Umicore and Solvay have reached an agreement in principle to join forces in the research, development, production and sales of Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEA) and related compounds, to be used in Fuel Cell (FC) applications.
The 50-50 percent joint venture (JV), named SolviCore, will be based in Hanau, at Umicore's main R&D site in Germany. It is expected to become fully operational on 1 July 2006 and will employ 34 people in the first stage of its development.
Umicore and Solvay, two world-scale industrial groups which respectively enjoy a global leading position in precious metals catalyst and polymer membrane technology, have the ambition to play a major role in this emerging technology. In the JV they will assemble electrocatalysts with polymer membranes to develop and manufacture the Membrane Electrode Assembly, the reactor where hydrogen reacts with oxygen to generate electricity.
"We are excited by this partnership, as Umicore and Solvay's strengths are very complementary and this creates the opportunity to progress much faster than we could have on our own," Umicore Chief Executive Officer Thomas Leysen said.
"This alliance is unprecedented," commented Aloïs Michielsen, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Solvay. "For the first time ever, two major European groups will combine their innovation skills and know how in a R&D venture for the development of fuel cell technologies; we are proud to contribute thereby to the development of realistic and environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels.”
The parent companies will continue their respective activities in catalysts and membranes in full ownership, outside of the JV.
Fuel cell technology is based on the catalytic transformation of fuel (hydrogen, methanol,..) -- via chemical reaction with oxygen -- into electricity, heat and water. It is likely to become the new energy technology in the medium and long term future for a wide variety of portable (for example batteries), stationary (for example power and heating cogeneration) and automotive applications.