Series: SHS portfolio companies introduce themselves
In our series “SHS portfolio companies”, today we talk to Reinhold Blazejewski, founder and managing partner of Blazejewski MEDI-TECH GmbH, which produces high-tech endoscopes as an OEM manufacturer for the global market in Sexau, Baden. SHS has held a stake in the MedTech SME since January 2020.
Reinhold Blazejewski is what is called a tinkerer in southern Germany. Tinkerers are people who always see potential for improvement in every technology and are never satisfied with what they have achieved. The founder of the company had already successfully managed development for several years at a large endoscope manufacturer before he founded his own company, also to better meet his own technical demands.
Today, Blazejewski MEDI-TECH GmbH is one of the technically leading manufacturers of high-quality, extremely high-performance endoscopes that are used in clinics and practices worldwide: among others, in spinal surgery, laparoscopy, arthroscopy, cystoscopy and urology.
Mr Blazejewski, what does your company do, and what do you do better than your competitors?
Reinhold Blazejewski: We specialise in very complex rod lens systems, especially in the field of spinal surgery. Complex in this case means that we are not dealing with simple single-channel systems, but we develop two-, three- or even four-channel systems with working channels, irrigation channels and so on. These are very compact, very powerful endoscopes that we give to the surgeon. These two advantages, compact and powerful, also distinguish us from the competitors. More than 20 years ago, we were almost alone in this market. At the moment, we make more than half of our turnover with spinal endoscopes, and we see a still increasing demand here. Our systems can be used for all procedures on the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Our systems are also almost always used when placing implants. We are also very strong in urology, where it is always the particularly compact devices that are in demand because not everyone can produce them. Altogether, as an OEM manufacturer, we currently build almost 150 different endoscopes for a wide range of indications. We see our advantage clearly in our innovative strength and the close development cooperation with our customers. We always develop and produce according to demand and not simply for the shelf. You will find our devices in use all over the world.
Where do you want your company to be in the next three years?
I have always been interested in technology. And I see a clear trend towards chip-on-tip systems and away from conventional rod lens systems. Currently we have a lens system consisting of objective, rod lenses and eyepiece, which is the whole imaging system. In 2009, I started thinking about chip-on-tip, and today we have reached the point where we could convert all endoscopes to chip-on-tip systems – mind you: purely technologically. That means: a super-small lens sits on the chip, which takes the pictures that the chip processes. The whole thing is then displayed on the monitor for the surgical team. When I say super-small, we are talking about a sensor that is 0.55 mm x 0.55 mm, and on that sits a 0.6 mm small lens. The whole thing is then illuminated by very small LEDs. My goal has always been to advance technology. That’s what drives me. To answer the question clearly: We want to bring our first chip-on-tip systems to the market in three years and advance the treatment methods technologically! Not least because of the better images the surgical team will get, that will be a big step forward.
Where do you see the special challenges for a medium-sized medtech manufacturer?
As a MedTech manufacturer, you can be as innovative as you like, but if the company doesn’t have relevant access to the market, which you don’t have as a small medium-sized company, then it will be very difficult. As a pure OEM manufacturer, we need a large manufacturer who understands our high-tech product and sees the potential in marketing our product under his name. In addition, there are the regulatory requirements due to the MDR, which make life extremely difficult for a medium-sized company. The MDR will have a negative impact on technological progress because many SMEs will say that the MDR hurdle is too high for me to take the risk of developing a new product. The EU needs to think about whether this is really the right way to go. The consequence will be that only the big players will do business. And many products from smaller companies will disappear from the market, although they are needed in clinics and practices. MDR is a disaster for Germany as a centre of innovation.
What distinguishes the cooperation with SHS as a MedTech investor, and how does SHS support your company?
I did not decide to work with SHS primarily because of the capital. On the one hand, I was looking for a viable succession plan, and on the other hand, I wanted to use SHS’s know-how, experience and network as an industry investor to lead Blazejewski MEDI-TECH GmbH onto a promising growth path. With the help of SHS, we have also realigned our quality management and sales & marketing departments. So, I have the feeling that I can always turn to SHS, be it in matters of MDR or product development, because they simply have the expertise and this large network. It’s good to have such a partner at your side who reacts quickly and presents feasible solutions.