Over the last few years, optical sensor technologies have entered into a new era. Highest precision, top-speed data processing and best usability are the new standards. One of the main drivers of this development is the Austrian enterprise for measuring technologies NEXTSENSE GmbH.

With its applications for gap and profile measurement and for non-contact inspection of surfaces, the high-tech company has risen to become a central partner in the automotive, railway and steel industry. Now, Nextsense extends its research and development department (R&D) even further, striving for an interdisciplinary cooperation that promotes fast and market-based innovation.

Smart growth

Thanks to the massive success of its first two products, a handheld profile measurement gauge for the non-contact inspection of railway wheel sets and a device for the evaluation of car body gaps, the company grew rapidly. Within only eight years, the workforce grew from four people to more than 50 dedicated employees. "We know that innovations are crucial for defending our position as a supplier of state-of-the-art optical sensor technology." says Clemens Gasser, CEO of Nextsense. "This is why we are strongly committed to R&D and willing to align our entire organisation accordingly."

From innovation to application

In doing so, one of the central steps is the creation of an R&D center at the headquarters in Graz. From now on, this is the playground of all employees devoted to customer oriented research. And these are not just a few, as Gasser explains: "Our commitment to innovation through in-house R&D is clearly visible in our personnel structure. Altogether, 35% of our staff operates in this area. The by far largest part of it is now based in the new center." Here, three new departments were established: Technology Management, Software Development and Test & Quality Management. Especially the first one will play an essential role in the future, as Gasser states. "New technologies and applications will be evaluated in this division. Our product roadmap will be defined there, taking into account market observations and considerations related to patent law. This is how we will define the mid and long term future of Nextsense."

The importance of cutting edge software for Nextsense products is displayed in the number of employees in the software department. Eleven specialists work diligently in order to retain the competitive technological edge of the enterprise. By creating a separate department for hardware development, an extra weight was given to the creation of new hardware designs, enabling the company to perform as a full-range supplier on the market.

Matrix – the x-factor of success

Altogether, there are now four departments in the area of research and development at Nextsense. Another novelty is the cooperation of departments based on the principle of matrix organisation. This should foster creative solutions through interactions across division structures and enhanced interdisciplinary. Aspects of market competitiveness can thus be transferred to research and development much faster and more efficiently than before. "We as a company are convinced that innovations are vital for sustainable competitiveness on our markets. This is why we invest more than 25% of our yearly expenses only in this area", as Clemens Gasser emphasises the importance of R&D for Nextsense.