Antwerp: The Scientific and Technical Research Center for Diamond (WTOCD) can no longer count on the unrestricted financial support from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), the umbrella organization for the Antwerp diamond industry. “The current market situation has led us to take this decision,” says Margaux Donckier, AWDC spokeswoman.
The WTOCD was established in 1977 as an independent research center in support of the Belgian diamond manufacturing sector. Over the years, the WTOCD has developed a range of devices used in the polishing, screening and grading of diamonds.
While it conducted no commercial activities, the WTOCD has always had the opportunity to diversify its financing. The AWDC hopes it will now do so quickly, given that it will not be able to continue its financial support in the future, considering the decline in trading and manufacturing activities.
“As a result of the high cost of labor in our country, almost the entirety of our diamond manufacturing has relocated abroad. This has put the WTOCD in a difficult situation,” says Donckier. “The market for these high-quality machines in Antwerp continues to shrink. They are also too high-tech, and too expensive, for the majority of polishing units in low-wage countries.”
In an attempt to bring the polishing industry back to Antwerp, the AWDC and the WTOCD for the last ten years have tried to improve its competitiveness and remedy the difficult situation by developing the FENIX, a revolutionary technology that fully automates the diamond-polishing process. “The technology has the potential to spark a revolution in diamond polishing, but at this point we recognize that additional investments are needed to ready the product for the market.”
Unfortunately, given the current market situation, this is no longer feasible for the AWDC. However, the AWDC is now considering the options for making a fresh start. The AWDC will continue in the future to facilitate scientific and technological research.