The annual world trade fair for new consumer technologies, the CES, has opened its doors in Las Vegas in the United States. The Walloon Region is present with its start-ups and nuggets. Fourteen SMEs are part of the delegation, including Skylane Optics, a small company from Fraire (Walcourt). For more than twenty years, this company has been marketing products in data transmission for telephone networks in particular.

In the small village of Fraire, starting from an insignificant villa, Philippe Bolle has built in a few years a company that employs 30 people and has a turnover of fifteen million euros. His specialty is the design and manufacture of semiconductors: small electronic wafers essential for the operation of fiber optic networks or for 4G or 5G transmissions.

Philippe Bolle, the company’s CEO, is in Las Vegas for two reasons: to find an investor but also the brains that will collaborate on his business project. He details his motivations: “The first reason is mainly to find industrial partners, so people who will be interested in our development idea because, generally, when we are on a start-up and we arrive with a concept, an idea, the product is not totally finished. So we will find the customer who can also become the industrial investor who will tell you that he is interested in investing in your company to allow you to develop the product he is interested in.”

Being Belgian or Walloon is too small, but at the same time it doesn’t prevent Fraire’s SME from participating in important projects all over the world. For Philippe Bolle, it will however be necessary to make up for a certain delay: “Belgium, all alone, would not know how to fight against entities like the United States, China and Russia. It is Europe that must act. And I believe that today Europe is lagging behind technologically, even if it is putting money and means in place. Unfortunately, Europe has slept on its laurels for ten to twenty years. Because we should not forget that 30 years ago, Belgium was the first country connected in the world. We were 99.2% connected. But today, if we want to get back in step with technology, we are behind many European countries. And you have to know that it takes between five and ten years to deploy optical fiber to the subscriber. So that means that if today, politically, we decide to deploy fiber, it will take ten years to reach the level that other countries have reached today.”

Skylane Optics is attending CES in Las Vegas with thirteen other Walloon small and medium-sized companies with the support of AWEX, the Walloon Export Agency.

Luciano Arcangeli, Daniel Barbieux

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