Agilent’s Ambitions

Agilent’s ambitions continue to grow. After a successful 2006 (see IBO 1/15/07), which saw it enter the high-end mass spectrometry (MS) market, the company has set its sights on other market segments. In late March, Agilent announced the formation of a Materials Sciences Solutions Unit (MSSU) within its Life Science and Chemical Analysis (LSCA) business (also known as Bio-Analytical Measurement) (see page 2). Focused on materials science applications in fields such as electronics, materials testing and life science, the new unit will specialize in microscopy and optical spectroscopy products, including products new to the LSCA portfolio. “When we looked at what we call the microscopy and spectroscopy space, it’s about a $10 billion opportunity. Currently, we do have a fairly significant presence in the laser interferometer business and also a lot of the special optics for that,” said Chris van Ingen, president of LSCA. The interformeter and optics product lines are currently sold by Agilent’s Electronic Measurement business (EM). As a separate business unit within LSCA, MSSU will have dedicated R&D and marketing resources. MSSU will also sell Agilent’s atomic force microscopes (AFM), a product line previously shared by EM and LSCA. “The atomic force microscope is sold into a number of materials science and testing applications, but also . . . there’s a lot of interest in the chemical analysis and life science markets, so it seems really logical to fit that into the portfolio,” commented Mr. van Ingen. Agilent acquired AFM through its acquisition of Molecular Imaging (see IBO 11/30/05) and, late last year, introduced the Agilent 5400 AFM/scanning probe microcope (see IBO 12/31/06). Asked why the unit was created at this time, Mr. van Ingen told IBO, “We’ve filled a number of the gaps we had in the mass spectrometry portfolio, and those will continue to be initiatives moving forward, but now its time to look more broadly. [We asked ourselves:] ‘What is a logical augmentation of the portfolio?’” The Agilent 5400 emphasizes cost effectiveness and ease of use, suggesting that Agilent intends to make advanced instrumentation more user friendly, a strategy employed for its new MS systems. “This whole area of optical spectroscopy, surface science and materials testing seems like a great opportunity for the company, given our core competencies in taking some of the tools and making them bench tops, and simpler and easier to use.” Calling the AFM line an anchor for the unit, Mr. van Ingen told IBO that Agilent will grow MSSU through organic product development, collaborations and possible acquisitions. Mr. van Ingen cited microscopy and particle sizing as areas of interest. In optical spectroscopy, LSCA offers the UV diode array product, which is primarily used in dissolution testing and will also be sold by MSSU. The spectrum of technologies and end-markets encompassed by materials science leaves many choices for Agilent. “Our best assessment today, looking at . . . optical spectroscopy, surface science and materials testing, is about a third is in the materials science and testing markets, about a third is in chemical analysis and about a third is in life science,” said Mr. van Ingen. Agilent has an established presence in each of these markets and is betting that they will be ready to more widely adopt sophisticated technologies.

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