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If you were to look up “fan of Flanders” in the dictionary, chances are a picture of Daikin would pop up. The Japanese company first settled in Belgium’s northern region in 1972, launched production the next year, and has been on a path of local anchorage ever since. Today, Daikin’s site in the town of Ostend houses its HQ for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while serving as one of the multinational’s four regional development centers worldwide. In 2021, Daikin Europe announced it would invest EUR 140 million in a new R&D center in Ghent. The goal is to make the site Daikin’s new global innovation center for heat pump and refrigeration technologies. 

A breath of inventive air

Say “Daikin,” and the word that follows will often be “air conditioners.” But the Japanese multinational has much more in store. Headquartered in Osaka, it designs, manufactures and supplies heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration solutions for residential, commercial and industrial applications alike. An innovative business, that much is certain. Constant innovation is a must to make Daikin’s technologies and solutions as sustainable and user-friendly as possible, so investing in R&D is crucial. That is where Daikin Europe’s new R&D center in Ghent comes in. 

“Much of our R&D happens in Ostend, our R&D center today,” says Wim De Schacht, Vice President of Daikin Europe. “In Ghent, we have a smaller R&D site dedicated to the development of IoT, Controls and AI applications. To support our growth ambitions, we are accelerating our investments in R&D focusing on specific innovation themes. These include heat pumps, a sustainable cold chain and the use of the Internet of Things for an enhanced user experience and smart energy use.” 

Overall, our approach is to align our R&D efforts to the needs of the European market, which is strongly guided by the European Green Deal and the search for solutions that support the energy shift.

Wim De Schacht
Vice President of Daikin Europe

Within this context, Daikin Europe aims to make its new Ghent R&D center the group’s global reference center for heat pumps and innovative refrigeration technologies

Forging strong academic ties

Daikin Europe isn’t alone in its innovative endeavors. The company works with various universities in Flanders. “In Ghent,” adds Wim De Schacht, “we have been working closely with the city’s university, UGent, for years. A great experience that contributed to the decision to centralize our R&D activities at our to-be-built R&D center in Ghent

This investment will only intensify our collaboration and lead to even more joint research projects – for example in the field of IoT control systems that can further boost smart energy use and user-friendliness of our products.

Wim De Schacht
Vice President of Daikin Europe

“What’s more,” Wim De Schacht continues, “we are setting up our site at the cutting-edge Tech Lane Ghent Science Park, which is also home to numerous IT start-ups that can help us achieve our innovation goals. From our new base there, we’ll be collaborating with international talent from around 90 countries, while also tapping into the local talent pool. Thanks to the proximity of UGent, we can access a steady stream of highly skilled people to work with.” 

Partnering up for the innovative win

Meanwhile, Daikin Europe intends to make sure its employees and innovation partners can work in an inspiring environment. Apart from offices for its own R&D, the company’s new center in Ghent provides accommodation for start-ups and initiatives that focus on sustainable living. UGent will have two floors at its disposal, as well as access to the center’s 12 test rooms and an auditorium. 

But the co-creation possibilities don’t stop at the city borders. Daikin Europe’s new R&D center in Ghent also hopes to play a role in the innovative business and research ecosystem brought about by Flanders Make, one of Flanders’ strategic research centers. With sites across the region, it supports manufacturing industry players to help them develop and optimize their products and production processes. 

Talent paves the way forward

One thing’s clear: Daikin’s approach to both production and innovation strikes the balance between global strategy and local anchorage. Wim De Schacht: “Our group policy has always been to produce locally and strive for a short value chain, which is somewhat atypical in our industry. In Flanders, our business delivers a prime example of this approach. In 2023, we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of our production launch in Ostend. This site is, without a doubt, Daikin Europe’s main production hub, employing over 1,200 operators. It also has a solid focus on R&D, with a team that’s over 250 engineers strong. The new site in Ghent only furthers our local anchorage.”

Meanwhile, the new R&D center is part of a bigger European picture. Between 2021 and 2025, Daikin Europe is investing EUR 840 million across the continent, of which EUR 140 million will be channeled into the construction of the Ghent site. 

What's more, we are constantly hiring, and we are also specifically looking to reinforce our R&D teams. In Flanders, we plan to welcome 135 additional development engineers by 2025, but it may well be more.

Wim De Schacht
Vice President of Daikin Europe

Third time's a charm

To top it all off, Daikin Europe’s project in Ghent emerged victorious at the 2022 Foreign Investment Trophy ceremony hosted by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). There, the company won the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy after a previous nomination in 2017 and having received the Lifetime Achievement Trophy in 2019. Daikin Europe’s track record in Flanders is more than impressive. 

The fact that Daikin Europe decided to build a global knowledge and innovation center in Flanders makes one thing abundantly clear: local anchoring, sustainable ambitions and global strategy go hand in hand in our region.

Astrid De Keyser
Deputy Director Inward Investment Japan & South-East Asia at FIT

“In 2023, the Japanese multinational celebrates its 50th anniversary in Flanders,” comments Astrid De Keyser, Deputy Director Inward Investment Japan & South-East Asia at FIT. “The new investment in Ghent puts the company’s loyal dedication in the spotlight even more strongly.” 

Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade

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