Founded in 2011, bNovate Technologies is already celebrating a decade this year! We took the opportunity to ask the Chairman of the Board and co-founder, Peter Ryser, how the success story of bNovate began 10 years ago.
Peter, you founded bNovate with the vision to significantly improve the world of water monitoring and become a major global market player in the field of automated cell analysis in water. Please tell us more about this decision to start bNovate Technologies.
Water has always been an interesting subject for me. One day, after a discussion with a former colleague working for a public water supply, I realized that a new system that allows better microbiological analysis of water was needed.
Simon Kuenzi was an excellent PhD student with me from 2002-2007. He expressed interest in creating a start-up if I had an innovative project. When I asked him to co-found a company to produce a new device to analyze water, he immediately accepted.
Helped by our network at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Simon and myself started bringing together various talented people with multidisciplinary knowledge in order to produce such an innovative device – and that was the beginning of bNovate!
What does the name “bNovate” mean? And why is it written with the lowercase “b”?
(Peter laughs) The lowercase “b” was Simon’s idea. It stands for “be innovative”, which is the core value of our team.
When and how was the brilliant idea for the “BactoSense” born?
Flow cytometers have been around for more than 40 years and mainly used for medical diagnostics. The goal was to produce an easy-to-use device that was robust enough for an industrial water supply environment. A mobile lab that can be screwed to the wall and quickly moved to another location. Simon did a lot of research on this topic and was supported by Fabrice Merenda, former PhD student at EPFL, to develop the compact and robust laser bacteria module. The simple user interface was made possible through a contact given by René Lenggenhager. When the product was ready to enter the market, Céline Jaeger – who also used to be a student of mine – was brought on board as Chief Marketing Officer. The combination of all the skills of amazing people from microbiology, electronics, optics, microfluidic, etc. contributed to the birth of BactoSense. Instead of having to wait 3 days, bacteria can now be detected in only 20 minutes! This is a clear game-changer for the drinking water industry.
Looking back at the past 10 years in the history of bNovate, you’ve achieved a lot! What have been the most important milestones for the company? What are you especially proud of? And which have been the best and most unforgettable moments?
Well, first it was most important to bring the right people on board. The second main milestone was to produce the first industrial online monitoring device to measure the microbiological quality of water. To achieve this we had to perform many tests and were really proud when the instrument received its IP65 certification.
An unforgettable moment was for sure when the first devices were installed in Zürich, Basel, and Chiasso waterworks in summer 2017. The customers were very satisfied and confirmed the need for this new and faster solution.
What do you think has been the main secret of bNovate’s and BactoSense ’s success?
Definitely the right people! Self-motivated, fast-learning and passionate. You can’t do anything without the right team.
The market entry of BactoSense was also important. Helped by Sigrist-Photometer's experience, we have technically created and industrialized a device that is solid, opening the access to flow cytometry anytime, anywhere, and for everyone, even outside of a laboratory and without requiring technical experts or training.
Another specificity worth mentioning is the low maintenance required. Our industrial solution only needs yearly maintenance. It was a complex task that was made possible thanks to everyone who was involved.
BactoSense fits into a niche that didn't exist before. We are pioneers in fast & automated microbiology!
What are the next big steps for bNovate – what can the market and your customers look forward to?
BactoSense is only the beginning; it measures bacteria in their entirety. But we also want to be able to measure specific bacteria like E.Coli or Legionella. We are constantly improving running devices with updates, cloud functionalities, cyber security, accessories, etc. to make them even more valuable for end-users.
Our next product introduction is planned for Spring 2022. Follow us on LinkedIn to be informed firsthand!
What are your visions today – where do you see bNovate Technologies in 5 and 10 years?
I would like to see that we can overcome the pandemic in the near future in order to have better access to the market. The goal is to have BactoSense in all water supplies and become a standard in the water industry, worldwide. Every municipality should distribute water that is tested and 100% safe. In 5 years, I would like to see a bNovate device in every drinking water production in EU, US and Asia, and further development into other application areas to become a major market leader. In 10 years, my vision is safe water worldwide; clean and safe drinking water straight from the tap, to someday eliminate and replace slow current measurement techniques and make chlorination unnecessary as a safety net.
Thank you for all these insights, Peter. We are looking forward to bNovate’s next moves!