Interview: “The Ghent area gives us access to top talents“
Eastman has opened a new R&D centre at its production site in Ghent, Belgium. Why?
Dr Deep Bhattacharya: We have invested an amount in the USD double-digit-million range in the new lab. There are several reasons why we chose this location. Firstly, our footprint got bigger in Europe, with the recent acquisitions we have been able to build a critical mass in the Belgium area. We have more than 1,000 people working there. In the past years we also had a good and strong co-operation with the academic institutions. We have several ongoing collaborations with the external technical network in and around Ghent. And finally, we can leverage the access to top technical talent in the area. This all makes Ghent a very attractive location to open our laboratory.
What will be the R&D initial and later focus at the new facility?
Dr Deep Bhattacharya
Technology Director for Coatings of Eastman Chemical
Bhattacharya: We focus on six segments in the coatings market, i.e. automotive, architectural, packaging, powder, protective and industrial. These markets are very important for us and we have prioritised the different end use markets for accelerating our current growth efforts. We are also investing a lot in fundamental research. This will be an ongoing investment in the next couple of years. Enlarging capabilities on-site and expanding our co-operation networks with research labs and academic institutions in an around Ghent. Currently, we employ roughly 20 scientists and techincians at the site and want to double that number in a couple of years.
How important is the European market for you?
Bhattacharya: Europe is one of the most important focus markets. A lot of the innovation platforms in the coatings market are driven from Europe, so it is a necessity to be in the region. Also, regulations from Europe are often implemented in other regions of the world. So it is important to have a strong base in Europe to always stay up to date of regulatory changes and anticipate changes that are on the horizon.