Building European semiconductors, UGVs and The Resilience Conference 👩🏻‍💻

Welcome 🇪🇺

This week has been very special for us at Project A and European Resilience in general. Black Semiconductor and ARX Robotic from our Portfolio announced their funding rounds. Our definition of Resilience goes beyond DefenseTech. Black Semiconductor is the embodiment of a new layer of technological sovereignty. In this issue, we are exploring our hypothesis investing into Black Semiconductor within the broader scope of Resilience.

But first the news: 📰 

Black Semiconductor raised €254.4M in what is one of the largest DeepTech Funding Rounds in Europe to date - it underlines the strategic importance of strengthening the continent’s technological sovereignty and supply chain resilience.

ARX Robotics has raised €9M led by the NATO Innovation Fund and Discovery Ventures. We are happy to keep supporting ARX on the journey of addressing robust and modular ground robots at scale in dual-use scenarios.

We’re also supporting the inaugural European DefenceTech Hackathon in Munich in late June. If you want to meet us, sign up here.

Uwe, Jack and Jannic

The Resilience Conference 🇪🇺🇬🇧

We are excitd to be supporting the Resilience Conference in London in 26 - 27th of September. You can find a full list of amazing speakers here including Mike Butcher from TechCrunch, Blythe Crawforard from Air and Space Warfare Center, UK Royal Airforce as well as GPs from funds like General Catalyst, DCVC and of course our very own Uwe Horstmann.

Learn more and apply for a ticket:

Investing in Technological Sovereignty: The Key to European Resilience ⛓️ 

Resilience is more than just DefenceTech: Why investments in companies like Black Semiconductor are introducing a new element of technological sovereignty and lay the foundation of the age of AI.

At a time of profound geopolitical crises and technological advances, the concept of resilience has never been more important for Europe. We have identified three pillars to invest in that are interlinked to build a resilient future: defence and security, technological sovereignty and sustainable and autonomous infrastructure. 

By supporting start-ups and innovation in these areas, we aim to contribute to a Europe that is not only secure and independent, but also adaptable and forward-looking in the face of global challenges. Our commitment to these sectors reflects our belief in the power of deep technology and innovation to address some of Europe's most pressing issues. 

We have talked a lot about the first pillar, defence. This time we want to showcase why technological sovereignty is actually the foundation of all other pillars.

A new foundation for computing capablities

Technological sovereignty means achieving independence in critical technologies to ensure Europe's autonomy and economic stability amid global technological and supply chain uncertainties. The chip sector is one of the most prominent examples of Europe's heavy dependence on foreign players, which is now being addressed with the construction of new chip plants, particularly in Germany.

Emerging companies such as our portfolio company Black Semiconductor have a role to play. A new generation of chip networks is set to transform the chip industry, removing connectivity barriers and multiplying computing power and efficiency by several orders of magnitude. 

Integrated circuits and by extension, the semiconductor industry, underpin most modern technology. Looking at predictions on how technological trends like AI, IoT, 5G infrastructure, autonomous driving are expected to develop in the future, the semiconductor industry has to evolve to support the computing power required for all these future applications.

Investing in key enabling technologies

In particular with the rise of AI, scaling sustainable computing power and efficiency will be key to unlocking its full potential for our economies, our infrastructure and society as a whole. US firms lead the world in developing and selling semiconductors, yet manufacturing is dominated by Asian countries.

Europe must focus on achieving independence in key enabling technologies to ensure the continent's autonomy and economic stability amid geopolitical challenges and supply chain issues. Semiconductors in particular have been a much neglected industry. Black Semiconductor, with its great founding team, exceptional technological know-how and substantial funding, has the ability to bring back some of the much needed technological sovereignty and become one of the key players in Europe.

The company has secured €228.7 million in public funding from both the German Ministry of and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia over the next 7 years under the EU IPCEI programme. In addition to the public funding, Black Semiconductor has secured an additional €25.7 million in private funding - unlocking the public funding . Project A participated in this round, having been an early supporter of Black Semiconductor's remarkable journey since its seed stage. 

The technology developed by Black Semiconductor could massively impact the €422 bn integrated photonics market and more specifically AI chips which is relevant for all industries in the resilience space and beyond.

Black Semiconductor - Breaking through Performance Barriers

Currently, the semiconductor industry is able to support greater data rates by shrinking down electronic circuitry. At a high level, a chip consists of components for compute, storage and networking and in general, more complex chips will require a greater number of components. The consequence of shrinking down circuitry is that all these components can now be placed closer to each other on a single chip and therefore, it will be quicker for data to travel between the components. The current state of the art in electronics is chips as small as 3nm. However, the rate at which chips have been shrinking has been slowing down over the years and at some point, scaling down electronics has to end. At this point, performance gains will have to be obtained by some other method. 

One method of improving performance is to place all the different components required on multiple chips and connect them together as a subsystem, but this would increase the number of interfaces required. Electronic interfaces are comparatively slower and therefore, the interface speed is a major bottleneck limiting the system performance. To elaborate, data transfer speeds on a chip system depends on two aspects - the speed of data for components within the chip and the speed of data transfer to another chip or the outside world. The data transfer speed is much slower for external interfaces compared to the on-chip speed, and this limits the performance of multi chip subsystems. 

Black Semi Wafer

Light (i.e. photons) is a better information carrier than electrons and using photonic technology can improve the off-chip data transfer speed. The ideal solution would be to use electronics for on chip data and photonics for external data transfer. In fact, using photonic interfaces will greatly improve the interface speed by a factor of up to 100x-1000x higher speed per lane for optical interconnects compared to electronic interconnects. However, chip manufacturing technology hasn't evolved sufficiently to allow this integration. 

In short, the era of simply shrinking chip sizes for performance gains is reaching its limits, necessitated by quantum phenomena and exorbitant production costs. 

Black Semiconductor is trying to push this limit further out by integrating photonics (using light to transmit and process information) and electronics using graphene—a material poised to redefine connectivity and processing power.

Why Graphene?

Graphene stands out as a "game changer” for its exceptional material properties, including high conductivity, flexibility, and strength. Its compatibility with back-end-of-line processes allows for direct integration onto existing electronic chips, leveraging current designs and manufacturing infrastructure— facilitating faster market adoption and technological integration. By enabling faster, more efficient chip-to-chip communication through graphene photonics, Black Semi envisions a future where the limitations of bandwidth and distance in electronic subsystems (barriers on how fast and far electronic devices can send information) are removed. This not only opens the door for larger chip sizes but also ushers in a new dimension of computing power, while retaining cost efficiency.

Filling NATO’s Robotics Gap: €9m seed funding for ARX Robotics

ARX Robotics has raised one of the largest seed funding rounds for a European DefenceTech company. With the NATO Innovation Fund, another prominent investor has joined the ranks of the Munich-based company that produces autonomous unmanned ground vehicles for dual-use purposes. ARX is now on track to scale their production capabilities and deepen existing cooperations with Allied armies. Read more at Bloomberg.

ARX founders with GEREON UGVs

European DefenceTech Hackathon 🧑‍💻

Project A supports the inaugural European DefenceTech Hackathon taking place in Munich from 28-30th of June 2024. The Hackathon is aimed at innovators at the intersection of deeptech and dual-use in Europe and will be focused on prototyping and validating ideas around defensive and life-preserving tech. Together with d3, inflection, ARX Robotics, Auterion, Entrepreneur first, Helsing, Bundeswehr University, Tytan Technologies and TUM Venture Labs, we want to bridge the gaps between technologists, the public sector, investors, and operators in dual-use and defense technology. Sign up here to participate.

News That Caught Our Attention 👀

  • The United States face a serious threat of a terrorist attack in the months ahead - Foreign Affairs

  • Germany overhauls its approach to military service - German MoD (German only)

  • How Estonia is becoming a hotbed for Drone Warfare - Defense One

  • Europe spurs investment in defence tech start-ups - Financial Times

Every week we feature a list of interesting roles in European DefenceTech start-ups and scale-ups for readers seeking their next challenge in their careers.

If you are a founder and would like to promote your open roles, please get in touch with us!

Passionate and want to contribute? 👩🏻‍💻

The European Resilience Tech Newsletter is always looking for regular and guest authors, writers, reporters, content creators etc. If you like what you read, you are passionate about improving European resilience regardless of your background and want to contribute, just reach out to us!

European Resilience Tech Newsletter Team

Uwe Horstmann co-founded Project A Ventures in 2012 as General Partner and has built Project A to be a leading European early stage investor with over $1bn USD under management and having backed 100+ founders. In addition to Project A, Uwe serves as Reserve Officer in the German armed forces and advises the German Ministry of Defence in digital transformation issues.

Jack Wang is a software engineer turned product driven tech investor and joined Project A in 2021 to lead the firm’s deep tech investing, which have grown to include DefenceTech. Prior to joining Project A, Jack worked in a variety of organisations such as Amazon and Macquarie Group across Australia, US and UK / Europe. Jack holds a MBA from London Business School and Bachelors of Engineering (Bioinformatics, 1st) from UNSW, Australia.

Jannic Meyer joined Project A initially contributing to what is now known as the Project A Studio, partnering with founders at the pre-idea stage, where he covered a variety of topics ranging from energy infrastructure to dual-use robotics and led our investment in ARX Robotics. He is now part of the investment team at Project A covering all things resilience.

Project A Ventures is one of the leading early-stage tech investors in Europe with offices in Berlin and London. In addition to 1 billion USD assets under management, Project A supports its 100+ portfolio companies with a platform team over 140 functional experts in key areas such as software and product development, business intelligence, brand, design, marketing, sales and recruiting. Project A have backed founders of Trade Republic, WorldRemit, Sennder, KRY, Spryker, Catawiki, Unmind and Voi as well as founders building in European Resilience: