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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Materials & technologies projects > Biomaterials for health, wealth and employment
Graphic element Biomaterials for health, wealth and employment

Meet Materialise: an SME success story

The Materialise story demonstrates a particular SME success in biomaterials innovation. Materialise is the company that initiated and co-ordinated the Phidias project that developed models for improving the accuracy of surgery. Its core activities are rapid prototyping, digital CAD (computer-aided design) and medical-image-based manufacturing.

When Phidias was launched in 1992, Materialise counted less than 10 staff members and a single office on the outskirts of the university city of Leuven in Belgium. Today, the company has offices in Belgium, the UK, Germany, France, the USA, Malaysia and Japan. It is the first European rapid prototyping company to have implanted itself in the USA - usually it is the other way around! Materialise now counts 125 staff members worldwide, with customers outside the EU representing over 50% of sales.
Was Phidias alone responsible for this growth? No, Materialise has developed both its medical and technical activities, with cross-fertilisation between them. Algorithms developed in Phidias are used in software for the automobile industry, and fast production techniques developed for making prototypes have accelerated medical model building.

Phidias was, however, an important trigger. Since 1995 when the project ended and the models came onto the market, the company claims that its annual growth rate has increased from about 30 to 57%.

Fried Vancraen, founder of Materialise NV, stresses several factors that make participating in an EU-sponsored research project worthwhile for an SME.
These include:

  • Project planning as a tool for developing SME strategies;
  • Partnership with major companies and top-level university teams, giving weight and credibility in addition to the vital contribution of each partner to the project;
  • Intermediate results, providing visibility both within and beyond the project area;
  • Many contacts;
  • A legal framework that protects all partners and encourages them to overcome obstacles; and
  • Encouragement to patent results - both from the EC and from more experienced partners.
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What are biomaterials?
Biomaterials in public health
Biomaterials and the European economy
Meet Materialise: an SME success story
Repairing damaged bone or skin
Bio-hybrid organs
Major EU-funded biomaterials projects

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