Janssen first chemical and pharmaceutical company to win the Factory of the Future Award


Janssen Geel, the chemical production site of international pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson, received the Factory of the Future Award last night from the hands of Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois. Two out of three of the synthetic active ingredients of all medicines produced by US parent company Johnson & Johnson are made in Geel. The production site thus plays a strategic role in the worldwide launch of new medicines. 

Factory of the Future

Janssen Geel may now call itself a 'Factory of the Future'. It is the first time a company from the chemical and pharmaceutical sector has been awarded this prize. The Factory of the Future Awards are an initiative of technology federation Agoria and the technological innovation centre Sirris, in cooperation with essenscia vlaanderen, the sector federation for chemistry and life sciences, and Catalisti, the innovation cluster for chemistry and plastics. Centexbel, Fedustria Flanders, Fevia Flanders and Flanders' FOOD are also partners.

At the start-up in March 1975, Dr Paul Janssen's ambition was to make Janssen Geel the best of all chemical production sites of the international pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Over forty years later, the high-tech production centre has become the main launch platform of new Janssen drugs for the world market. It is one of the most advanced and successful production centres of active drug chemicals in the world and an indispensable link in the global production network of J&J, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world with more than 40,000 employees, 5,200 of them in Belgium.

Marc Verbruggen, General Manager Janssen Geel: "This award is great recognition for the way we try to put the drive for innovation of founder Paul Janssen into practice day after day. Year after year, we invest millions of euros to keep the chemical production site in Geel at the forefront of new technologies and production methods. Two aspects are crucial in this: open innovation and a people-oriented approach. This means working together with Janssen Pharmaceutica's R&D department in Beerse, but also with other companies and universities. We are also testing innovative organisational forms in which self-directed project teams, averse to all hierarchy, are given broad responsibility. With the active pharmaceutical ingredients we make here, we reach 100 patients per second and, above all, we want to do that sustainably." 

Frank Beckx, managing director essenscia vlaanderen: "Janssen Geel is the perfect illustration of how the chemical and pharmaceutical sector in Flanders is world-leading in terms of production. On the one hand, chemistry supplies the crucial building blocks for medicines and end products in many other sectors, such as electronics, transport, textiles or food. Then you have to deliver top quality. On the other hand, due to the concentration of knowledge and expertise we have a lot of so-called lead plants, such as Janssen Geel, which are leading within their international group. Sustainability, digitalisation, innovation and thoughtful handling of energy and materials are therefore key concepts in our industry." 

Meanwhile, Janssen Geel continues to build the factory of the future. Over the past few years, J&J's largest investment ever in Belgium, totalling €130 million, took place in Geel with the construction of the new Chemical Development Pilot Plant (CDPP). This strengthens the production site's strategic position in the production of active ingredients for the launch of new drugs. Another example of open innovation for greater sustainability is the collaboration with InOpSys, a start-up established with the support of spearhead cluster Catalisti. As a result, complex waste streams from the production process are optimally recycled, with the zinc fractions being recovered and serving as a raw material for zinc processor Nyrstar. This is how Janssen Geel puts the circular economy into practice.