1. IMST was founded a little more than 30 years ago and Peter, you’ve been with the company from the very beginning. What was the vision for the company in the beginning and how has that evolved?

Peter: IMST started as the Institute of Mobile and Satellite Radio Technology, with a primary focus on the emerging Digital Mobile Communication – GSM at that time. Over the years, the focus of IMST GmbH has shifted toward a private research company offering customized and efficient solutions for wireless applications, advanced microelectronics and chip design. In the beginning, the focus was more on specific component design while IMST today focuses more on complete system designs where our different departments work closely together to create a complete solution for the customer.

2. Aline, you’ve been with the company for a shorter period, what attracted you to IMST?

Aline: IMST offers the opportunity to work with many experienced engineers on research and industrial projects. After my PhD, I felt that this could be the perfect environment for me to further develop my technical skills and work on innovative customer projects. And what can I say, it turned out that I was exactly right.

3. How has IMST evolved in the last 30 years? How has your product and services portfolio changed?
Peter: IMST’s traditional core business is the contract development of components or systems for customers starting from the early idea and going up to the delivery of a prototype. Meanwhile, we often go one step further, which means we realize the product for the customer. Those products out of development projects are of course exclusively for our contractor. Besides, we offer some HW and SW products for the B2B market in order to support our customers and partners – but not going into competition with them in their markets.

4. The IMST website specifically mentions research, development and products, particularly EDA and testing areas. You technical guys are involved in modeling and antennas; can you describe how your area fits into the IMST structure?

Winni: We all work in the department of antennas and EM modeling. I’m responsible for the EM modeling team where we develop the EMPIRE XPU 3D EM simulation software. We cooperate closely with colleagues from all IMST teams to support their development projects. This allows the colleagues to influence the software development to consider their needs for innovative projects.

Oliver: I am leading the Antenna Frontends team at IMST. My team develops phased array systems, for example. Typically, we do this at high frequencies where very high integration densities are required. We also take care of the active components used in various systems. Of course, this is done in close cooperation with the other teams at IMST.

Aline: I am responsible for the Measurement Systems team. This includes the antenna measurement facilities, which are used both for our development projects and for services. We are additionally working on the development of customized measurement systems. On the one hand, these are used to support our own development projects and, on the other, we use our knowledge to support customers with solutions that are specially adapted to their measurement tasks. (e.g., production test equipment)

Winni: Our teams work closely together at the different stages of the development projects. This is helpful to consider the various aspects at an early stage of development and also to develop new interdisciplinary concepts.

Oliver: In the field of phased array development, for example, we use EM simulation-based approaches for calibration. This concept has already shown very promising results. This activity is supported by adaptations in EMPIRE XPU with the help of Winni’s team. The team of Aline is helping with adapted and very accurate measurements.

Aline: The knowledge of these new approaches is also used to optimize our measurement processes. Coming back to the calibration of phased arrays, the simulation-based approach can be verified by nearfield scans and compared with simulated results.

5. IMST has a tagline of “from idea to series production.” Can you describe the IMST model? How do you work with customers in your group?

Winni: IMST still has a strong focus on customer-specific solutions. The typical model is like this: A customer has a specific need for an electronic device or system for his product portfolio. IMST develops this product from scratch up to the prototype.

Oliver: In more and more cases IMST also joins the product phase together with the customer, e.g., we take over parts of the production or we organize the production together with a partner.

6. Can you give our readers an idea of IMST’s metrics? How large is your overall staff and are they all scientists and engineers? Can you describe your facilities?

Peter: Currently, we are running a company with over 160 employees, 130 being engineers. We greatly benefit from the excellent local university landscape, which serves as a source for exceptional and ambitious graduates. Simultaneously, we are part of a network with international partners from research and industry. In other words, our business concept revolves around the professional organization of innovation, always based on the latest insights from university research. On this basis, we derive marketable and competitive products and solutions for our customers.

At IMST, we take advantage of an excellently equipped laboratory environment with measurement capabilities exceeding 170 GHz, along with two anechoic antenna measurement chambers. Furthermore, we operate an independent, accredited in-house EMC testing lab and specialize in hybrid technology, particularly focusing on techniques like LTTC. In summary, our expertise covers the entire spectrum from simulation and modeling, antenna design up to (integrated) circuit design (chip design) and small series production.

7. Microwave Journal recently published an article about a scalable dual-polarized omnidirectional Tx/Rx front-end module in a puck-shaped housing. What else can you tell us about that?

Aline: The 5G Can Module is a good example of an innovative development where the different teams worked together very closely combining their specific experiences. This type of system is a good way to show IMST’s capabilities and development skills. The 5G Can Module is very flexible and easy to adapt for various applications.
Oliver: We hope that this module is a good hardware platform for various companies to prove their concepts. For example, to test algorithms for 5G applications with real hardware.

8. What has you excited about the future? Where are you focusing your R&D activities?

Oliver: The future will be full of exciting new markets and technologies. IMST engineers want to contribute to this with innovative concepts and market-relevant developments. To this end, it is also very important to build a bridge between research and industrialization.

Winni: In summary, IMST will concentrate on the technical areas in which as many innovations as possible are required. (for example, new phased array systems, new simulation methods and measurement concepts for complex systems)

9. Can you describe the culture at IMST? What do you think differentiates IMST from other engineering companies?

Peter: IMST is somehow different from a typical company, money-earning based. IMST is committed to excellent technology, always trying to connect high technology, innovation and flexibility with a high degree of staff involvement and earnings under one umbrella at competitive pricing. We are proud, that the German government last year categorized IMST as having system-relevant know-how in the fields of satellite communications, radar and radio technology, essential for Germany’s technological sovereignty in this field.