UKTI Celebrates North West's Chemical Industry during European Month of Innovation

A government minister today marked the European Month of Innovation by praising the success of the North West’s thriving chemical industry, which accounts for more chemical exports than any other part of the country.

Last year chemical exports in the North West were worth £8.17 billion, 34% of the national total of £23.75 billion.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, Minister for Trade, Investment and Small Business said:

‘The North West’s chemical industry is a fantastic example of how our ability to foster innovation is helping to secure our future prosperity. The global market for chemicals is worth more than $1 trillion, and more than half of the world’s top 50 chemical companies have a presence in the North West.

‘The chemical industry in this region alone includes 470 manufacturers and supports over 160,000 jobs. UK Trade & Investment has its part to play helping forward-thinking companies in the North West to reap the benefits of their inventiveness and take their business even further.’

The North West is home to world class universities which produce almost 8,000 science and technology graduates a year. Even those of us who believe we left chemistry behind in the laboratories at school are benefiting every day from the region’s chemical industry.

For example, Jenny Clucas, CEO of Chemicals Northwest, stated:

‘The North West chemical industry purifies most of the UK’s drinking water, supplies refrigerants for air conditioning units to a third of the world’s cars and is the largest producer of credit card plastic in Europe.  The North West is the leading supplier of plant nutrients, provides the ingredients for 400 million bottles of the world’s hair care products, and provides lithium compounds for everything from pacemakers to plasma screens.’

Tricia Francis, Chemical Sector Lead for the International Trade Team in the North West, said:

‘We are very proud of our thriving chemical industry, which contributes such a lot to the region’s economy.  The North West has continued to maintain its position as the number one exporting region in the country for chemicals, and when you look at some of the excellent companies we have here it is easy to see how we have achieved this.’

Among the companies that the region can be proud of is Polartech, based in Trafford Park, Manchester. It has invented a metalworking coolant solution which can be used both with aluminium and magnesium - the metal now rapidly replacing aluminium in industries such as the motor trade because of its lighter weight and high strength.  Most coolants suitable for cutting aluminium have an adverse reaction when used with magnesium, meaning that manufacturers have a choice of using more coolant, changing the fluid whenever they machine a different metal or, indeed, buying extra machinery to cope with the problem. Polartech’s single grade Prima MG AL is suitable for both - and reduces the amount of coolant necessary on magnesium five fold, providing obvious savings for end users on both cost and waste.

RS Clare, in Liverpool, manufactures lubricating greases and specialist surface coatings materials which it exports to a range of destinations - including Sakhalin Island in the Russian Federation, Trinidad and Tobago.  The company was the first western firm to penetrate the Japanese shipbuilding market to supply anti-skid surfacing treatments.  And family owned firm Brad-Chem, based in Leigh, Lancashire is one of the largest independent manufacturers of lubricant additives in the UK, making technologically advanced products with low toxicity and environmental impact.  One of Brad-Chem's latest patented solutions for industry comes in the form of an additive used in cleaning formulations for aircraft to prevent corrosion of all the metals. Another patented product is used in formulations to stop zips on jeans rusting when the denim undergoes treatment processes.

Solvay, in Warrington, is part of an international chemical and pharmaceutical group. Solvay, in partnership with Cardiff University, has just won the UK Institute of Chemical Engineers 2009 Award for Innovation and Excellence in Sustainable Technology for successful lab scale demonstration of an environmentally friendly manufacturing route for hydrogen peroxide – a core Solvay product.  The Warrington site produces hydrogen peroxide based products for the pulp and paper industry, to give paper increasing brightness and strength, the detergent industry, to whiten and disinfect in dishwash and washing powders, and for electronics and chemical industry use.  Our UKTI overseas offices develop good links with parent companies, such as Solvay Belgium, to promote the advantages of using the UK when considering R&D and investment projects.

Brunner  Mond, part of the Tata group of companies, is the UK's only manufacturer of sodium carbonate and sodium  bicarbonate. Headquartered in Cheshire the company is committed to drive the pace of innovation and improvement within the industry.  It has recently brought on stream a new £10 million sodium bicarbonate manufacturing facility in Northwich to meet the growing demand for their high reaction, low residual waste Briskarb® flue gas treatment products for Energy from Waste plants needing to meet and surpass the increasingly stringent environmental standards for acid gas emissions.

Tricia Francis added:

‘As well as being home to some of the most innovative chemical companies in the world, we are also proud to have three centres of excellence that assist nationally with innovation for the chemical industry – the Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network, the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry – both based in Runcorn – and the Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBIO3) based at the University of Manchester.

‘UK Trade & Investment in the North West is continuing to work closely with all of these companies and organisations, including Chemicals Northwest, the industry-led chemical cluster support organisation for the North West,  to ensure that we continue to build on our success, assisting individual companies in making trade links overseas and promoting the region as an ideal place for inward investment.’

For further information on UK Trade & Investment services, contact the North West International Trade Team Tel: 0845 603 7053  E-mail: