2004-07-01



1 July 2004  Bekaert steps up Research and Development 

In line with its strategy of sustainable profitable growth, Bekaert strives for world market and technological leadership in its two core competences, i.e. advanced metal transformation and advanced materials and coatings.  Bekaert aims to constantly reinforce its permanent technological lead through a process of continuous innovation and spent €50 million on Research and Development (R&D) in 2003. R&D plays a crucial role in the development of a knowledge economy.

European first with newest electron microscope

Bekaert has put a “Dual Beam Scanning Electron Microscope” into operation at its technology centre in Deerlijk, Belgium.  This electron microscope allows better analysis of materials and is very suitable for studying complex coatings. This investment is in line with the continual upgrading of the company’s research apparatus. Bekaert has achieved a European first with this latest generation equipment.

Increased investment in technology centre in Belgium

The technology centre in Deerlijk, in Belgium, numbers 260 employees and is made up of an international team of experts. In 2004, Bekaert increases its R&D budget by 10% and is strengthening the team with more than twenty new researchers.

This reinforces Bekaert’s strategic decision to anchor its R&D activities in Belgium, a decision that is in line with European and Belgian ambitions to bring about a knowledge economy. To this end, further structural improvements in the conditions for promoting technological innovation are essential:

-      The substantial increase in the Government’s budget to support scientific and technological innovation projects, in the framework of the Flemish Innovation Pact, will demand continued budgetary efforts. 
Setting ambitious goals and subsequently make the right choices will allow these resources to be used in the most efficient manner. Pursuing the efforts made in order to simplify administrative procedures will enhance their accessibility.  An even more proactive and facilitative policy regarding European technological initiatives can be achieved by a better coordination between the different policy levels and domains. 

-      The further implementation of a number of important fiscal and parafiscal measures,  e.g. through a partial exemption from wage tax, will improve the fiscal status of researchers in private companies. Possibilities regarding special tax deductions and other forms of tax relief for companies, which invest in R&D, will be an important stimulus. 

Development of a technology centre in China

Earlier this year, Bekaert opened the Bekaert China Technical Center in Jiangyin (China).  In this centre, Bekaert has state-of-the-art test facilities in the field of polymer reinforcement of tires for passenger cars and trucks.  The company concentrates on product development in partnership with its local steel cord customers. This initiative fits into Bekaert’s strategic objective to strengthen its important position in the growing Chinese market for top quality steel cord products.

Participation in venture capital initiatives

Besides increasing its in-house R&D activities, Bekaert also has a stake in a number of new technology companies.   Through these investments, Bekaert participates in new developments in advanced metal transformation and advanced materials and coatings, which complement its own developments. In 2004 Bekaert has increased the total budget for these initiatives to €10 million.  One of them is Cymbet Corporation, an American company involved in advanced technological research in the field of vacuum technology, in which Bekaert recently took a stake. Cymbet Corporation studies the use of thin films in rechargeable micro batteries for various electronic applications.

 

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