Ex Mente Technologies, a South African-based company, is a process engineering consulting and systems company, focused on pyrometallurgy. In 2022, Ex Mente Europe established a branch in Hengelo to serve their European clients, and to gain access to the European talent pool. The initiative was led by Heine Weitz, managing director of Ex Mente Europe. For this, Ex Mente had initial contact with the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) in South Africa. A startup visa was necessary to set up the Dutch division. Oost NL is an official startup facilitator and helped Ex Mente go through the process successfully. In this fifth episode of our international startup series, we would like you to meet
Ex Mente Europe.
Johan Zietsman, CEO of Ex Mente Technologies and Heine Weitz, managing director of Ex Mente Europe
Ex Mente Europe has moved into the World Trade Center (WTC) Twente in Hengelo. Ex Mente is a metallurgical engineering company. Metallurgy is the extraction of metals and other valuable materials from ores. These metals are needed, among other things, for the energy transition. These processes use a lot of energy and therefore provide significant opportunities for savings.
From the branch in Twente, the company will mainly work on technology development and process improvement based on 'digital twins'. With this, Ex Mente wants to support the metallurgical industry to produce more efficiently and reduce the impact on the environment.
Since its establishment in 2001, Ex Mente Technologies and its team members’ reputations have grown in the industry. With 10 highly qualified engineers on the payroll, the company was already serving a global client base, prior to the establishment of the new European office, working on several major projects in Germany for instance.
Green steel initiative
Europe has committed to aggressive CO2 emission reduction targets. As one of the biggest contributors to global CO2 emissions, the steel industry is a focus for achieving these targets. This requires that carbon-intensive blast furnaces be replaced by DRI (direct-reduced iron) plants, combined with electric smelting furnaces. These smelters are not currently applied in the steel industry but are widely used in the ferroalloy and PGM (platinum group metal) industries, in which Ex Mente has been active for decades. As such, over the last year Ex Mente has facilitated several workshops to help players in the industry develop their roadmaps to make this transition.
Heine Weitz explains: “This is a complex problem, and no one person or company can make this happen on their own. To help ensure the successful development of this technology, we need a combination of analysis, modeling and simulation, laboratory-scale testing, and pilot-scale testing. This involves large-scale collaboration between government, producers, research and academic institutes, and commercial entities. While we already have substantial analysis and modeling tools, we still need to develop important infrastructure, solvers, and software tools. We also require material property data to reduce the uncertainty in our models.
We are therefore looking for industrial and research partners who can perform physical testing and governmental or commercial partners who can help to fund this development work. A number of the topics justify full-time masters' and Ph.D. research projects. We are therefore also looking for researchers and academic institutes who can partner with us.”
The coming year
The first year will be used to build on existing partnerships with clients in Western Europe. The new presence in The Netherlands also enables Ex Mente to target numerous new potential clients by visiting them in person. After that, the aim is to gradually strengthen the team by hiring new colleagues.
Powered by the Dutch National Enterprise Agency (RVO) The Netherlands Point of Entry is the first stop for international talent looking to work or set up a business in the Netherlands. A startup visa is one of the means to enter The Netherlands. East Netherlands Development Agency (Oost NL) is an official startup facilitator. This means that, with Oost NL as their facilitator, innovative non-EU citizens can grow their startups in East Netherlands (Gelderland or Overijssel). Oost NL is welcoming international startups who aim to solve global challenges using our regional ecosystem.