Paul van Gerven
10 April

Charles Smit, recently installed as chairman of Business Cluster Semiconductors The Netherlands, hopes to make a clean sweep of Dutch high tech industry organizations and help make the Chip Integration Technology Centre a success.

Working as a corporate lawyer at NXP, Charles Smit had his share of divestments, mergers and acquisitions. Until, while working on one, he was offered ‘an adventure’, as he puts it. Future CEO Frans Scheper asked him to join the management team of the spin-out now known as Nexperia. Smit figured he would enjoy the change of pace, expanding his management experience outside the legal domain. Plus he had gotten to know the Chinese buyers well while working with them on previous dealings with NXP.

Having served at Nexperia both as general counsel and country manager The Netherlands for several years now, Smit has acquired a taste for the tech world. ‘I’m not a technologist and never will be, but I enjoy the energy in my current job. At NXP, I would work in the Eindhoven corporate office and would not know much about the company’s products. At Nexperia, I work much closer to the business. I can see things happening,’ Smit says.

His enthusiasm shows, apparently. Business Cluster Semiconductors Netherlands (BCSemi NL), a network of Dutch semicon companies sharing expertise and resources, recently invited Smit to replace Roel Fonville as the chairman of the board of directors. Looking forward to using his network and getting to know local semicon activities even better, Smit gladly accepted.

Asked if the new chairman intends to leave his mark on anything in particular, Smit mentions the large number of trade bodies and related organizations for supporting high tech activities in The Netherlands. ‘Being somewhat of an outsider, I was initially a little confused by that. All of them do important work, but it may be too much of a good thing. We might want to consider cooperating on a larger scale so as to be more effective,’ Smit reckons.

Building trust

As the BCSemi NL chairman, Smit will, from a distance, oversee the formative years of the Chip Integration Technology Centre (CITC), a research institute green-lighted last year (link in Dutch) where business and knowledge institutes work together at developing chip integration and packaging technology. The CITC aims to fit in neatly between basic research performed at research institutes and corporate R&D.

The region’s largest semiconductor companies Nexperia, NXP and Ampleon (another NXP spin-out) have already joined. The next step is to get SMEs involved. ‘The foundation has been laid, the walls have been built, the roof is watertight. It’s a matter of picking wallpaper and furniture.’ It’s a figure of speech, as the CITC will for the time being rent space at the Novio Tech Campus in Nijmegen. ‘We set up four technology programs and drew up IP sharing models, which are basically the same as the ones used by Holst Centre in Eindhoven. SMEs have been giving their input from the beginning and are now determining their exact involvement. I expect research activities to start soon.’

‘We are deliberately taking things slowly at this point. Eventually, we will expand our scope but at this point, we need to show companies their investment in the CITC is worthwhile. I don’t think anyone doubts we have something to offer but we understand building trust takes time,’ Smit adds.