Plus MAT AG (+MAT), was founded in 2011 as a young start-up in Bern. The core team of +MAT owns more than 50 years of experience in the photovoltaic (PV) industry. The company name stands for "more materials", and reflects its mission to develop new materials for alternative energy. For +MAT China is a must-go-to market, given its strong PV industry.
Innovation in recycling
To make PV technology competitive with traditional energy production methods, the biggest challenge today lies in reducing its relatively high production cost and in increasing PV module reliability. +MAT is developing a novel system, including machines, process and service, to recover the precious PV grade Silicon particles wasted during the PV wafer process, and to use them directly in the PV production line again.
For the core project of +MAT, on-site Silicon recovery during PV sawing process, the laboratory feasibility has been proven during the first phase of the project (from July 2011 to June 2012). Since then, a prototype system has been under development thanks to a CTI project between +MAT and ZHAW in Winterthur.
Besides the CTI project, +MAT is financed by the STI foundation and the Economic Promotion of Canton Bern for seed funding. Now +MAT is preparing its market entry and is in active contact with potential pilot-plant partners and prospective clients in China.
Business in China
The world’s largest PV manufacture base is in China with thousands of producers along the value chain. Although suffering overcapacity and anti-dumping restriction in Europe, the whole industry has recovered recently with continuous investment and market consolidation. +MAT anticipates a tremendous recycling demand in the near future with the central government’s emphasis on energy efficiency and environment protection technology. Meanwhile the team is aware that the challenges it faces might be quite different from other start-ups. +MAT business is in PV production, which is strongly influenced by government programs, market force, confidence of investors, producers and users. The recipe for success is not as simple as technology commercialization, but a challenge to balance all influencing factors into the company’s decision making.
The lessons learned from the start-up of business
+MAT is prepared to stay flexible with its business model without losing sight of what the company wants to do and how to approach its customers. As the market changes a lot and very fast in China, the start-up team will need adapt to new trends in the market. The team has learned that starting a business in a foreign country takes time and that all aspects should be evaluated.
+MAT was one of the first applications and has kept dialogue with swissnex China since the launch of CTI-China CAMP. Its founder Ms. Yun Luo is a Chinese who has been working and living in France, Germany and Switzerland for many years, her industrial experience spreads wide over the whole PV value chain. The core team of +MAT also includes other competent and experienced names in PV in Europe.
During +MAT trip in China, swissnex China organized a workshop for +MAT to communicate with experts on china market entry strategy in swissnex office and accompanied a visit to Zhenjiang city and met with local government and PV companies.
Additional follow-up can be expected and the liaison support will continue.
CTI Market Entry Camp
CTI Market Entry Camp is a training program offered by CTI Start-up Coaching and operated by swissnex. Many high tech start-ups find that the local market in Switzerland does not allow substantial enough growth to achieve scale and profitability.
The CTI, in conjunction with different partners, therefore runs market entry camps for its start-ups in locations with innovative and rapidly growing markets. Market Entry Camps have been available in San Francisco and Boston since 2010. In 2013 the CTI set up pilot projects for Shanghai, New York and Bangelore together with swissnex.
During their three month stay at the CTI Market Entry Camps, the start-ups work on a number of individual milestones and have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the local business culture, structures and networks to get ready for market entry.
For early stage start-ups there is a possibility to attend a Market Validation Camp, which is shorter and allows start-ups to complement their business plan with an individually adapted internationalisation strategy.