Three brothers – one success story (2)

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In the outskirts of Vilnius, near Riese town is located high-tech enterprise “Brolis Semiconductors”. It specializes in design and production of semiconductor lasers, laser diodes and other semiconductor-based products. Continue.Begining No. 20.

These devices are becoming more widely used in the energy, chemical, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, automotive industries and in areas such as optical fiber networks, broadband internet and other modern technologies, including medical devices, diagnostic systems. More details on applications were given in our first publication.

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“Brolis Semiconductors” team in San Francisco, exhibition “Photonics West 2014”. Dominykas and Augustinas Vizbaras, Ieva Šimonytė and Edgaras Dvinelis

Company founders are three brothers Vizbaras. The eldest – Dominykas – is transportation engineering professional, he holds maritime technology management master degree. He is “Brother Semiconductors” CEO, and he is the one who handles all managerial issues. Augustinas and Kristijonas studied telecommunications physics and electronics; they acquired degree of electronics engineers and continued post-graduate studies. All three were joined by idea to implement achievements they reached in scientific research into commercial products.

We are talking with “Brother Semiconductors” commercial director Augustinas Vizbaras. From time to time technical director Kristijonas Vizbaras joins conversation as well.
This interview should engage those young readers would like to turn into scientific research and its practical application. It links science, modern technologies and business. If you dream about it, this is part of publication is just for you, even if it does not disclose peculiarities of production and applications of embedded systems or micro controllers. Instead it should give self-confidence, and when choosing profession this kind of experience can be invaluable. As such stories inspire, provide motivation, and this conversation is exactly what we wanted in this publication.

Dear Augustinas, let’s go back to the time when you with brothers decided to establish your own company, not to resell other manufacturers’ products, but to design semiconductors, and then stat commercial production. I suspect that it had to be some sort of adventure?

Augustinas Vizbaras. The eldest of us – Dominykas – had experience in setting up several businesses; he had worked in manufacturing and gained management experience. He supported us from very beginning. We told him what we are doing in Physics laboratory at Vilnius University. Dominykas quickly realized that these things have commercial potential. He encouraged us to look broader and all the time he supported us. We with Kristijonas realized that it is unlikely to implement these ideas in Lithuania, as at that time technical and scientific base was not sufficient. Dominykas financed our studies in Sweden, Royal Institute of Technology. These studies were related to semiconductor electronics and optoelectronics. Also we had special courses, and we hooked.

Kristijonas Vizbaras. We felt that we find our place. .

A. Vizbaras. We realized that we are doing well, motivation increased, and we started to look who is doing best research work in this area. Royal Institute of Technology has excellent training base, same can be said about its reputation and level of publications.

How it happened that you moved from Stockholm, which you liked, to Germany, Technical University of Munich? 

K. Vizbaras. Swedes reduced our motivation a bit, because we were not able to work in their laboratories. There are rules there that only graduates of master’s, studies are allowed into laboratories: they fear that expensive laboratory equipment may be damaged.
It is understandable, as students’ readiness vary a lot, they arrive from different countries. I would say that 80 percent of students are not properly prepared for the studies. Therefore, the Swedes restrict their work with modern equipment, but because of this “filter” gifted students are suffering.

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„Brother Semiconductors” opening. Augustinas, Kristijonas, Dominykas Vizbaras and President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite are cutting the ribbon. On the right side – dr. Ralf Meyer and professor dr. Marcus Christian Amann.

A. Vizbaras. This did not fit us. We maintained good relations with Lithuanian professor Saulius Marcinkevičius. He works at the Royal Institute for 15 years, and he advised us to try Germany or the USA. We did not have money for USA, thus turned our view to Germany, and where caught by very interesting topics of research papers.

We wrote a letter to the Technical University of Munich, and they confirmed that they can provide us possibility to complete master’s thesis. We visited Technical University of Munich to make sure that we will be able to work at the laboratory. Later Germans said that they liked that we were ready immediately start work in the lab.

We agreed we will come to Munich in July, thus two year postgraduate studies in Sweden we ad to squeeze into one semester. It was a very intense course, but we passed exams successfully. We had half a year to complete master’s degree in Munich.

A. Vizbaras. In Munich there was a very different approach. Our supervisor prof. dr. Marcus Christian Amman said: “This is our laboratory, and all the necessary equipment you can use 24 hours a day. I’m not interested, how much time you spend here, but I am interested in the results. Twice a week I will check the results and you need to explained me achievements during that time. “

 What did you have to do?

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Some of micro lasers, produced by the company.

A. Vizbaras. We did microfabrication tasks: I worked with cascade lasers, Kristijonas – with stibium lasers.
We did not come up to growing of crystals, for master’s thesis we did smaller tasks. However, there was production: we used to get the crystal wafer with formed layers, and we had to form microstructures – wave guides and contacts. Munich has learned to work with a variety of semiconductor technologies, as lithography, etching, magnetron sputtering, in other words, we have acquired necessary technological skills. We work 14-16 hours a day, and had incredible access to state of art technologies. We have used all possible freedom: we were able to develop new semiconductors starting from conception, modelling, computations and to experimental implementation of the specific task; in other words, we were able to participate in the entire process. At the end we measured produced device and checked results to make sure that we got what we wanted. We worked hard and we loved it.

How would you describe the Munich Technical University? 

A. Vizbaras. It’s elite science and research institution, which for me so far remains as the flagship of quality in both reputation and qualification of scientists working there.

K. Vizbaras. The Germans clearly fascinated us, I would say in Munich Technical University we find ourselves.

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Symbolic Oak, presented by the Lithuanian Business Support Agency for best R&D project was planted near Vilnius University Faculty of Physics. Rector of Vilnius University prof. dr. Juras Banys, Dominykas Vizbaras, Kristijonas Vizbaras, Physics Faculty dean doc. dr. Kazimieras Glemža, Augustinas Vizbaras. Near oak – Elenutė Vizbaraitė.

Kaip dirba vokiečiai

How would you explain achievements of German scientists, especially in the technical sciences? What are the obstacles for Lithuanians that prevent such achievements? Only modest financial capabilities? 

A. Vizbaras. I find it is hard to describe briefly, but the German technical school is famous for a long time. We have lot of gifted people in Lithuania too, but our young people who come to the high school often ado not know what do they want to achieve. Germans are more focused; youth is oriented to practical activity.

K. Vizbaras. I would say that, according to their talents, both here and there people are the same, but in Germany work organisation is excellent. Suppose a young student is too weak to be an assistant, but then he can be taken as an assistant deputy, and he or she will perform assigned tasks perfectly. Germans try to accomplish task best they can, even if it is a simple one.

A. Vizbaras. Germans are quite clearly aware of the importance of the hierarchy, and it is based on competence. The higher duties are assigned to those who can perform them better.

K. Vizbaras. German scientific team consists of one professor, one person with a scientific degree; the rest of the team consists of PhD students, usually 7-10 people. There is no way, as can be seen in Lithuania, that scientific team is made of people who all have scientific degrees, but their functions in the team often are not clear.
Students are changing, but professor leads team for 10-13 years. The main force of research is post graduate students. If in Lithuania they are treated as students, in Germany they are researchers, who must do science. And we at the Munich Technical University had contract and were researchers, working under pressure of professor who controlled whole process.

But post graduates need to study?

A. Vizbaras. There are books, libraries, and finally there are professors with whom you can discuss. Very week visiting scientists give seminars and lectures. Post graduate students are able to deepen knowledge independently, too.

To be continued.