ABB to invest €100m in industrial automation R&D campus in Austria
Swiss engineering conglomerate ABB is to splash €100 million on a new innovation and training campus at the home of Austria-based automation systems manufacturer B&R. It is the largest internal investment ABB has ever made in industrial automation. The new campus will develop technologies for the ‘factory of the future’, ABB said, and create 1,000 engineering jobs.
ABB bought Bernecker + Rainer (B&R), the largest independent provider of industrial automation tools at the time, in July 2017 for an undisclosed fee. The deal added more than $600 million in annual sales to ABB’s balance sheet, taking its total revenues from factory and machine automation solutions to around $15 billion.
ABB chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said the company’s B&R unit is on track to pass $1 billion of revenues. “With our €100 million investment, we are strengthening this dynamic and the pillars of this success story. In addition to the new research and development capacity, our investment will expand B&R’s Automation Academy, offering customers, partners and employees globally unique education and training programs.”
ABB is number two in the industrial sector, between Siemens, the market leader, and a chasing pack comprising Emerson, Rockwell Automation and General Electric. B&R is integrated into its industrial automation; the B&R investment will see it develop disruptive new technologies, “expand its leadership position” and better serve the $20-billion industrial automation market, the company said.
Josef Rainer, co-founder of B&R, said: “The smooth integration shows that the company Erwin Bernecker and I founded 39 years ago is in excellent hands. I am delighted ABB continues to write and accelerate our success story with this historic investment.”
The new innovation and training campus, in Eggelsberg, Austria, will be completed by 2020, and cover 35,000 square metres. Production will be undertaken by fully-automated machines and robots.
The site will house new research and development (R&D) labs, for the development and testing of new technologies, from industrial control systems through to machine learning and artificial intelligence. ABB will also build an ‘automation academy’ to train staff, partners and customers, and to strengthen the company’s ties with Austria’s applied sciences and higher education centres.
The Austrian government commented on the deal, as well. Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria, said it was of “tremendous importance” to Austria as a business location. “This is the starting signal for a location offensive in the key segment of digital industry. It is an important impulse for the creation of highly qualified new jobs and the positioning of Austria as a high-tech location,” said Kurz.
ABB claims it is the only industrial automation provider offering customers the entire spectrum of technology and software solutions, including measurement, control, actuation, robotics, electrification and digitalization. ABB employs 30,000 engineers; B&R has more than 1,000. ABB invests $1.4 billion in R&D annually.
ABB opened an ‘internet of things’ centre for its pulp and paper business in Ohio, in the US, last year to provide data-driven solutions for its customers.