NXP shares LUMO Labs vision of Eindhoven as emerging tech center

Interview with NXP's managing director Maurice Geraets

Where’s the perfect place to perfect urban mobility technology?

The Netherlands, says Maurice Geraets, managing director at NXP Semiconductors, and Maurice has a lot of evidence to back up that bold assertion.

Roland Berger’s Automotive Disruption Radar ranks the Netherlands No. 1 when it comes to accelerating the disruptions in automotive technology, he said. KPMG has the Netherlands at No. 1 on its autonomous vehicle readiness Index.

“The Netherlands has a strong position in smart mobility, so we see the ecosystem around Eindhoven as the perfect ecosystem to demonstrate and to apply new technologies. This provides new opportunities that can have a global reach and a global impact.”

The relationship between NXP, the top global supplier of computer chips to the auto industry, and LUMO Labs began when Maurice sat next to LUMO Labs founder Andy Lürling a few years ago during an event hosted by Eindhoven and Brainport. They kept in touch, and now Maurice is a member of the LUMO Labs Scientific and Industry advisory board.

“I like the initiatives they take,” Maurice said of LUMO Labs.

At this point in 2020, the world is experimenting with completely different working patterns and mobility patterns due to so many people working from home, Maurice noted. The technology LUMO Labs is investing in augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are really “spot on for addressing the many ways of working we will see,” Maurice said. “At NXP, we’re not that much into applications or the software, but we deliver the core (semiconductor) technology that enables all these technologies.”

NXP and LUMO Labs are also linked as neighbors on High Tech Campus Eindhoven as well as their global footprints. Like LUMO Labs, NXP has operations in the U.S. after the 2015 acquisition of Motorola’s former chip business Freescale, though 40 percent of the company’s top-line revenue comes from China.

“We are truly globally-based, and that global network is something that will be valuable to LUMO Labs and all the startups they’re funding,” Maurice said.

He foresees many future opportunities for LUMO Labs and NXP to collaborate. The Netherlands and Eindhoven have a very strong position in smart mobility. There are more and more entrants in automotive technology, including Tesla and many new Chinese companies with ambitions to export to the West. “We see rumors that Sony might want to launch a vehicle into the market,” Maurice said. “We see new entrants coming, and we in the Netherlands are much more open to new entrants and innovations than many other countries.”

NXP focuses on the environmental footprint of their own operations. “That’s very important. But even more important is how our chips can reduce the CO2 footprint of the world,” he said.

All technology must be affordable so billions of people around the world can use it, not just the wealthy few, Maurice said. An example is near-field communications, invented by Sony and NXP (then still part of Philips) in 2002, which makes possible mobile and contactless payments. Because of the pandemic, mobile and contactless payments have doubled or tripled. “Every smart phone has near-field communications, but that wouldn’t be the case if the NXP near-field chip was prohibitively expensive,” he said. “If we can produce it at a very affordable price point, it’s a no-brainer for a smartphone manufacturer to include NFC within its phones.”

That’s just one example of how technology can truly change the world. But that can only be done if it’s affordable, Maurice said. With NFC, large-scale affordability of technology drives the adoption of technology.

“So, on one hand, you need to invent new technology, and you need to demonstrate its value. But if it’s too expensive, it won’t have large scale applications.” he said.

NXP focuses on its core business, so it doesn’t have its own venture fund to fund startups. But it works with startup funds “that are much better at doing this than we are.”

Once NXP identifies startups relevant to its core businesses, they can intensify the cooperation with LUMO Labs: “We might invest in it. And since we’re working with venture funds, we can coach or support – whatever you want to call it – and help their startups be successful.”