Lonza – A pioneer of chemistry in the upper Valais
In the meeting held on 7 June 2012, the Jury decided to award this site the «Chemical Landmark». The ceremony was held on 26 September 2013.
Upper Valais is one of the cradles of Swiss chemistry. The plant of Lonza in Visp is among the oldest and most important industrial sites for chemistry in Switzerland and was therefore designated as «Chemical Landmark».
In the year 1897 Lonza opened their first plant in Gampel. With a hydroelectric powerplant and the natural abundance of lime in the river "Lonza" Lonza AG produced calcium carbide, which was an important material used in lights at that time. Thanks to a larger plant in Visp (from 1907) and intensive research and innovation, the range of products could be increased to survive even in difficult economic times. The plant in Visp is still Lonza's largest production site and a wide spectrum of biotechnological products, fertilisers, and even complex pharmaceutical agents are manufactured there. The site also holds one of the most important for research and development facilities of the Lonza group. Approximately 2700 employees, including 300 in R&D, work there. This impressive rise from a local chemical supplier to a global enterprise makes Lonza a distinctive factor for the economic development of the upper Valais.
The award ceremony was held on 26 September 2013 in Visp, during which a commemorative plaque was unveiled and affixed at the entrance of the site.
The ceremony was opened by Prof. Dr. Karl Gademann (President of the «Platform Chemistry» at SCNAT) who welcomed the audience and highlighted the importance of chemistry for Switzerland but also for the World market, followed by a presentation of the «Chemical Landmark» programme.
The development of the activities of the Visp site was then presented from a historical perspective. The extent of the evolution of the area during the period 1897 to 2013 was captured in a short movie. Raoul Bayard (Site Manager Visp/Head Services EMEA) then presented a retrospective of the development of Lonza and showed how the company managed to continuously innovate for the past 115 years. He also demonstrated the importance of the apprenticeship system for the company and the strong link with the local population. Dr. Andreas Heyl (Head R&T and Regulatory Affairs) explained how Lonza managed to expand its portfolio by valorising by-products and developing new methods. The latest technologies used for the production of antibody drug conjugates in Visp were then highlighted by Iwan Bertholjotti (Global Head of Program Management Pharma Chemicals/Conjugates).
Finally, the importance of chemistry and chemical engineering, which have transformed everyday life, was stressed in the laudation by Prof. Dr. Paul J. Dyson (Director of the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering at EPFL). The historical role of the company for the upper Valais and Switzerland was highlighted together with Lonza's efforts towards environmental-friendly processes.
The commemorative plate was unveiled and affixed at the entrance of the site on Lonzastrasse, where everyone can easily visit it.
Nominations for the next round of designations are now open:
Everyone – chemist or non-chemist, historian or non-historian – is encouraged to submit their nomination to the «Platform Chemistry».
The proposals will be reviewed by a committee of chemists, chemical engineers, and science historians.
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