Horiba FuelCon officially broke ground on its Factory 2021 construction project in May 2020. The company’s managing director, Ingo Benecke, tells fDi how it has grown from a small two-person start-up to a significant employer.

Q: Can you give us some background on Horiba FuelCon? 

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A: In 1990, Mathias Bode and I launched a start-up called SensoTech. This specialised in measuring ultrasonic velocity and density in continuous processes. Over time, the company established a second branch for pump test systems, and as this technology became more important, we founded FuelCon in 2001, focused on fuel cell test stations.

Later, we extended the product portfolio to battery test systems for the automotive industry. In 2018, FuelCon was acquired by Japanese firm Horiba. At that time, we had 70 employees, but we have since become the competence centre for fuel cells and batteries for the entire Horiba Group. So we have embarked on a growth programme, increasing the number of employees by more than 60%.

Q: What factors make Saxony-Anhalt a good location for firms such as yours?

A: This is a brilliant place to connect knowledge, research and the economy. There are great opportunities for young entrepreneurs and there has always been a strong start-up culture backed up by good support and an open-minded partnership spirit. 

Most companies establish strong relationships with universities, governmental or local organisations, and support each other on common projects or initiatives. In turn, this provides us with skilled workers and highly educated students who we can recruit locally directly after their graduation. This is especially important to very fast-growing businesses like ours.

Additionally, Saxony-Anhalt’s infrastructure is modern. Horiba FuelCon is located close to Magdeburg, with close and direct access to the important east-west and north-south main roads. We are also linked to the north-south and east-west waterways, and are within a 1.5 hour drive of Berlin, Hanover and Leipzig airports.

Q: What recent investments have you made in the region? 

A: Horiba FuelCon – and formerly FuelCon AG – have made several investments in the region around Magdeburg. Since FuelCon was developed, we’ve created more than 130 jobs, and will eventually increase our head count to more than 320 people when our €30m Factory 2021 is complete.

The official groundbreaking for the expansion project is a step towards strengthening our role as a global competence centre for fuel cell and battery test equipment within the Horiba Group. This investment in a 7000-square-metre workshop for assembly and commissioning will form part of the eMobility Campus at Magdeburg-Barleben. It has been backed by the local authorities as part of the continuing support they have provided our firm over the years. Factory 2021 also received a 10% regional development subsidy from the EU.

Q: How important is a focus on sustainability in the post-Covid-19 world? 

A: Fuel cell and battery-related mobility is important for emission-free transportation. Therefore, the transition of mobility to eMobility is closely linked to sustainable solutions to stop climate change and pollution. In providing test equipment for fuel cells, electrolysers and batteries, our focus has always been on sustainable and clean power solutions.

For years, climate change was not taken seriously enough and the development of alternative power solutions related to fuel cells or batteries was slow. But there’s a focus on sustainability in the post-Covid world, particularly as people have seen and experienced cleaner air. We expect an increase in sales of electric cars as people realise how important it is to act sustainably, so we’re optimistic that developments in eMobility will increase going forward.

In association with Investment and Marketing Corporation (IMG) Saxony-Anhalt. Writing and editing were carried out independently by fDi Magazine.