CyclingStories #1 : How Leuven is also the (technological) epicenter of the cycling world: REIN4CED
REIN4CED is unleashing a revolution in the world of cycling with bicycle frames made of composite materials, made in Leuven.
Carbon has been the raw material for just about every bicycle in top cycling for years. But if it depends on Leuven MindGate member REIN4CED, this will soon change. Because although carbon is light and stiff, it is also brittle and can break relatively easily. For four years, Michaël Callens at KU Leuven had been doctoring a new material that is also light, but much stronger than carbon. Small, internal, invisible cracks mean that carbon frames can suddenly break. Rein4ced, on the other hand, combines carbon fibers with very fine steel fibers in strategic places that make the bike extra strong. The new material is a true Leuven collaboration, as it was developed at KU Leuven.
Nowadays, the production of bicycles takes place almost entirely in Asia. Bicycle brands therefore must take account of long delivery times and pass on production orders months in advance. That makes it impossible to respond flexibly to market demand. That model is under pressure. The pandemic has highlighted that even more,' says Michael Callens, founder and CEO. Demand for bicycles has risen sharply, but Asian factories can't handle the requests and waiting times have risen. 'That's when we come in. We bring some of that production back from Asia to Europe.' In Europe, 1.5 million carbon bicycles are sold annually, and Callens previously indicated that it should be possible to produce a third of them locally.
In recent years, REIN4CED has invested in a fully automated factory that can compete with the carbon frames from Asia. It has a capacity of 20,000 frames per year, but this was not achieved without a struggle. The machines that run in Leuven are not to be found anywhere else in the world. So, another Leuven MindGate member, Capricorn Partners, recently invested several million euros in the bicycle manufacturer. The investment was carried by the Capricorn Sustainable Chemistry Fund and Quest for Growth, who respectively invested € 2.5 and € 1.5 million in the company. Investors of the early hour, Gemma Frisius Fund, Finindus and Innovation Fund also participated in this round.
Ludwig Goris, Senior Investment Manager at Capricorn states: "At Capricorn we have been following the company since 2017 and are very impressed with the trajectory this team has realized. As an investor in chemicals and materials, we know the time and challenges it can take to start a new production facility from scratch. We are delighted to further support the company in its upscaling and realize the full potential of its unique product offering."
A few weeks ago, Leuven MindGate interviewed Michaël Callens, CEO of Rein4ced about his product and the need of innovation during the corona pandemic. (Dutch only, see below, from 0:28 and further.)
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