The high tech and medical industry is responsible for a large part of our economic growth, and therefore of our prosperity. It is now well known that this hardware-dominated world cannot do without software expertise, but good process control, reliability and project management are at least as important. Holland Innovative helps the high-tech and medical industry with this, both in projects on location and through training. In a series of articles, we show how. Today: Ivo Aarninkhof.

In addition to its office on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Holland Innovative has an office on the campus of the University of Twente. Ivo Aarninkhof, who together with Hans Meeske forms the management of Holland Innovative, is in charge there. Meeske and Aarninkhof go way back together: they were colleagues at Philips Displays. After that time – and a period in the Czech Republic, Germany and China for the same company – Aarninkhof and Meeske started a Holland Innovative branch in Enschede. In addition, Aarninkhof is CEO of Sigmascreening, a company to improve breast cancer research. 

HI’s office in Twente has a special position within Holland Innovative. Where Eindhoven focuses on high tech, the medical industry is the main target of the team in Enschede. “I notice this when talking to any medical innovator: product development in the medical field requires specific knowledge. That is why we have added an extra pillar to the three main pillars of Holland Innovative. In addition to project management, Product & Process Development and Reliability Engineering, we noticed that Regulatory – dealing with safety and regulations – is also an essential element for us.”

Regulation and legal questions are the leitmotifs within the medical industry, Aarninkhof says. “It’s not so much one particular typical question we get each time, but it’s generally customers who need help to develop their medical products in accordance with the right rules. How do you carry out the right project management, given the existing regulations and the desired new techniques?” 

How do you carry out the right project management, given the existing regulations and the desired new techniques?”

Because medical initiatives are emerging everywhere, this sector must ultimately also be able to be served from Eindhoven and other places where HI might someday start working from. There is plenty to do for this group, says Aarninkhof. “Innovators have promising ideas about new medical products. In practice, many of these innovations fail in the development phase or immediately after their introduction onto the market. This is often due to a lack of control over the entire development process, which starts with determining the right customer needs. We help these customers – whether they are start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises or multinationals – to organise their development processes in order to increase safety and reduce their risks.” Medical customers include radiology, imaging, orthopaedics, cure & care, lab-on-a-chip and nanotechnology.

Ivo Aarninkhof, Holland Innovative

HI now has eight employees in Enschede, mainly project managers with a medical-technological background. The team would like to expand to 15 employees, in addition to training and hiring medical project managers in Eindhoven. This also includes specialists in the field of regulations, due to their great importance in the medical sector. “All of them are experts in their own field, but also team players. A club of individuals is not what we want. We select with that focus in mind.” 

Leadership style

Privately, Aarninkhof is an avid cyclist, but his business passion is at least as great. It’s all about team building, leadership and corporate culture. “Within Holland Innovative and within my own leadership style, I put a very strong emphasis on openness. That fits in with the ideas of the transition. I, therefore, pay close attention to building teams that fit in with this. Steering for trust, full transparency towards each other, being able to discuss everything with each other and constantly looking for well-founded arguments. I always focus on the quality of participation. It’s just like how my colleague Hans Meeske has introduced the family feeling in Eindhoven, you can really call that the typical Holland-Innovative-way-of-working. It is a method that sometimes takes more time, but at the end of the day the people and the team have a lot more passion for the work and for what we do together.” 

Tech start-ups

Although Aarninkhof works with a wide variety of clients, tech start-ups always have his special attention. Sigmascreening is a good example of this, but he is also happy to offer a helping hand to start-ups in the medical field. An example of this is Machnet, which focuses on the production of MRI coils. In order to be able to do even more for this sector, Aarninkhof has been on the board of FME since the beginning of last year, where he represents the interests of Technostarters. “In my opinion, larger companies would do well to work closely with Technostarters on new technologies and new market needs. Large and small, old and young, both sides can mean a lot to each other.” 

Aarninkhof knows he will keep being attracted to these young companies, both in the role of customer and in possible founder initiatives. “I always see many opportunities there, but the question remains which of them will ultimately survive and grow big.”