Magical ASML & Horticulture
I was invited to visit ASML, the leading technology company that many of us have never heard of. The entire visit can be summarized in one word: magical!
They develop and build world’s most complicated machines (they claim to be 1000 times more complex than the Space Shuttle!), which print the patterns on the silicon layer of microchips. Without ASML, today’s global mass production of chips would not be possible. Without chips, we can almost do nothing nowadays; they are at the brain of all electronic devices we use.
ASML operates at the smallest nano, or even pico level – yet their numbers are enormous. 20.000 people work at their headquarters in Europe’s top tech hub (Brainport Eindhoven). Worldwide, they have 40,000 employees, with 145 nationalities. Their sales in 2022 were €22 billion (14% growth), with a net profit of €5.6 billion (25% of sales). In 10 years, they expect to double in turnover.
I found quite some similarities between ASML, Takii (breeding company) and our high-tech horticulture. Our mission is similar: to contribute to a better world. Our work is relatively unknown to consumers, while its importance to society is enormous. The R&D spendings are huge: at ASML 15% of annual sales, at breeding companies between 15 and 30%. And in both sectors, good technical people are scarce. Recruitment is difficult. New employees come from all over the world, are nurtured and are largely educated and trained internally.
During the visit, I realized how little I really know about the technology behind many applications. The human brain is too limited to understand this all. Fortunately, there are smart engineers – with a high degree of specialization. ASML’s machines work perfectly, are unequaled and seem impossible to imitate. There is something magical about this success. There is no one who knows exactly how the machine as a whole works. It is the sum of thousands of interconnected parts. The human capital thus proves invaluable: the enormous expertise and the ability to work together, as a team. Again, I see the similarities to our high-tech crop improvement business.
All this is reflected in ASML’s core values: challenge, collaborate and care. With a continuous quest for long term value creation – and the conviction that things can be done or done better – and thus the work is never finished. How applicable is this to our magical horticulture and the great challenges we too face?