1. You recently became CEO after chairing Gapwaves' board for three years. What motivated you to take on the day-to-day leadership role?
Gapwaves is a very exciting, innovative company with a lot of potential ahead of it. That, combined with a strong team and a very interesting strategy position in the advanced driver assistance systems/autonomous driving (ADAS/AD) market and other segments, weighed a lot when the board and the main owner approached me regarding the role.
2. Tell us about your background and what led you to Gapwaves.
Originally, I have a Master of Science degree in chemistry and started out in research but have, since 1994, had purely commercial roles; since 2000, I have held CEO positions in several different technology and innovation-based companies, with the primary focus of commercialization and scaling up. I was initially approached around five years ago to help on the board of Gapwaves, agreed to join one year later and was elected its chairman in the spring of 2019.
Technology and innovation-based companies and environments have always interested me the most, and I have always felt that I can contribute most in such environments with a clear commercial focus and drive. As a chairman of the board, I have been supporting the company and leading the board in its work with the company, as well as working with the executive management developing Gapwaves.
3. Describe Gapwaves' product and market focus today and any significant changes during the past couple years.
In the beginning of Gapwaves’ journey, leading up to 2018, the focus was within mmWave antennas for the telecom industry, with 28 GHz 5G at higher frequencies as the main driver. During the years, we have developed 28 GHz evaluation platforms which have been sold in low volumes, mainly to the Asian market.
In parallel, we started to develop products for ADAS/AD in the automotive industry. The market interest for waveguide antennas for vehicle radar has continued to increase as Gapwaves’ waveguide antenna technology enables a high performance and cost-efficient antenna covering the entire automotive frequency band (76 to 81 GHz) and suitable for high volume production processes. That said, it was natural for Gapwaves to focus on the automotive radar industry.
In 2019, Gapwaves signed the first large contract with Veoneer, followed by Hella in 2021. Both Veoneer and Hella have a license to use and produce waveguide antennas with Gapwaves’ technology and IP. In July 2022, a third large contract was signed with Bosch. By signing that contract, Gapwaves has moved from being a technology provider to actually be the antenna provider and supply Bosch with high resolution radar antennas for the higher levels of automated driving.
Besides these three disclosed contracts, we are providing Uhnder and Smartmicro, among other undisclosed tier 1s, with antennas and technology services.
4. As you’ve just noted, Gapwaves’ engagement with the automotive market has increased significantly during the past several years. At the same time, the capabilities of automotive radar have improved from cruise control and anti-collision to imaging or so-called 4D systems. Update us on your play in this space: what makes your waveguide antenna compelling.
Gapwaves has progressed very strongly in the automotive radar segment in the last four years and, as said earlier, we have signed three large contracts with global tier 1s: Veoneer, Hella and Bosch. They are all three market-leading suppliers of radar antennas to the automotive industry. Besides the traditional automotive segment with tier1s, we are also engaged with “AV tech” companies that focus on autonomous vehicles.
The basis for our success in this segment is our technology and the performance improvements it brings to a radar, in combination with the ability to produce with high quality at multimillion volumes and an attractive cost level. Some of the essential performance benefits are better field of view and range, a more compact radar, full 76 to 81 GHz coverage and the possibility to attenuate the standing wave that always arise when integrating the antenna behind the bumper.
5. What is your manufacturing approach and what investments have you made to achieve both the quality and cost requirements of the automotive market?
The main benefit with Gapwaves waveguide technology is that it allows relaxed tolerances in the antenna stack-up, which makes it optimal for standard manufacturing with no need of expensive coatings or high precision soldering processes to achieve a high performance antenna. This enables efficient, high volume production in terms of reduced cycle time, minimized volume of material needed as well as fewer process steps—all are main drivers for cost.
The past years we have invested a lot in understanding what type of material and processes that optimize both performance and cost. We have an established supplier base and in-house competence to lean on.
6. What are some of the automotive partnerships and collaborations you've announced? Is it too early to share any vehicles that will carry your antennas?
As mentioned, we have disclosed agreements with Veoneer, Hella and Bosch. Up until now, we are not allowed to disclose the OEMs and car models that will include Gapwaves antennas, but the fact is that the first vehicles with Gapwaves antenna technology will be soon in the streets.
7. When we last spoke with Gapwaves’ CEO, in 2018, 5G had not been launched, and we were hearing a lot of buzz about using the mmWave bands to achieve high data rates. How is Gapwaves playing in the 5G market, and how are you seeing the market pull for mmWave 5G?
That is correct, back in 2018 we focused on telecom and mmWave 5G at 28 and 39 GHz and developed quite a few different demonstrators together with different customers. As the market did not accelerate as we anticipated, in terms of volumes, and the fact that we found good traction in the automotive segment, it was natural for us to focus on automotive. We are still engaged within telecom, but we focus more on the application beyond 5G/6G, where the frequencies are higher and, hence, our technology will have an even stronger impact also on telecom systems.
8. We're seeing various antenna, semiconductor and integration technologies being used for mmWave communications systems. What are Gapwaves’ strengths, considering the antenna and your capability to integrate the front-end?
The high efficiency—or low losses if one prefers to use that terminology—in Gapwaves’ technology is an undisputable strength in any mmWave communication or radar system. The higher you move up in frequency, the more differentiating this fundamental aspect will be for antenna performance. Our technology also supports integration of heat sinks, which is an increasing headache for many future front-ends. Lately, we have also developed a new variant of our technology that significantly reduces lead-time and tooling cost in manufacturing. This will make our technology relevant in both low as well as high volume segments.
9. Industry and governments are beginning to fund 6G research, and we're hearing about D-Band as an attractive frequency for achieving higher data rates for metaverse type applications. Can your waveguide technology continue to shrink to support frequency bands above 100 GHz?
We have already done prototypes at D-Band, so indeed our technology supports frequencies beyond 100 GHz. Having said that, it is important to underline that there are still some steps to take to perfect our technology for use at 140 GHz so it can support the automotive need for multimillion volume production.
10. Are there other market opportunities you're serving or exploring (e.g., satellite terminals, radar)?
Yes, we see waveguide technology interesting in other segments, for example satellite communications and beyond 5G/6G. We are participating in research projects within these fields that have good potential to turn into commercial products.
11. During our last interview, your CEO described Gapwaves as being in a “product development phase, on the verge of commercializing our technology.” How would you describe your status today, as you continue to invest in product development and securing production programs?
As a result of the commercial gains within radar antennas for ADAS and AD, Gapwaves now is a well-known company and an established supplier to the automotive industry and related applications.
Both in terms of maturity and value-chain positioning, we are now moving from being a technology provider to being a supplier of radar antennas in the automotive industry.
A task we are executing together with our partners and customers, we are right now establishing automated, high volume production, ready for multimillion volumes within two years—and, of course, approved and qualified according to automotive standards.