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Engine specialist SEW Eurodrive invests in brand new, sustainable site in Haasrode

22 May 2023

SEW Eurodrive, a German global player in the field of drive technologies and motors, plans to establish a new site in the Haasrode business park, where it already has a warehouse and offices, by the fall of 2024. The first phase will involve a plant of more than 8,000 m², including offices. At the same time, the old buildings of SEW Belgium will not be demolished, but transformed into an R&D department as well as additional office and working spaces for Leuven start-ups in the manufacturing industry. SEW Eurodrive's new plans represent an investment of nearly 25 million euros. The number of employees will increase from 80 to 100.

Leuven as central hub for Belgium and Luxembourg

Raf Vermeylen, Managing Director at SEW Eurodrive, clarifies: "Assembling drive solutions for engines, tailored to customers' needs, is central to the SEW Eurodrive group's global approach. To help our Belgian and Luxembourg clients even faster and more flexibly with their automation challenges, we are building a brand new factory in the Haasrode research park, right next to the E40 motorway. After all, Leuven is ideally located as a central hub in the country, which is why we are happy to anchor our presence here."

The local anchoring also fits into the sustainable strategy that SEW Eurodrive has been pursuing for some time now. Assembling locally offers huge advantages, even in times when many companies are looking eastward for cheaper labor. "The flexibility this new plant gives us outweighs other parameters,"

Vermeylen says. "We want to be as close to our customers as possible, that's our business strategy. We can deliver more timely, we are not dependent on jammed ships in the Suez Canal AND it is a lot more sustainable!"

Bart Nagels (SEW Eurodrive), Koen Coomans (architect), Raf Vermeylen (SEW Eurodrive), Frederick Meynen (Edibo)
Bart Nagels (SEW Eurodrive), Koen Coomans (architect), Raf Vermeylen (SEW Eurodrive), Frederick Meynen (Edibo)

Old building as R&D incubator for Leuven startups

This focus on sustainability continues throughout the project. The old SEW Eurodrive building will not be demolished but transformed into an R&D incubator for start-ups in the manufacturing industry. SEW will also continue to develop its own research department there.

"Why tear down what's still good?" says Raf Vermeylen. "Our 'old' building can certainly still serve us. We only need the new factory because our 'old' building is getting too small due to increasing sales. Therefore, in addition to our own R&D department, we have decided to open the building to startups from the hardware & engineering business, with a preference for companies that also work sustainably. There are already candidates to use our workspaces, but interested companies are still welcome to contact us. There is 2,500 square meters of office space and 1,500 square meters of workshop space provided."

In addition to recycling engine parts in the production process, focusing on local assembly and avoiding unnecessary transportation, the new building itself will also be an example of sustainability. For example, parking spaces with charging stations for electric cars will even be installed for everyone to use. This will help meet the growing need for charging points for cars in and around the Haasrode research park.

Staying in Leuven is a logical choice

Mayor Mohamed Ridouani is also delighted with SEW Eurodrive's investment in the region: "The investment of innovation company SEW in a new site will create more jobs and economic growth through both research and concrete production in our city. We welcome such investments because we like to see future-oriented manufacturing companies like SEW anchored in Leuven. We owe that to our long-standing commitment to working with Leuven MindGate to put our city on the map as the innovation region."

Something which Jan Paesen, Managing Director at Leuven MindGate, can only agree upon. "We are extremely happy that SEW has chosen to surf the trend of producing closer to home. We see more and more companies from the Leuven region making this sustainable, but also economically interesting choice. Supported by the local authorities, knowledge institutions and network organizations such as Leuven MindGate, entrepreneurs are increasingly understanding the importance of a vibrant innovative ecosystem."

"Leuven MindGate has been highlighting Leuven and the surrounding area as 'the place to be' for manufacturing companies for a while now, so we are extra happy with SEW's decision to establish the R&D incubator for startups. This will give a lot of our companies an extra push in their constant search for workspace and will also generate a lot of knowledge cross-fertilization," Paesen said.

"We are and remain in Leuven because of the ‘raw materials’ which are present here," clarifies Raf Vermeylen, Managing Director at SEW Eurodrive. "And I mean the ‘knowledge raw materials’, as Jan rightly points out. All the much-needed knowledge and support is right here for the taking. KU Leuven, imec, UCLL, Flanders Make, Leuven MindGate, VTI, Interleuven, VOKA, City of Leuven, ... all these organizations join in the innovative story of building the Leuven Innovation Region into a knowledge hub. And being close to the source also attracts the best, brightest and most motivated employees. So with the construction of this new plant and offices, we are investing in a long-term Leuven anchoring."

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