Materialise: an SME success story
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.
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.
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%.
founder of Materialise NV, stresses several factors that make participating
in an EU-sponsored research project worthwhile for an SME.
planning as a tool for developing SME strategies;
with major companies and top-level university teams, giving weight and
credibility in addition to the vital contribution of each partner to
results, providing visibility both within and beyond the project area;
- A legal
framework that protects all partners and encourages them to overcome
to patent results - both from the EC and from more experienced partners.