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Taavet Hinrikus’ Plural Platform backs Dutch startup VSParticle in €14.5M funding

Picture credits: VSParticle

The ability to develop new materials has impacted society tremendously. However, it can take up to 10 years to discover new materials in the lab and a further five years to test and scale a new discovery to mass production. This duration is holding back innovation across the globe. By accelerating every step of materials development, the VSParticle (VSP) technology reduces the overall time of material discovery from 15 years to only one. 

The Dutch startup VSP helped reduce the production and discovery cycle from months to only an hour. It’s able to do this because it is the only technology that can be directly transferred and scaled through all three steps of the material innovation cycle from trial and error in the lab to optimisation of the production process and scaling towards mass production.

Investment led by Plural Platform

VSP, the leading supplier of nanoparticle printing tools, has raised €14.5 million in funding led by Taavet Hinrikus’ Plural Platform (which backed and Proxima Fusion), with participation from BlueYard Capital and a €3.5 million grant from NXTGEN HIGHTECH, bringing the total raised by VSP to €17 million. 

The funding will be used to scale up the production of VSP’s tools and services and grow the operations and commercial teams. Also, it will use the fund to power its mission to accelerate material development and unlock innovation at scale. 

Aaike van der Vugt, co-founder and CEO of VSParticle, said: “Scientists spend decades of their life on discovering new materials, which means that it takes generations to unlock the innovation we need as a society. We’ve only been able to unlock about 1% to enable technological innovation so far, but with our technology, we will unlock the other 99% in the next two decades. From the climate crisis to preventative healthcare, the implications of accelerating materials development are huge. Plural understands the potential impact of our work and has proven experience to help us scale this technology. We’re thrilled to be working with them.” 

Sten Tamkivi, who led the investment round at Plural Platform, added: “We need to be able to break molecules down to the nano-level and experiment with them to find new optimised material structures. VSParticle is the only company I’ve come across that can enable experimentation and discovery with software-defined materials at scale. As investors, we are very excited about working with Aaike and his team of world-class scientists in this incredibly important field.” 

Christian Gebauer, Head of Hydrogen Systems, Global Business Unit at Heraeus Precious Metals (part of Heraeus Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG), said: “To meet the ambitious goals of producing green hydrogen, we need to optimise electrode manufacturing in new ways, for example, new ways of using materials like iridium for PEM electrolysis. VSParticle’s solution has the potential to improve electrode manufacturing and further technological benefits for the world.”

Anton Köck, key researcher at Material Center Leobon (MCL), stated: “VSP’s printing technology is of high interest for gas sensor developers because it provides a tremendous degree of flexibility in terms of material compositions, which is key for optimizing chemical sensors. This technology enables the direct deposition of nanomaterials on a wafer without further post-processing, which will simplify mass production. I am very optimistic that VSPs technology will accelerate the development of new, optimized gas sensors for a variety of emerging applications.”

M. Kozdras, Co-lead MI Materials for Energy, said: “VSParticle’s nanoprinting technology is seen as a critical synthesis pathway for accelerated materials discovery of energy materials (automated labs)”

Innovation in material innovation

VSParticle was founded in 2014 by Aaike van der Vugt (Forbes 30 under 30 winner in 2019), Andreas Schmidt-Ott, Tobias Pfeiffer, and Tobias Coppejans. The company was founded with the mission to scale this technology into an R&D tool for universities and organisations. 

VSP accelerates material development to power next-generation products. Its technology enables materials to be broken down to the size of nanoparticles and produced at the push of a button, allowing university researchers and commercial R&D teams across the world to experiment to create new materials that form the basis of revolutionary products. 

While VSParticle’s nanoparticle technology is applicable to many industries, the company is currently focusing on those that will accelerate decarbonisation of industries, such as the development of Catalyst Coated Membranes, which are critical for the mass production of green hydrogen.

Moving ten times faster will enable VSP to unlock a century of innovation in the next 10 years and solve urgent global challenges from climate change, to energy transition and healthcare innovation by reshaping global material development efforts. By accelerating every step of materials development, VSP’s technology reduces the overall time of material discovery from 15 years to only one.

VSP’s technology will also accelerate and simplify the production of new gas sensors. it will be possible to develop advanced sensors that can, for instance, detect air pollutants in buildings and the environment or even detect early signs of illness from human breath to improve healthcare outcomes.

The technology can also be combined with robotics and advanced data processing to enable automated labs to further material discovery and development. 

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