“The hardest part was imagining that this crazy idea (it was completely useless at that point) could ever be a well-functioning product. That someone would ultimately buy it, use it, and moreover, that it would considerably help them in their work and offer them completely new display possibilities!”
“The hardest thing was to imagine that our own little baby, to which we’d devoted ourselves in the laboratory, and which we’d been constantly working to improve, could succeed so profoundly that we then built an international business on it.”
They studied at Brno University of Technology, completed a doctoral degree program together, and are now delivering electron microscope accessories all over the world. The spin-off company NenoVision is one of those cases which shows that practically anything is possible if you do it systematically and patiently. Together with his fellow students at that time, Zdeněk Nováček and Michal Pavera, in 2015 Jan Neuman decided to resume work on one of the topics they’d studied in the team of Professor Šikola and to bring it into the commercial sphere. The topic was the atomic force microscope on which they’d been working at CEITEC on the AMISPEC project. Reducing their work to its most useful and usable features, they brought LiteScope into the world: “it’s a box that’s put into an electron microscope to extend its capabilities” – says Jan Neuman, CEO of NenoVision, describing in layman’s terms the company’s main product.
The big challenge: moving from academia to the world of business
At the time when NenoVision first emerged, all three executives had stable jobs. They decided to bring out the atomic force microscope as something extra – a challenge for them realise their potential and show what they were made of. They found it difficult to imagine that their product would arouse much interest, let alone have considerable value. But despite misgivings, they agreed there was nothing to lose and got down to work. “I don’t think there was ever a moment in the process when we could say: ‘that’s it, we’ve cracked it’, when we realised that it was worth commercialising. The reality is, there must always be someone who’s willing to draw it out, keep working on the project and patiently building it. This part always attracted me,” says Jan Neumann. According to him, what helped most were the people around him, having enough contacts, and the willingness to follow a less trodden path. Openness definitely helped as well: “we needed to obtain a licence from the university and were looking for a way to do it right. The right way was that I didn’t put pressure on anyone; on the contrary, I asked them for help.”
The most important thing: local environment
NenoVision also received help with its transformation into a viable company from JIC. The SME Instrument and the ENTER programme helped draw up a suitable business plan. Before long, the company had to decide whether or not to approach an investor. “As we went through the PLATINN programme, we completely revised our plans. I said that I wanted to make 10 devices a year, but the JIC expert disagreed, saying that we should make 150 devices a year, and convinced me that this was no pipe dream, but a reasonable goal. A 30-million crown business changed into a 300-million crown business and we had to start acting accordingly,” says Jan Neuman, describing one of the pivotal moments in the company’s development. He believes the overall environment is equally important. For him, South Moravia and the knowledge ecosystem which has been developed here provides important support which, more than anything else, gives you courage and lets you know that you’re not alone: “with regard to my studies, I’ve always felt an affinity with Tescan or Thermo Fisher…and, above all, I have great respect for them. When you look around and see that there are companies that are able to enter the global market and play a significant role there, you begin to realise that it’s not science fiction.”
Regional cooperation is also partially responsible for the fact that NenoVision is getting ready to expand abroad this year. Up until now the company’s mainly focused on exploring and finding out what LiteScope is able to measure, and how it can be useful for customers. But now NenoVision is ready to place greater emphasis on trade: “we have distributors for the whole of Europe and we’ve established a partnership with Tescan. In particular, this year’s plan is to build a sales network and monitor whether the distributors are active,” says Neuman about other immediate objectives. Regarding longer-term plans, the company wants to begin manufacturing some components and some electronics itself, ensuring that certain important microscope components are manufactured here at home.
spin-off z CEITEC
kde jsou produkty NenoVision nabízeny
rozlišení produktu LiteScope
NenoVision was founded in 2015 as a spin-off from Brno University of Technology and CEITEC. The company is registered in Brno, a city known as the Mecca of electron microscopy. The company founders are Jan Neuman, Ph.D. (CEO), Zdeněk Nováček, Ph.D. and Michal Pavera, Ph.D. All three have over 10 years of experience with developing scanning electron microscopes for a wide range of applications and conditions. NenoVision is building on the tradition and expertise in the field, and bringing new, innovative technology to the market.
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