Shell's Amsterdam history

Shell started its research work in 1914, in a modest building on the north bank of the River IJ. At the time there were only nine employees and their work was limited in scope, initially focused on solving production problems. Between 1914 and 1927, Shell’s researchers concentrated their efforts on gaining a better understanding of the chemical analysis of oil and oil processes.

The nature of the work in the Amsterdam research centre intensified, and in 1927 a chemistry department was built. Scientists used the facility to create nitrogen fertilisers and petroleum products.  Research on soaps and agrochemicals followed. Work expanded as the number of researchers grew. Pilot plants were built and attention shifted towards discovering how the results of experimental tests could be applied to the industry.

During the Second World War, research activity decreased considerably. In those years, scientists applied their skills and knowledge to other areas such as the conversion of cars so that they could run on gas. They also looked at how certain agents could be used to protect plants against disease. After the war, Shell expanded and invested heavily in its research work. Technology developed quickly and the research centre soon grew to 29 buildings spread over 27 hectares. However, the higgledy-piggledy nature of the complex meant that there were few opportunities for those working there to interact. The research centre was also isolated from the local community by high fences and the River IJ. Many people living on the southern bank didn’t even consider it to be part of Amsterdam.

By the turn of the new millennium, however, it became clear that a new facility was needed to keep up with the changes in science, research and technology. To stay competitive, Shell needed to innovate. The company decided to sell most of the site for development and construct a new state-of-the-art building with all activities under one roof.

In 2009, Shell’s new technology centre was officially opened in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange. The completed building marks a new era in science and research. 

Today, what was an old and seemingly chaotic industrial site is being transformed into a sustainable and innovative urban environment, with the STCA playing a major part. The ‘North Amsterdam Quarter’, also known as the Overhoeks district, is now one of the places to be. Swanky, desirable apartments with private gyms and balconies that overlook the water have sprung up. EYE, the iconic new film and television museum completed in 2011, beckons those from across the water who are mesmerised by its sleek lines and sparkling white facade.

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