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25 August 2016

ADEM spin-off Eurekite: “Major new customers, projects and investments on the way”

Flexiramics. That’s the name of the brand of flexible ceramics produced by the firm Eurekite, based in Enschede. This innovative material was discovered a few years ago by ADEM researcher Gerard Cadafalch Gasquez. With a recent financial injection from renowned US investment fund Cottonwood, the world is now at the company’s feet. We talk to Cadafalch about the path ahead…

Gerard Cadafalch Gasquez has no qualms admitting that his discovery of nanofibre-based flexible ceramics was pure coincidence. “It was during my research on ceramic fuel cells for ADEM at the University of Twente that I stumbled across the material,” he explains. “That was a real eureka moment. My find turned out to have unique properties: it can be bent into any shape and is almost indestructible. In a sense, it’s a bit like paper.”

Entrepreneurship

During a workshop on entrepreneurship, Cadafalch was challenged by his PhD supervisor, Andre ten Elshof, to come up with an application for the new material. “My first idea wasn’t the best, but in the end a suitable business plan did come out of it.” And so the technology start-up Eurekite was born – ADEM’s first actual spin-off business.

But things really started to accelerate, according to Cadafalch, when the firm made contact with Ray Quintana, head of the European arm of American venture capitalist Cottonwood. Not only did he put Eurekite in touch with a number of extremely useful business partners, but Cottonwood itself invested 1 million euros  in the company. As Cadafalch puts it, that was the game changer which paved the way for Eurekite to be a game changer. “Through Cottonwood, we’re now in contact with oil, gas, telecoms and energy firms. They all see potential applications for our materials. In items from sensors to lithium-ion batteries, electronics for electric cars and mobile telephones.”

PCB

According to Cadafalch, Eurekite is now hard at work devising specific uses for Flexiramics. “A flexible ceramic printed circuit board (PCB), for example. This would retain a low dielectric constant at relatively high dielectric or signal strengths, making it an excellent platform for high-quality signal transmission under a wide variety of circumstances. What’s more, a flexible ceramic PCB conducts heat far better than a standard ceramic one.”

Major customers

Cadafalch expects Eurekite to sign up several major clients within the next twelve months. “The production and sale of actual products will have started by then. After that initial year, a new round of investment will allow us to build a manufacturing plant and, to bring all the necessary expertise in-house, our current team of six will be expanded to a workforce of 15-20 people. From R&D to production, logistics and marketing.”

One of the biggest hurdles currently facing the firm on the production front, according to Cadafalch, is adding more layers of technology. “Flexiramics needs to incorporate more techniques. These may be standard ones, but they do increase the complexity. Still, we’re convinced that we can navigate this path successfully. You can expect to hear more from us soon: news about major new customers, projects and investments.”

Technology platform

What about the links with ADEM? They are still strong, says Cadafalch, and they will remain so. Eurekite is one of the ADEM’s industrial partners. “Not only is the research conducted at ADEM valuable to us, but as a platform ADEM connects us with other companies and research organisations. All in all, it’s an excellent environment within which to valorise a new material like Flexiramics. It’s all part of our road map, which envisages Eurekite growing into a full-scale technology platform addressing a number of social challenges. Things like the energy transition and climate change.”