A spin-off of the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics (Nikhef) and the Dutch Research Council Institute for the physics of functional complex matter (AMOLF), Amsterdam Scientific Instruments’ hybrid-pixel cameras help advance scientific research by enabling more sensitive and accurate measurement of high-energy particles.
A little like superheroes, every business has its own origin story. It can be anything: from the lifelong dream of an entrepreneur finally realized to a group of people coming together to try and change the world. As far as auspicious origin stories for scientific companies go, being co-created by CERN – the European Organisation for Nuclear Research – is certainly super. And this is exactly how Amsterdam Scientific Instruments (ASI), a leader in advanced camera systems for X-ray imaging and electron microscopy, came to be.
It was CERN that first developed the Medipix technology that powers ASI’s detectors, sophisticated hybrid-pixel cameras which enable researchers around the world to make breakthrough discoveries regarding the functional dynamics and properties of X-rays, photons, electrons, neutrons and ions.
“The technology CERN needed was not available,” explains Steven Tan, ASI’s chief financial officer and founder and director of Nascent Ventures, which co-owns the firm. “So, CERN coordinated its development alongside a consortium of leading research institutes, including the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics, Nikhef. Several cameras were then developed based on Medipix technology. And, in 2011, Nikhef decided to set up a company to commercialise those cameras – that was ASI.”
Steven Tan, ASI’s chief financial officer and founder and director of Nascent Ventures
“We have to offer a good working environment, physically and socially. For that, the Science Park is an excellent location
Since its launch, ASI has always called Amsterdam Science Park home. Originally based within Nikhef itself, it now operates from a state-of-the-art office in the park’s Matrix VII building, which offers high-quality offices and laboratories for high-tech businesses. “Amsterdam Science Park is a fantastic location because companies can mix. It’s also close to the city’s academic activities,” explains Tan. “I think that for our type of company the Science Park is by far the best location in the Netherlands to set up a business.”
As home to one of the largest concentrations of beta sciences in Europe, the park offers endless possibilities to collaborate. For ASI, its proximity to world-renowned institutes like Nikhef and AMOLF has been instrumental in maintaining its position as a market leader in hybrid-pixel detectors.
“We still work very closely with Nikhef and AMOLF,” Tan explains. “In fact, part of our production process uses certain very specialised equipment from Nikhef that would otherwise be very difficult or much more expensive to access.”
As well as fostering collaboration, being based at the park has also been key to ASI attracting the brightest scientific talents. “The working atmosphere is very important because it was very hard to find the right people,” says Tan. ‘We cannot afford to pay them top dollar, so we have to offer a good working environment, physically and socially. For that, the Science Park is an excellent location.”
After taking ownership of ASI in 2017, Tan has seen the company go from strength to strength. “Since then, growth has almost doubled every year. Now we have 23 people on the team and even with the coronavirus crisis we will, for the first time, have profitable results. So, it’s very encouraging.”
Now working on fourth-generation Medipix and Timepix technology, ASI is continuing to deliver providing innovative and customisable products to its customers from its base at the science park.
From impressive origins, ASI’s story is now, happily, one in which excellence continues to fuel its success.
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