“ADEM has provided us with valuable access to the academic world,” says Ernst Granneman, Chief Technology Officer at Levitech. The Almere-based engineering firm has been closely involved with ADEM since its inception. For Granneman, the ADAM initiative, with its research work and facilities focused on energy transition, storage and transport, has really proven its worth.
As a spin-off of stock-exchange listed ASM International, Levitech supplies two products: the Levitor and the Levitrack. The first of these is a rapid thermal processing (RTP) system for the semiconductor industry. It uses massive “heat blocks” to warm gases for the ultrafast thermal treatment of wafers. The Levitrack is an atomic layer deposition (ALD) device for the manufacture of solar cells, based upon the same floating water system as the Levitor. In this case, the equipment deposits aluminium oxide (Al2O3).
As part of the ADEM programme, some years ago Levitech installed an ALD system at ADEM partner ECN. This been used extensively in ADEM research,” says Granneman. “but also within the framework of the Dutch government’s Top Sector policy. In fact, our machine has been used to coat virtually all of ECN’s experimental solar cells with aluminium oxide.” Levitech itself is participating in a number of Top Sector projects through the Urban Energy Consortium for Knowledge and Innovation.
For Granneman, the great benefit of the ADEM programme is that both ECN and the universities allow businesses to exercise influence through it. “It’s thanks to programmes of this kind that research centres have started listening more than they did in the past. That’s a good thing, because it means that more of their research serves the business community. This is something we’re experiencing not only with ECN, but also with the universities of Eindhoven and Delft. They’re now conducting work of real importance to us. Through the ADEM researchers, and especially through ECN, where our ALD system is located, we’ve received repeated feedback about specific improvements we can make to the device. That’s genuinely helped our company move forward.”
Granneman is a member of ADEM’s Programme Board, which steers the research programme at a higher level. “This is another opportunity to guide the programme towards topics you as a company perceive as adding value, without it becoming too pragmatic. It also provides scope to implement improvements. For example, for businesses it’s good to be able to use the shared research equipment more often and at the lowest possible cost.
“Apart from that, the Programme Board is where I really experience the advantages of the ADEM set-up. The structure is less complicated than with the Top Sector policy. Because there are fewer administrative and other obligations, it gives you rather more freedom. So we recognise the value added by both ADEM and the Top Sector policy.”
And the future of ADEM? “Personally,” says Granneman, “I think it would be good if there’s a follow-up once the research programme comes to an end in 2017. In the Programme Board, we’ve now had our first meeting on the future of ADEM. During this first ‘cycle’ we’ve learnt a lot about the structure of such an organisation, and from that perspective a second ADEM programme can only be even more successful.”