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No Spain, no gain: 10 years of innovation in Asturias

The “Principality of Asturias” in northern Spain is known for its beautiful beaches, mountainous landscape and medieval architecture. Hikers and bikers might also be familiar with the ancient pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela that runs through the region – and is included for its “Outstanding Universal Value” on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. But what’s the region’s best kept secret? It’s a powerhouse of industrial manufacturing and innovation in the field of elevators, escalators, moving walks and airport solutions.

The Silicon Valley of urban mobility

thyssenkrupp Elevator’s Research, Development and Innovation Center in Gijon – the largest city in Asturias, Spain – has been going from strength to strength since its opening in 2009 as a real-scale prototype laboratory. Over the past decade, the center has been a major contributor to thyssenkrupp Elevator’s success in becoming the leading innovator within its sector.

thyssenkrupp Elevator created this global center of innovation in Gijon’s “Mile of Knowledge” as a test site for new technologies, in large part because of the region’s favorable ecosystem for innovation. This includes excellent university talent, a local network of technology centers, an extensive industrial heritage and a wealth of start-ups focused on Industry 4.0 and digitalization. All these signs pointed towards a bright future.

Today, the innovation center is one of the main research and development hubs of the company. Its 50 employees are experts in the fields of mechanical and electrical engineering as well as computer vision, virtual environments, and digitalization. It has acted as a driving force in groundbreaking projects that have revolutionized the concept of moving people, generating more than 78 patents worldwide to date. Put simply: the Asturian innovation center is a global powerhouse in the field of urban mobility solutions. 50% of the projects under development in Gijon are digital, making the center a digital innovation hub at thyssenkrupp Elevator.

Innovation in Gijon – a look back

The center has contributed to nearly all of thyssenkrupp Elevator’s major innovations in the past decade. In 2015, thyssenkrupp Elevator unveiled a fully-functional 1:3 scale model of MULTI, its game-changing ropeless elevator, at the innovation center. The center also spearheaded the development of the high-speed moving walk ACCEL, and the iwalk, a pit-less moving walkway already installed on five continents.

MULTI – multiple cabins bins circulate to reduce waiting times to 15-30 seconds.

The engineers at Gijon also contributed to MAX – the company’s predictive maintenance solution for elevators. Together with Germany and the United States, Spain became one of the three pioneering countries to first test the system nationwide. The development of MAX was led by engineers from the innovation center in partnership with a team from Microsoft in Redmond, USA. But that’s not all: it also conducted a pilot project to adapt the predictive maintenance solution for escalators. Thanks to this work, the benefits of MAX are available for these mobility workhorses, too.

With MAX, customers enjoy effective service and real-time maintenance.

A major world market

Spain is the fifth largest elevator market in the world and a key location for thyssenkrupp Elevator. In addition to the innovation center in Gijon, the company has three production sites across Spain and a total of more than 5,000 employees. Elevators, escalators, moving walks and passenger boarding bridges are shipped directly from Spain to locations around the world. Not surprisingly, thyssenkrupp Elevator is one of the country’s main global exporters.

In 2019, thyssenkrupp Elevator celebrated the production of 15,000 escalators in Spain since 1991. Escalators from the local manufacturing site are currently in use around the world, and in prestigious locations such as the One World Trade Center in New York City, along with major airports in Paris, Dubai, Toronto, Doha and Dallas. Spanish escalators can also be found in some of the world’s busiest metro stations in cities like São Paulo, Cairo, Madrid and Riyadh.

The tugela – one of many escalator models manufactured in Spain

Connecting passengers to their destinations

Spain is also of crucial importance to the company’s Airport Solutions division. A large proportion of the division’s passenger boarding bridges – the final link between passengers and their destinations – are manufactured here. After their production in Spain, they are also installed by Spanish teams in branches all over the world. Most recently, over 140 boarding bridges from this location were installed at the world’s largest airport in Istanbul.

Passenger boarding bridges connect people to their destinations

A home to innovative designs

Spain is full of exciting examples of beautifully designed elevators and escalators, many of them from thyssenkrupp Elevator. In Toledo, for example, a series of escalators take passengers through the ancient city wall, thus safeguarding an important historic site while cleverly proving that – with the right solution – not even a thick defensive wall can interrupt the efficient flow of people. thyssenkrupp Elevator also received the Elevator World 2020 award for its two inclined “sun elevators” at the Riosol hotel in Mogan, Gran Canaria.

thyssenkrupp Elevator is proud of its Spanish employees’ accomplishments and looks forward to another ten years of exciting innovations, high-quality manufacturing, and excellence in keeping people moving.

Elevators in the ancient walls of Toledo, Spain