Solvay/Umicore Joint Venture Commences Production of Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Fuel Cells

Umicore and Solvay announce today that operations have started earlier this month at SolviCore, their joint venture for 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 is based in Hanau, at Umicore's main R&D site in Germany and will employ 34 people in the first stage of its development.

The European Commission considers that SolviCore raises no competition concerns and cleared its creation last June under the simplified merger review procedure.

In parallel with the start of its own activities, SolviCore intends to apply for European Union research funding available under the 7th Framework programme (2007-2013). Hydrogen power and fuel cells have already been identified among the priorities of European Union research efforts aiming at fostering sustainable development and environmentally friendly transport.

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 the emerging fuel cells 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.

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.

The parent companies will continue their respective activities in catalysts and membranes in full ownership, outside of the JV.

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