The European Investment Bank announced a huge €15M (USD$17M) loan to Ultimaker; this should enable many things to happen.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is a “long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States”, whose purpose is to provide long term financing of companies to “contribute towards EU policy goals”.
The loan to 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker enables the company to expand. In particular, the EIB explains that Ultimaker will grow their R&D operations:
The loan will support the expansion of Ultimaker’s research and development facility in Geldermalsen, The Netherlands, as well as the development of new products already in the pipeline. The operation will enable the company to further expand its business in international markets.
But there’s more. Ultimaker simultaneously announced they’re donating 50 Ultimaker 2+ desktop 3D printers to schools across Europe as part of their “Pioneer Program”.
The Pioneer Program involves introducing 3D printing technologies to K-12 and higher education students in North America. The EIB investment suggests they’re expanding the program to Europe.
Ultimaker’s efforts in the educational market have been well received, and I can say that in my travels to schools and universities, one of the most frequently observed 3D printer vendors is indeed Ultimaker. This announcement will make that even more true.
But what’s more interesting is the R&D announcement. In the past two years, Ultimaker has not significantly changed their technology, focusing instead on developing the market and transitioning from primarily a prosumer company to one more fully addressing industry, government and education markets.
Finally, it's extremely interesting that a bank would provide a 3D printer company a sizable loan. In most cases, high-tech startup companies must pursue financing from professional investors, venture capital firms and such, as banks would be conservative and shy away from the unknowns of technology. Evidently the thinking has shifted and Ultimaker, at least in this situation, is being treated like a "normal" company by this bank.
With this investment in R&D, could we see a new kind of Ultimaker machine emerge in the coming year? Time will tell.