A Brainport start-up story on solving climate change

Jasper Simons



Jasper, Brainport impact maker and CTO at Carbyon

Jasper Simons (41) studied Mechanical Engineering at TU/e. After graduation in 2006, he got to work for different engineering companies in the region, developing novel prototypes and other machines in the field of high-tech mechatronics. After 13 years of ‘contract R&D’, Jasper decided that his next job should have more purpose and social impact than ‘just’ solving technical challenges. Early 2020, Jasper found this combination in the role of CTO at Carbyon.  

Jasper is married and has three young sons, clearly a big part of the purpose...

What makes Brainport unique to become the high-tech sustainability capital of the world?

The Brainport region certainly has all the ingredients to achieve this title: Some of the world’s smartest people live and work here, some of the most innovative companies operate here and cooperation between all of them has always been absolutely unique to the world. There are plenty of new initiatives in the world of sustainability (Carbyon is one of them) and the established companies are also placing sustainability higher on their priority lists. All it takes, I believe, is a gentle push in the right direction. Show people why this is needed and motivate them to move in that direction and the huge innovation power here can spark the big changes needed!

How can Brainport make impact as a high-tech sustainability capital?

The amount of innovation power in the region combined with the close cooperation between all actors, large corporates, SMEs and individuals, universities and research institutions, can solve pretty much any technical challenge you confront them with. This region can provide the world with all the technical tools needed to stop climate change and reach a more sustainable world.

How will Brainport benefit from becoming the high-tech sustainability capital of the world?

Creating value for society goes hand in hand with building a profitable business. Even though I firmly believe that profit should no longer be the main driver, the ‘industries’ surrounding sustainability all have huge business potential. For example; humanity emits over 40 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. Capturing and cleaning that mess up at a (very ambitiously low) price of €50/tonne would result in a global revenue of 2 trillion euros. Even a tiny market share of this will be huge for employment in the region. Getting rid of the ‘old’ will make place for the ‘new’ business and Brainport region can be one the frontrunners for this.

How do you experience your role as start-up in the sustainable transition of the region?

Carbyon is developing equipment to remove CO2 from the atmosphere (negative emissions); our entire purpose is aimed at sustainability. Besides this, we are governing ourselves from the principle of ‘planet over profit’; trying to also conduct our business in a sustainable manner. We work closely together with a lot of partners in education, research and industry. We cannot influence their policies, but we hope that our purpose and our way of working can inspire them to take steps in the right direction too!

How has collaboration with other organizations helped Carbyon in the first phase of developing the breakthrough technology that enables the worldwide capture of CO2 from the atmosphere?

Our founder and CEO Hans de Neve started working on the basis of Carbyon technology while he was still at TNO. When Carbyon was founded, TNO supported us strongly and still do. The HighTechXL programme, brought us into contact with Philips, ASML and VDL who also support us. We then received an Eindhoven Engine project (supported by Brainport of course) co-operating with TU/e and DIFFER. Besides this, we cooperate with Fontys, University of Antwerp and other partners. Clearly, our breakthroughs would not have been possible without all this help! I firmly believe that developing such breakthrough deep-tech solutions in so little time, can only be done with help of partners and the Brainport region; which I think is unique in the world when it comes to cooperation!

Any tips for early-stage start-up founders in the region?

I think that this question is already answered above, but it can be summarized as: ‘Skip the learning curve’, something we say quite often. Don't re-invent the wheel and find cooperation with partners in the region at all levels.

When it comes to sustainability, I think it is actually high-time we do re-invent the wheel and show the region, but also the rest of the world that doing business in a more sustainable way can work just as well or even better than before!