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Odgers Interim and Berwick Partners Annual Chemicals Industry Dinner

30 March 2016

On 25th February we welcomed Steve Bagshaw, Chief Executive of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies and chair of the UK Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum (IBLF) as guest speaker to our annual chemicals dinner in Teesside.

The event brought together leaders from numerous chemicals, plastics and drugs manufacturing companies to discuss industry potential and the need for a joined up approach to bio-development in the UK.

The bioeconomy relates to all revenue from bio-based products and processes which contribute to sustainable solutions to the challenges faced in food, chemicals, materials, energy production, health and environmental protection. Steve Bagshaw addressed the group based on his vast experiences at Fujifilm, where bio-based drugs are created using cells which are cultivated and then turned into proteins.

The bioeconomy currently supports around four million jobs across the UK, and is worth over £150bn. Globally it is growing at around 10% year-on-year, meaning the UK has a great opportunity to partake in the future success of this broad industry. The UK isn’t starting from scratch on this journey either, as it is already the world leader in niche areas such as synthetic biology, and has a number of fast-growing companies developing world-leading technologies – ranging from small start-ups to large international blue-chips. Though, more work needs to be done to fully commercialise the UK’s extensive bio expertise.

While some attendees already use bio techniques, there was agreement that investment and focus is needed to challenge the traditional approach with chemicals. The group also noted the significant potential for further job creation in the UK, and the necessity of the approach as a more environmentally sustainable option. As the world population continues to grow so rapidly, the bioeconomy presents solutions to problems such as increasing crop yields, creating new vaccines for diseases, and developing innovative processes that use less energy and produce less waste.

Innovation is at the heart of what is needed for the UK to realise bio-potential. Fujifilm is a great example of this as it diversified into healthcare to adapt to the introduction of digital cameras and resultant loss of 60% of its revenue a decade ago. Based on his experiences, Steve addressed the need to bring academia, research, funding agencies, government, business, NGOs, and financiers together to collaborate and build a bio strategy for the UK. 

From what we can see there is a need for commercial minded bio-specialists to help companies seize these opportunities and form new alliances. A combination of scientific understanding, and strong managerial skills are desired in order to inspire and manage small companies to drive growth.

The bioeconomy faces interesting cultural and branding challenges too though, as people are happy to accept bio-based GM drugs but are not so welcoming to the idea of other bio-innovation such as GM fruit or vegetables. Other forms of interim talent such as communications experts may be required in the future to encourage broader public understanding and acceptance.

This event proved a valuable networking tool for the businesses that attended, who agreed that there are real opportunities for people that recognise it’s a sector that needs help in order to capitalise on the exciting potential.  

Tom Legard, Consultant within Energy, Manufacturing and Infrastructure at Odgers Interim. 


Categories: Energy, Manufacturing & Infrastructure

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