2016, Optics 11 expanded its product portfolio, and the company has since grown to a workforce of around 80 in their two business units in Amsterdam together
with four people in Boston in the US and five in Dublin in Ireland.
CORE TECHNOLOGY Key to Optics 11’s success has been the use of fiber optic interferometry as a measurement technology rather than FBGs or distributed sensing. The advantages of interferometry over other types of fibre optic systems are that interferometry issensitivity and bandwidth , which enables Optics11 to offer unique sensing systems such as acoustic emission and hydrophone arrays. In 2012 the company started the life science applications and products and in 2015 they opened their portfolio to industrial applications after having developed these unique architectures for multiple sensors. Furthermore, their technology includes in-house fabricated precision motion laboratory machine systems as well as the micro manufacturing of the sensors. CURRENT PRODUCTS Today, Optics 11 comprises two business units with very different markets but based on the same core technology: Optics 11 provides industrial sensing solutions for asset monitoring, i.e., structural health monitoring, condition monitoring, R &D, micro-seismic monitoring, energy and underwater acoustics. Products include
| ISSUE 30 | Q3 2022
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