With the recent nano-science and nano-technology developments (a.o. semiconductor, nanoelectronics, energy, life science, quantum technology), the need for metrology and testing solutions are witnessing huge demand. In this regard, Rotterdam-based Nearfield Instruments (NFI) has been working towards bringing its metrology solutions through R&D activities.
The company develops and markets high-throughput Scanning Probe Metrology systems for advanced integrated circuits manufacturing process control.
Nearfield Instruments raises funds
In a recent development, the scale-up announced that it has raised €17.5M as part of its Series B round of funding. The raised capital saw investment from Dutch impact investor Invest-NL, which contributed €10.5M. The remaining €7M was invested by existing shareholder Innovation Industries.
About Nearfield Instruments
The company was founded by Roland van Vliet and Hamed Sadeghian in January 2016 as a spin-off of TNO (the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research). It develops and delivers process control metrology solutions that are able to measure essential 3D nano-structures in a non-destructive manner during the manufacturing process of microchips.
Examples of microchips are memory and logic processors for laptops, smartphones, data centres, etc. Measuring these structures is essential to be able to produce good chips. The company is active in the semiconductor industry, and its customers include global microchip manufacturers.
Nearfield Instruments operates from Rotterdam (head office) and Eindhoven (High Tech Campus) and currently has 103 employees.
“Shaping a better world Atom by Atom”
The advancement in the world of electronics is difficult to imagine. Cloud computing, mobile communication, big data, to name a few, depend on the continuous advancement of electronics and its core technology: interconnects or, in short – chips.
In integrated circuits (ICs), interconnects are structures that connect two or more circuit elements (such as transistors) together electrically. The design and layout of interconnects on an IC is vital to its proper function, performance, power efficiency, reliability, and fabrication yield.
According to Nearfield Instruments, to achieve new functionalities and to make optimum use of the available wafer space, IC devices have to shrink to atomic scale dimensions using novel, sensitive materials while at the same time being designed in full three-dimensional configurations. And Nearfield Instruments believes it is doing exactly that.
Other metrology technologies (which often work based on electrons or light (photons)) cannot measure the very smallest 3D nanostructures precisely or quickly enough non-destructively. However, Nearfield Instruments has developed a technique based on “Scanning Probe Microscopy” (SPM), which scans the surface in three dimensions with an atomically sharp tip.
The company claims it has improved and refined SPM to achieve significant measurement speeds, and non-destructively measure complex 3D structures, both on surface (product ‘QUADRA’) and below surface (product ‘SONARA’).
The funding from this round will help Nearfield Instruments to escalate the collaboration with its customers. In addition, the proceeds will also help further scale up the organisation to develop new metrology technologies, hire new talents, and expand its infrastructure.
Speaking on the development, Hamed Sadeghian, CEO of Nearfield Instruments, says, “As a fast-growing company, we are pleased with this addition to the Series B financing round. We will further strengthen our team with top high-tech talent and increase our production capacity. We can rapidly grow Nearfield Instruments, amongst others, by bringing our second product for subsurface metrology to the market, being non-destructive subsurface nano-scale metrology.”
Brief about the Dutch investors
Innovation Industries is a Dutch VC firm that focuses on high-tech, medical technology, and agrifood technology companies. Besides investment, Innovation Industries also offers operational and strategic support to its portfolio companies. The firm has more than €250M in investments under its management and invests in all phases of growth and development.
As for Invest-NL, it is an impact investor that supports companies and projects that make the Netherlands more sustainable and innovative. The firm focuses on the carbon-neutral and circular economy and innovative, fast-growing companies (scale-ups). Invest-NL finances and advises innovative entrepreneurs according to the principle “impact is the goal, return the means”. It always works together with other financiers and is the Dutch partner for European investment institutions. Invest-NL employs 60 employees from the Amsterdam office.