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Employment

Solvay overhauls R&D in France and Belgium

Belgium firm aims to cut 600 jobs as part of reorganization

by Alex Scott
April 9, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 15

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Credit: Solvay
Solvay will increase R&D activities at its headquarters in Brussels.

The Belgian specialty chemical firm Solvay will relocate its R&D activities in Paris and Aubervilliers, France, to Lyon, France, and to a lesser extent to its headquarters in Brussels as part of a big research restructuring. The move reduces the firm’s major R&D centers around the world from 21 to 19.

Under the initiative, Solvay will upgrade its Lyon R&D center, the firm’s largest, into a center for advanced chemistry. The company will also expand its R&D activities relating to materials science in Brussels. The expansion coincides with a refurbishment of the firm’s Brussels headquarters. Solvay expects about 500 employees to transfer to Brussels and Lyon from Paris and Aubervilliers over the next four years.

The initiative will lead to about 600 job cuts—equivalent to 2.5% of Solvay’s total workforce. The jobs being eliminated include 160 in France, 90 in Portugal, and 80 in Brazil. The firm has begun consultation procedures with employee representatives. Solvay says the jobs are “mainly in functional activities” but did not respond to C&EN inquiries about how many scientists are affected.

Solvay has shifted markedly away from commodity chemicals during the past six years by divesting several major businesses, including polyvinyl chloride to Ineos, nylon to BASF, and cellulose acetate to the private equity firm Blackstone.

The new R&D structure will better suit the company’s focus on specialty chemicals and tailored solutions, Solvay says. It will “provide differentiated experiences for customers and maximize value for the group,” adds CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu.

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