In this interview, Benno Oderkerk, CEO of Avantes, talks to AZoOptics about the last 20 years of innovation at Avantes, the celebrations for the company's 20th anniversary, and their plans for the future.
First of all, can you give us a brief introduction to Avantes and your products?
We are a developer and manufacturer of fiber-optic coupled spectrometers and spectroscopy accessories, and we are a leading innovator in miniature spectrometers. Our products serve all kinds of industries and markets, from healthcare and food analysis to solar energy and lighting.
Avantes offers modules and components for the OEM market, as well as complete products. Which of these approaches are you most focused on?
We are very much focused on our OEM customers – this can be seen in the modular approach we have to our instruments. We try to make it as easy as possible for OEMs to integrate our modules into their systems.
We also offer our own complete solutions – these are usually bundles of our modules, tailored for the customer’s specific application. It can be quite challenging to select spectroscopy equipment, because there are so many options and possibilities – we like to use our expertise to help construct systems that suit your needs perfectly.
AvaSpec 2048XL SensLine spectrometer
Whilst we are focused primarily on our industrial OEM customers, we also work with a number of universities and research institutes. The scientific market is very important to us as an innovation-focused company – these labs are where the real innovation happens, and where many of our future industrial customers will come from.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of Avantes – how was the company formed?
We started the company on the 1st April 1994 – but it wasn’t a joke! There was just two of us to start with, in a shed in the woods near Eerbeeck in the Netherlands. I came from Munich in Germany, where I was working as a technical director, and my colleague came from the USA.
When we were picking our location, we basically looked at a map of the Netherlands and chose a position which had good accessibility to both the main north-south and east-west highways, and we ended up in Eerbeck – we have since moved to Appeldoorn, which is not far away.
We started out mainly as a distributor and engineering company – we gradually started to add value to the product lines we were selling. We developed our own software, and created some of our own hardware as well. Over the years, we built up our distribution channels for our own products and solutions all over Europe, and eventually all over the world.
Direct-attach beamsplitter, for any Avantes spectrometer or light source
So you have an important anniversary this year! How will you be celebrating?
We are holding an event in Appeldoorn on the 11th April, with about 500 invitees from the industry. We have some great keynote speakers coming, including the Deputy Director General for Enterprise and Innovation at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Jasper Wesseling, and the Gelders region commissioner for innovation, Annemieke Traag.
The focus will very much be on what Avantes has done in the last 20 years in terms of innovation, and in terms of driving local business and jobs.
There will also be a big party, to celebrate the family atmosphere that we have at Avantes – we even have the AvaBand playing, which is made up of people from the company!. Even though we have 60 people here in the Netherlands, and 85 worldwide, the company still feels very much like it belongs to everyone in it.
Are there any new products you will be launching this year that you can tell us about? What will your main focus be for 2014?
Our main focus is fundamentally to make our products more compact, and to give them more embedded intelligence. There are some products we are launching at the moment which certainly show that.
Our primary release is the next generation of the AvaSpec MINI spectrometer, which is much smaller than our current offerings, but with all of the same features. The Avaspec MINI is primarily designed for handheld instruments, where compact size is of the utmost importance – it is designed to be really easy for OEMs to integrate into their products, but the embedded platform we use means you don’t need to sacrifice any functionality.
We are also launching a number of new accessories – beamsplitters, light sources, etc – which again are much more compact than the versions which have been available before.
AvaAbsorb System, integrated solution for absorbance measurements
What is your vision for the future of Avantes?
To keep producing innovative spectroscopy solutions! In the long term, our vision is to enable people to live longer, and stay healthier, in a safe environment – we will be producing many more products which are geared towards that goal in the future.
Where can people find more information about Avantes?
You can visit our website, at www.avantes.com. You can also find us at trade shows - we have already been to Laser Optics in Berlin and Analytica in Munich this year, which were a great success for us. The next show for us will be OptoTech in Frankfurt, on the 20th-22nd May. We hope to see you there!
About Benno Oderkerk
Since 1994 Benno Oderkerk is the cofounder and shareholder of Avantes, a spectroscopy company in the Netherlands with offices in the USA, China and the United Kingdom.
Benno Oderkerk obtained his master’s degree in Electronic Engineering at the Twente Technical University in Enschede, the Netherlands in March 1988. He worked from April 1987 until December 1988 at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. Then he started in Munich, Germany at the University of the Bundeswehr in 1989 as a research associate.
From autum1989 until 1994 he worked as a technical Director at STM Sensor Technology Munich, Germany.
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