“The move towards 5G has raised a lot of questions around training and the importance of preparing engineers when it comes to the challenges associated with designing applications using millimetre-wave frequencies,” he says.
“After I graduated, I worked for a number of start-ups and it wasn’t long before I realised there was a lack of appropriate training in the RF community. The focus was on encouraging new engineers to study and read about the subject, but there was no real methodology or curriculum to deliver the skill sets or knowledge to work effectively in this space. As a design engineer I didn’t feel I was being prepared for ‘real life’, so I decided to set up Interlligent.
“From the beginning, the aim was to provide practical in-depth training that introduced engineers to sound engineering practices.”
Initially, the company provided training only, but it has developed to address a range of complementary fields.
“When I and a couple of colleagues set up the company, we saw it simply as a way of funding our academic studies. I was studying for a Masters at the time and it wasn’t until a few years later – when we won a significant contract that not only involved training but also required us to acquire test equipment as part of the deal – that we began to realise we had a real business on our hands,” he says.
“We needed to supply test equipment to provide engineers with hands-on experience and, after the telecoms crash, there was plenty of surplus equipment on the market. That led us to renting out test equipment.”
Fast forward to 2017 and Interlligent now employs 50 people and is recording year on year growth in excess of 15%.
The company comprises five business divisions (including engineering services and company representation) and operates in the UK, having registered as a UK company in 2014.
“Not all of our divisions are active in the UK, but with so many interesting UK companies, I think it is important that we increase our presence there.”
5G is a key driver
When it comes to the test and measurement rental market, Hagai sees the IoT – as well as the need to move towards millimetre-wave frequencies for developing prototype 5G components and subsystems – as creating a host of opportunities and challenges.
Start-ups and smaller companies particularly like to use rental to ease their budgets, he suggests.
“Additional services, such as training and loan of accessories, are also an advantage to them when renting, rather than buying outright.”
While rental market has been the main business driver, training has helped to establish the company as a centre of excellence.
“Our approach has always been ‘hands on’, providing in-depth training for all levels of experience when it comes to RF. We have a large facility in Tel Aviv which not only supports local businesses, but also attracts engineers from around the world.
“We’re training hundreds of engineers every year and that has helped us establish a level of trust with companies that many of our competitors find hard to emulate,” Hagai believes. “We also offer companies training in-house and often fly engineers from Israel to deliver our courses.”
In 2016, Hagai changed his role from CEO to CTO in order to spend more time developing in depth training materials and to teach advanced microwave subjects.
“The demand for 5G has transformed the market and modern designers and engineers are looking to acquire a more detailed knowledge of waveguides, he contends. “The demand for training in mmWave technologies, software defined radio and data communications has exploded and, when it comes to mmWave, there are techniques and ‘tricks’ associated with managing distortion that conventional engineers need to better understand.
“There are plenty of skilled engineers out there,” he continues, ”they just lack the necessary knowledge about the properties associated with the latest mmWave technologies. Everything in this space is extreme and our role is to accelerate awareness and learning. While universities are providing the theory, our aim remains, as it always has been, to provide a practical approach and train engineers for the industry.
“I believe our focus on training has helped to differentiate our brand from our competitors, emphasising our technical knowledge and expertise. Engineers, especially those we work with in the UK, appreciate that.”
Interlligent has also established an RF incubator in Israel and is interested in developing a similar service in the UK. “There is certainly potential in the UK and I’d like to replicate what we have done in Israel,” Hagai suggests.
The Tel Aviv incubator offers entrepreneurs and RF related start ups the opportunity to hire a facility fully equipped with test equipment. “It helps them to cut their costs significantly, but not only that, it enables us to invest in suitable businesses and we have a portfolio of eight companies in which we have taken a stake – our involvement is not only financial, but also managerial.
“As a business, we are managed and run by microwave engineers and that certainly sets us apart,” Hagai concludes.