Imec.xpand raises $320M for fund to invest in semiconductors and nanotechnology

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Imec.xpand, a chip and nanotech-focused venture capital fund, announced the launch of a new $320 million fund today.


The specialized tech fund, based in Leuven, Belgium, will target innovations in semiconductors and nanotechnology.

Established as a collaborative effort with Imec, the R&D and innovation hub in nanoelectronics, the fund will invest in startups that have the potential to be globally disruptive within their target domains.

The fund is designed to fuel semiconductor innovation beyond traditional applications and drive the next-generation technologies that are 10 years ahead of their time, said Tom Vanhoutte, partner at Imec.xpand, in an interview with VentureBeat.

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“We’re an independent fund that only invests in opportunities where we make can contribute significantly to the success of the company. We invest in companies worldwide startup companies,” said Vanhoutte. “We hope that we will get these companies to the next level and also stay on board as a significant shareholder throughout all the capital rounds.”

Imec.xpand invests globally across all startup stages with the goal of transforming semiconductor and nanotechnology innovations into market-ready solutions. The fund has about a dozen people, with many having tech backgrounds. But they can leverage Imec’s researcher knowledge as needed.

Focused on leveraging Imec’s expertise, the fund targets breakthrough technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and photonics. In life sciences, Imec.xpand is looking for opportunities to advance cell therapy, sequencing, neuromodulation and other applications that will revolutionize medical diagnostics and treatments.

Tom Vanhoutte (left) and Peter Vanbekbergen of Imec.xpand.

As far as categories go, Vanhoutte said there is a lot of interest in AI, biotech semiconductors, quantum computing and more. As an example, doing computational work on DNA or protein sequencing often requires innovations in semiconductors. The funding amounts range from $15 million upward.

“We don’t shy away from technology risk, which some VCs do, because they don’t have the same technical background as we have,” Vanhoutte said.

“Imec.xpand is not just about funding startups, it’s about building companies that can lead the next wave of technological transformation,” said Vanhoutte. “With this fund, we are dedicated to advancing the semiconductor industry by empowering startups to bring innovative technologies to market faster. The combination of our venture capital and international network helps unicorns grow amid the global race for semiconductor supremacy.”

The first Imec.xpand fund was launched in 2017 with the strong support of Imec. Since then, Imec.xpand has attracted a loyal base of international financial and strategic investors. Over the years, Imec.xpand has built a strong track record of investing in game-changing companies.

The fund’s positioning among the global venture capital community, and also in the U.S., is instrumental in attracting potential co-investors for its portfolio companies. Imec.xpand’s stamp of approval often acts as a financial catalyst that enables startups to raise additional funding from other investors. To date, imec.xpand has invested in 23 companies that, so far, have raised nearly $1.6 billion in financing and includes two unicorns.

Imec.xpand portfolio companies are developing differentiated technologies that give them a global competitive advantage in their respective markets. Noteworthy Imec.xpand portfolio companies include Celestial AI, a Palo Alto, California-based based company that recently raised $175 million to advance its optical compute and memory fabric solution for AI infrastructure; PsiQuantum, a frontrunner in the race
to develop the first practical quantum computer; and Swave Photonics, developing a unique holographic extended reality chip technology designed to disrupt 3D holographic imaging and spatial computing.

“We are looking for globally disruptive companies,” he said.

Imec.xpand’s combination of independent management, global reach and scale, dedicated semiconductor focus, corporate and financially driven investors, and extensive Imec support sets the
fund apart from other venture capital initiatives.

The only region where Imec.xpand does not invest is China, given the geopolitical tensions and the requirement by the U.S. that such investments are prohibited. Otherwise, it will consider any investment in the world that involves a chip.

“We are looking for companies where collaboration is crucial in their development of their technology roadmap,” Vanhoutte said. “Sometimes that’s very elaborate. Sometimes it’s a very specific part of the solution that they’re developing for which they need specialized expertise that they may not have in house or more ambitious roadmaps.”

The fund leverages technical expertise for due diligence and to help the startups get off the ground.

“That what allows us to take much more technology risks than anyone else,” Vanhoutte said.

The company has invested in holographic technology and many other categories involving deep technology research. While the U.S. often has leadership in tech, Vanhoutte said there are a lot of strong technical minds in Europe as well and so the focus remains global. Government roles in funding are often bigger in Europe and smaller in the U.S., he noted.

“I don’t think we’ve looked at one company in the U.S. recently that really had a significant amount of government money,” he said.

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