Industrial and Financial Partners Invest 2 Million Euro in Relaunch of Soltech
Plans for new manufacturing company for buiding-integrated Solar PV at Thor Park in Genk.
Soltech, an Imec spin-off and pioneer in the field of customised building-integrated solar panels (so-called BIPV-modules), is making a new start with the support of six industrial and financial partners, namely Bas van de Kreeke, AGC Glass Europe, Hegge BV, LRM, Nuhma and RSQ Investors. Soltech folded in March 2021 due to a lack of money to innovate and automate. With serial entrepreneur Bas van de Kreeke leading the way, the promising company is being given a new lease of life. In its new format, Soltech will produce customised solar panels that can be incorporated not only into roof tiles, canopies, window glass or noise barriers, but also can be fitted into solar modules in vehicles. A few weeks ago, production was already resumed at the current production site in Tienen. By the end of 2022, there will be a new production facility at Thor Park in Genk, to expand the existing cooperation in R&D with the world-renowned Energyville and Imec.
Soltech NV is a Belgian company with its manufacturing site in Tienen. It was founded in 1989 as a spin-off from Imec and became a pioneer in the field of solar panels or photovoltaics (PV). Since its beginnings, the company was also known for founding its sister company Photovoltech, a solar cell manufacturer with almost 300 employees at its peak. This company, however, along with other European manufacturers, collapsed in 2013 due to Chinese competition.
Soltech managed to stay afloat and invested heavily in innovation to manufacture customised solar panels and panels with greater added value. The company developed solar panels that can be applied in building applications – such as roof tiles, canopies, window glass or noise barriers – but also in vehicle-integrated modules (VIPV).
The manufacture of solar panels was still largely manual, which prompted the need for a relaunch. A major investment round to introduce new machines and further automation was urgently needed. As the required capital could not be raised in time, the company with its extensive number of orders and impressive know-how had to cease operations in March 2021.
Capital Injection of EUR 1.9 million
The promising technology of building-integrated solar panels, its highly specialised team and the intensive cooperation with renowned knowledge institutions such as Energyville, Imec, IMMOMEC and UHasselt could convince a group of industrial and financial investors to relaunch Soltech.
In addition to serial entrepreneur Bas van de Kreeke, primarily known as CEO of the construction company ‘van de Kreeke’, a number of other companies are investing. These include glass manufacturer AGC, the metal manufacturer, facade builder and manufacturer of aluminium splash screens Hegge, the Limburg investment company LRM, the Limburg environmental holding Nuhma and investors group RSQ Investors (part of the Quanteus Group). Collectively, the partners are committing to a total of EUR 1.9 million to help the company continue its activities.
Bas van de Kreeke will become the CEO of Soltech. He is a firm believer in the future of the company: “The market for solar panels or photovoltaic cells is still growing strongly. Innovation of materials and processes remains necessary for higher and stable returns, and to enable new applications and production at lower costs. Traditional solar panels are mainly manufactured in China and sold at prices for which they cannot be produced in Europe. This market segment is therefore no longer included in Soltech’s revised strategy. Building-integrated solar panels require a lot of know-how and a flexible and fast bespoke production. These however can be produced locally in Belgium at a competitive price.”
Soltech mainly develops and manufactures solar panels for the construction sector, which is strongly driven by the development of sustainability and circularity.
Bas van de Kreeke: “The adoption of integrated custom modules for example in building components is still slow. This is partly due to the fact that the building world is conservative, as architects and clients tend to opt for traditional facades and roofs. The aesthetic aspect of solar cells was a longstanding issue, but today panels can be customised with an aesthetically pleasing design. Combining renewable energy production with various architectural functional elements will become increasingly important for the future habitat. In the near future, all buildings must comply with the strict EU Energy Performance Standards. The roofs of high-rise buildings (e.g. skyscrapers) are often too small to provide sufficient renewable energy, so solutions must be found via the facades.”
The investors are providing capital for the restart of Soltech. The company will initially serve existing customers from its production facilities in Tienen and will invest in innovation and product development. However, there are also building plans for a brand new production facility at Thor Park in Genk, a high-tech business campus, developed by LRM, the City of Genk and KU Leuven. The start-up at Thor Park is planned for the end of 2022.
“Soltech can rely on technology and years of development and has a team of highly specialised employees. The cooperation with Imec and research institute Energyville, together with the industrial partners for processing solar cells in building materials, make this project very interesting. With plans to build a production facility at Thor Park, it will be very worthwhile investing in this project. We are bringing smart manufacturing back to Limburg.”
Mr. Tom Vanham, CEO LRM
“The seamless integration of photovoltaics into buildings and products, as a complementary energy source, is an obvious step which the solar industry needs to take now on a massive scale. Buildings will be sustainable and self-sufficient in energy. Nuhma’s co-investment supports this evolution and brings together the expertise of Soltech, Imec and Energyville, creating an additional high-quality employment opportunity at the Thor park.”
Mr. Ludo Kelchtermans, CEO NUHMA
“Investing in the relaunch of Soltech is in line with our strategic plan to make the facades we design, produce and install energy-neutral through BIPV. The know-how of Soltech and the cooperation with Imec and Energyville, among others, are an enormous asset for the further development of BIPV. At the same time, we are proud to support a project that will bring smart manufacturion to our region.”
Mr. Marc Hegge, Gedelegeerd bestuurder Hegge NV
“Soltech is an investment that fully supports our vision of corporate social responsibility. Soltech will not only contribute substantially to meeting the European climate objectives, we also see it as a company in which local entrepreneurship and competences can be developed again. It also allows us to contribute to the trend of deglobalisation which is becoming more and more widespread.”
Mr. Kris Vansanten, Managing Partner of RSQ Investors and Chairman of the Board of Soltech
“As a European leader in float glass headquartered in Belgium, we are fully committed to this initiative. The BIPV market is developing rapidly and AGC Glass Europe wants to play a leading role in making the building sector sustainable, in line with the EU Green Deal.”
Mr. Patrick Van Bortel, Vice President Industrial & New Businesses, AGC Glass Europe
Goele Lemmens – Media Relations LRM
email@example.com / +32 474 21 30 87
About Soltech NV
Europe is clear. By 2050, the European union should emit zero net greenhouse gases. The climate plan of the European commission marks a new era with a widespread implementation of innovative climate technologies.
SOLTECH is ready. We are a Belgian company dedicated to the production and applied innovation of Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics (BIPV). Our people interpret BIPV-related issues into technically and economically viable projects.
Whatever your project, Soltech will charge it with energy. Stand alone or connected to the grid. With ‘A Touch of Soltech’ your project swiftly becomes a sustainable reference in its field.
More info: www.soltech.be
About LRM NV
LRM is an investment company that develops and stimulates economic growth in Limburg. We provide a solid foundation so that businesses and projects that create jobs in Limburg can grow. Our financial resources and expertise, together with what Limburg has to offer, ensure a unique growth platform.
More information: www.lrm.be
About RSQ Investors
RSQ Investors, the investment arm of the Quanteus Group, invests according to the principles of corporate social responsibility. RSQ Investors focuses on companies with an important transformation potential, such as businesses in difficulties, special situations or businesses that need to undergo a thorough transformation. RSQ Investors also concentrates on companies engaged in themes with a special social relevance, together with an important value creation potential, such as sustainability and digital & data transformation.
More information: quanteus.eu
Hegge has been working in metal processing since 1893. The core activities are sheet metal processing (steel, aluminium and stainless steel), powder coating, design, production and assembly of aluminium windows, doors and curtain walls and the production of aluminium splashbacks.
More information: www.hegge.be; www.aluwing.eu
About AGC Glass Europe
AGC Glass Europe produces, processes and distributes float glass for the construction industry (exterior glazing and interior decorative glass), the car industry (original and replacement windows) and various other sectors such as transport as well as solar energy and in particular Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics (BIPV) with our SunEwat range of photovoltaic glasses. AGC Glass Europe is headquartered in Louvain-la-Neuve and has major glass production sites in Mol and Zeebrugge. We strongly believe in the power of a local value chain through intensive cooperation with carefully selected partners.
More information: agc-activeglass.com/en/sunewat/
Nuhma is an investment holding owned by 41 municipalities in Limburg and the municipality of Laakdal. Nuhma’s core activities are situated in two areas, namely the production of renewable energy and the provision of services for and to its shareholders, the municipalities. Nuhma has various investments in companies that are active in the production of renewable energy. These include such companies as Aspiravi, C-Power, Northwind, etc., which produce wind energy on land and at sea. Furthermore, there are direct and indirect participations in biomass and composting through Bionerga and A&S Energie. In addition, we participate in hydropower and energy transport projects. And recently also in the production of PV modules.
More information: https://nuhma.be/