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Home > Interviews > Tim E. Harper - April 2002

Tim E. Harper Interview March 2002

The following is an interview with Tim E. Harper, CEO CMP-Cientifica, co author of the Nanotechnology Opportunity ReportTM and joint editor in Chief of the X Report.

Tim is also the Executive Director of European NanoBusiness Association and an advisor to the US NanoBusiness Alliance. He also chairs EuroFE, a European organisation dedicated to commercialising field emission technologies, and is an expert advisor to the European Commission. Tim founded CMP Cientifica in 1997, which organises Europe's largest scientific nanotechnology conference, TNT 200x. The company also manages both the Phantoms network, which coordinates European nanoelectronics research, and the NanoSpain network which links the Spanish scientific nanotechnology community. Tim also co edits the weekly nanotechnology newsletter TNT Weekly which has been running since 2000.

Before founding CMP Cientifica, Tim was an engineer at the European Space Agency's research and development centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. He managed the micro and nanoscale characterisation facility, and has published extensively on analytical techniques and characterization of advanced materials.

Tim lives in Madrid, Spain, with his family, after working in the UK, US, Germany, and the Netherlands. Originally from the UK, he also speaks French, Spanish, and Dutch.

Regarding investing in companies developing nanoscale technologies, here are the Questions:

1. Given the vast [and growing] plethora of nano-this and nano-that companies, how does one go about investing in a company with real potential?

First of all understand the technology and the business model. The key point is that Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary enabling technology, and cuts horizontally across the traditional vertical markets, and interfaces with many traditional business sectors. The technology may be hard work, but if you are investing in things you don t understand, you'll have some explaining to do later. With the "Nanotechnology Opportunity Report" we have provided a framework for investors to understand how opportunities can arise at the intersection of the horizontal technology and the vertical market axes. With publications like the X Report we widen the focus and look at the intersection between info, bio and nano technology.

Secondly, consider the impact. Think about electricity enabling street lighting, telegraph, telephone, electronics and the internet. This all stemmed from the understanding that by applying a voltage you could make an electric current flow along a conductor, and resulted in the creation of new and mainly unforeseen industries. So the massage is, watch the impact of the technology, not the technology per se. Remember that producing silicon wafers is a nice little business, but the real value add comes from their application by companies like Intel, Dell & Microsoft.

Thirdly, if you can do the above, look at the team behind the business. Nanotechnology is very technical compared to internet investments, and many of the current crop of entrepreneurs have a highly technical background. Ask yourself whether they are the right people to make the transition from the lab to the boardroom.

Then proceed as normal.

2. About what percent of this year's venture capital will nanoscale technology companies receive?

I wouldn't argue with the analysis in Red Herring

3. Do you expect to see the same kind of frenzied investing in Nanoscale technologies as happened with the dotcom boom, or have we learned our lesson?

Investors should ask themselves why they want to invest in nanotechnology all of a sudden. Then they should consider what particular flavor of nanotechnology they want to invest in, the field is huge. We work with investors to help them focus on what areas of nanotechnology they should be investing in, by analysing their team, their portfolio and their expectations.

4. Out of every 10 start ups that you typically fund, how many succeed past the third year?

Can I come back to this in two years time?

5. Is there any one nanoscale technology of special interest to you or your firm?

Our key goal is in providing rational information about nanotechnology, so you could say that we are interested in every aspect of the technology. At the moment, there is no global or comprehensive overview of nanotechnology apart from the "Nanotechnology Opportunity Report" and TNT Weekly. If you want to invest in nanotechnology, you need to be up to date on a global scale; it is the only way to spot the trends and opportunities. Nanotechnology is changing on a daily basis, and unless you know what your potential competitors in Europe, China and Japan are doing right now, you might make some very costly mistakes!

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