A look at the top cleanroom projects of 2023

By Sophie Bullimore | Published: 4-Apr-2024

A review of 2023’s top cleanroom headline projects across all sectors

Cleanroom projects are some of the most highly regulated projects in the world. The end-products are so critical, that this level of stringency is necessary for them to be safely used worldwide.

In this review we will look at some of the star projects of 2023, those announced and those completed. 

First, however, it is worth discussing that with the world needing more and more of these highly controlled environments, measures are needed to get these projects rolling more efficiently.

Sometimes in the push to get things going quickly, things go wrong. This is when companies like Technickon are brought on board to fix issues.

In 2023, Baxter (UK) engaged with the cleanroom specialist engineering firm to provide high-level specialist cleanroom consultancy and maintenance management.

More “win-win” initiatives are cropping up in order to bridge the gap between real estate and the final cleanroom design

UK-based Technickon assisted Baxter Healthcare with many facility issues in their UK aseptic manufacturing facilities mainly due to poor design and poor maintenance.

CEO Nick Davis explained: “We are seeing a number of large pharmaceutical clients being tempted by large specialist maintenance contractors who dangle a large carrot with endless promises of expertise, but in the end the promises never come to fruition – you can't rely on a contractor that uses agency staff to maintain a McDonald’s one week to then service and resolve issues with complex licensed cleanroom facilities the next – specialists are required due not just to response times but the knowledge to resolve issues quickly with minimal costs and staying well within acceptable guidelines for MHRA / FDA licenses – A one company fits all approach just doesn’t work.”

With connecting good clients to good contracts as the goal in mind, in 2023 CleanSpace initiated a programme called Clean Fit.

Within this programme, the company links buildings ready to be leased with prospective life science tenants (particularly those interested in spaces of 5,000 sqft or more) by providing them with complimentary Basis of Design (BOD) drawings, test fit drawings, and initial construction sets.

This is all to help the prospective tenant visualise the potential space and showcase CleanSpace’s design and functionality. 

TATA Projects was chosen by Micron Technology for India's first semiconductor unit with advanced DRAM and NAND assembly

More of these “win-win” initiatives are cropping up in order to bridge the gap between real estate and the final cleanroom design. It will be interesting to see where this goes in 2024!

Batteries and semiconductor projects

Looking back at 2023’s cleanroom projects, it is interesting to see the breadth of use. One of the bigger hangovers from the COVID-19 era is the spreading of higher levels of contamination control across new industries.

In this vein, you can see that different design and build or engineering firms have different specialities, filling niches that show demand.

For instance, Exyte is a company that provides design and build services for hi-tech industries.

At the end of this year, the company won a huge contract to build a dry room for Volkswagen’s first-ever battery cell gigafactory.

The dry room is planned to occupy the area of five soccer fields, so will be a massive undertaking for the company. “Receiving this contract is an achievement of strategic relevance for Exyte and demonstrates the trust world-class companies have in our ability to deliver top-tier projects,” said Exyte CEO, Dr Wolfgang Büchele. 

The BioNTech African vaccine saga reached its next milestone

Dry rooms for battery production are an increasingly sought-after facility as the world becomes ever more technology-reliant. 

Another big dry room project that began in 2023 was when energy storage technology expert Lightening Grid Québec announced that it chose Canada-based AtkinsRéalis, a professional services and project management company. “The choice of AtkinsRéalis became obvious given their participation in major projects in Bécancour in the battery sector, projects that use key materials from LFP batteries like ours, as well as their extensive expertise in industrial processes and specialised dry and cleanroom manufacturing,” said Guy Laliberté, Chief Operating Officer of RAQ.

On a smaller scale, the UK business of Angstrom Technology (formerly Connect 2 Cleanrooms), built a 40 sqm Li-ion battery dry room working DRYAIR and Desiccant Technologies Group to deliver the solution with energy-efficient HVAC systems for Anaphite.

The chemistry company is developing CNT-enhanced cathode powders that can be used to produce dry-coated electrodes for low-cost, high-performance Li-ion batteries.

The new energy-efficient room is providing a low dew point environment for Anaphite’s innovation in the battery sector, whilst using an on-demand usage model to save energy and costs. Angstrom even used CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) as one step to help ensure compliance.

In the pharmaceutical landscape, the BioNTech African vaccine saga reached its next milestone

Another product that requires a hi-tech cleanroom solution is the semiconductor sector, commonly known as “fabs”. Much of this production is carried out in Asia.

Although this is gradually becoming a less extreme fact, in early 2023, United Microelectronics chose Taiwan-based L&K for the 12-inch fab expansion in Singapore.

The $205m contract is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 and includes building and installing cleanrooms, pipelines, air conditioners, fire protection, water supply and drainage systems, among others.

Another major semiconductor project, this time in India, was when India-based TATA Projects was chosen by Micron Technology for India's first semiconductor unit with advanced DRAM and NAND assembly and test facility worth $2.8 billion.

A huge moment for the country and the company. This historic project was announced in the latter half of 2023, and TATA plans to use modern construction methods, such as 4D BIM and hybrid modular accelerated construction, in order to complete the build. Speaking on this momentous collaboration, Vinayak Pai, MD & CEO of Tata Projects, said: “This collaboration exemplifies the unwavering commitment of Tata Projects to advancing technology, promoting sustainable development, and contributing considerably to the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”

Other really top-notch projects were carried out in Spain

On a slightly smaller scale, in the research world, Northern Ireland-based Henry Brothers received a contract to build cleanrooms and lab space for Queen’s University on the new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

(AMIC) The space will provide a specialised environment for advanced manufacturing, materials, and engineering sectors to access the latest digital, automation and robotics technology supported by experienced engineers. Construction is due to begin in spring 2024, and AMIC plans to be in the “Factory of the Future” by 2026. Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Mark Cooper BEM, said: “The appointment of a contractor for AMIC is great news bringing the development a step closer. The Council is delighted to support this project with a £10m investment which will see this flagship facility, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, set for Global Point Newtownabbey.”

Vaccines, biologics, and more

In the pharmaceutical landscape, the BioNTech African vaccine saga reached its next milestone, with the first pods arriving in Rwanda.

This project aimed to provide bulk mRNA vaccine manufacturing capabilities in modular BioNTainers, and in March six were shipped and arrived in the country, where they were welcomed by Sabin Nsanzimana, the Minister of Health of Rwanda and Sierk Poetting, Chief Operating Officer at BioNTech.

In other modular manufacturing news, in June, biologics manufacturer Evotec began its installation of multiple G-CON Manufacturing PODs in France.

The Toulouse facility will feature intensified, continuous bioprocessing operations housed inside the autonomous cleanroom PODs.

The project also used G-CON Manufacturing’s recently launched business, G-CON Clean Solutions, which provides cleanroom doors, panels, ceiling systems and other components. “The combination of the PODs and cleanroom panels from G-CON Clean Solutions were seamlessly integrated by our teams for Just-Evotec Biologics, our first hybrid customer in Europe,” said Dr Anne Jones, President and CEO of G-CON.

At the end of the day, the breath of cleanroom needs even between pharmaceutical projects is huge

A great example of the use of other modern methods of construction was when AdvanceTEC completed a turnkey project for an unnamed biotech company.

The team leveraged advanced BIM/VDC technology, VR (virtual reality) model reviews, dynamic progress model tracking, digital scanning, driving off-site prefabrication, and sensible modularisation resulted in facility achievements the end client had yet to accomplish globally.

Leo Parrillo, Project Executive at AdvanceTEC, said: “We are incredibly proud of our team and AdvanceTEC’s performance, along with many of the contractors and suppliers supporting us on the project.”

A major pharmaceutical project that happened right at the end of 2023 was from Leader Life Sciences, which engaged ADDvise for $3m to build its new biotech cleanroom.

The order involves the design, supply, installation, and commissioning of a cleanroom and associated accessories and is due to be completed in mid-2024.

These are aspects beyond the actual design and build of a cleanroom, that can be really convenient and game-changing to the end client.

The win of this project is an example of why Sweden-based ADDvise Group’s acquisition of Dubai-based MRC Systems in 2020 was advantageous. 

Other really top-notch projects were carried out in Spain by Albian Group and IPS. Both provided services for pharmaceutical contracts, which included specific aspects such as microbiological labs, passbook equipment, and cost estimation services.

These are also aspects beyond the actual design and build of a cleanroom, that can be really convenient and game-changing to the end client.

At the end of the day, the breath of cleanroom needs even between pharmaceutical projects is huge, and whether this is a small research-only cleanroom or a huge automated continuous manufacturing behemoth, these needs need to be filled with the utmost care.

Relevant companies

You may also like