UK-based expert oxidation catalysis company Catexel has been recognised for its rapid rate of growth, winning this year’s Deloitte Technology Fast 500 award. In the same week, Catexel secured two new patents for water treatment science. Sarah Harding spoke to Catexel’s Chief Operating Officer, Glenn Fletcher, about the company’s recent achievements and what they mean for the future.
Oxidation catalysis specialist, Catexel, is the only clean technology company headquartered in the UK to be included in Deloitte’s celebrated Technology Fast 500 EMEA scheme. The green chemicals business has ranked alongside organizations involved in all areas of technology advancement to be named one of 2016’s fastest growing technology companies in Europe, The Middle East and Africa (EMEA) over the past 4 years. Catexel was one of 20 ‘clean technology’ companies to compete against other rapidly growing operations from across the hi-tech, life sciences, media and telecommunications spaces, in securing Fast 500 status.
Also, in the past week, Catexel has filed patents that could be game-changing for a range of industrial water applications. Bacterial contamination and biofilm formation can cause corrosion and reduce efficiency of mechanical systems involving water. More efficient on-site chlorine dioxide generation can help combat these challenges, and Catexel’s new technology prevents manganese and iron complexes from generating chlorine dioxide from chlorite salts.
Sarah Harding (SH) spoke to Glenn Fletcher (GF), Chief Operating Officer, about these achievements.
SH: Congratulations on this prestigious Fast 500 award! What does it mean for Catexel to receive this kind of recognition?
GF: Thank you Sarah. We are incredibly proud to have been recognised as one of the fastest growing clean tech companies in EMEA and to share a platform with some of today’s most successful tech pioneers. Our inclusion on the Fast 500 list demonstrates the results of our hard work and investment in clean tech R&D and the successes of the Catexel team in collaboration with our network of industry partners.
SH: I understand the median growth for this year’s Fast 500 EMEA companies was 967%. Are you able to tell me what kind of growth rate was shown by Catexel in the 4-year period?
GF: Catexel is an Intellectual Property (IP)-rich, asset light business and our journey so far has seen us achieve a number of key business milestones in quick succession. Given that the business only started at the beginning of 2012 (the first period of the four-year qualifying period) the % stats are right up there and the revenue growth rate from a “standing start” has been significant; but what is probably more impressive is the huge growth of the underlying IP protected technology platforms that will drive continued revenue growth by offering solutions to the problems of our industry partners.
To have been recognized alongside traditionally faster growing high-tech companies shows how ambitious chemical companies with a proven runway of potential and, importantly, platforms that support a more sustainable way forward, can compete on the world stage and in all areas of technology advancement.
SH: That’s very impressive. What do you think underlies your success?
GF: Value creation comes from having the right people and processes to bridge the technical and commercial gap that – left open – prevents many inventions from succeeding to market. It’s this meeting of minds that makes pioneering technologies not just possible but operationally valid and economically rewarding. And that’s the difference between having an idea and actually implementing game-changing innovation.
Our success is underpinned by our highly skilled team of scientists and commercialization professionals, together thinking laterally and enabling our science to be leveraged for a broad range of seemingly unrelated markets and applications. By building a strong and nimble team who are not only experts in their field but are also commercially astute and focused on delivering exceptional value-added solutions to our customers, we have been able to successfully bridge the gap between what’s technically possible and commercially viable.
We have developed extensive R&D resources in The Netherlands and the team, led by our CTO Dr Ronald Hage, has filed around two dozen patent families and built a database of over 3,000 proprietary compounds. Their in-depth knowledge of the end application and our overall commercialization expertise has led to the rapid adoption breakthrough technologies.
Another critical component of our success is our ecosystem of outsourced manufacturing, academic and regulatory partners who have enabled us to move quickly and agilely. These strategic partnerships are the product of an aligned way of working with the concept of open innovation at the core. Together we make processes faster, cleaner, safer and absolutely suited to the application and operating conditions – thus leading to commercial gain from firm foundations.
SH: Can you tell us more about your new patents, and the applications in which they are likely to be used?
GF: These new patents build on our existing patent portfolio as we seek to ever expand our IP base. The patents provide a protected catalytic enabling technology that offers, amongst other things, a major development in addressing mission-critical maintenance challenges for industrial water applications. Processes involving chlorine dioxide are heavily relied upon in pulp and paper mills, water treatment processes and many cleaning applications due to its antimicrobial properties. The technology has the potential to replace CIO2 generators by enabling the in-situ production of CIO2. The ability to regenerate chlorite, a major waste product after the use of CIO2 will lead to a significant reduction of the chemical load to deliver environmental and cost savings.
This latest development demonstrates our track record in turning a suite of catalysts into commercially viable platforms for positive change in industry and we are looking to pursue strategic collaborations with potential industry partners across the water treatment space.
SH: Where in the fine and speciality chemicals industry do you think there is the greatest potential for more sustainable operations right now, and how can Catexel help the industry achieve that potential?
GF: Our mission is to develop solutions that make processes faster, more efficient and more eco-friendly to support our customers in achieving tangibly more sustainable and more profitable operations. We are seeing great potential in industries such as textiles, industrial cleaning operations and coatings who are under pressure to introduce new processes to meet demands for more sustainable and more corporately responsible processes.
Another area of focus is water treatment. Water is a valuable but increasingly scarce resource and efforts to recover and recycle more water have ramped up significantly as a result. We are working hard to accelerate applications for catalysts that can remove undesirable pollutants in a sustainable way.
However, we recognize that these industries have long-established processes. This means that the testing, formulation and optimization work takes time and effort, but once the efficacy is clear, businesses are more open to embracing change.
SH: What’s next for Catexel?
GF: As a business, we are constantly adapting to shifting market dynamics and regulatory changes which present both opportunities and challenges. We will continue to work to support industry with next-generation technologies that will drive them forward to where they need to go next, and where possible, be one step ahead of the curve.
We see particular promise for our coatings, low-temperature bleaching, industrial cleaning and anti-microbial products and have identified India as a market with huge potential for our water treatment solutions.
We will continue to push ourselves to take on the world’s major industrial challenges to bring about solutions that offer greater efficiencies, reductions in waste and are cleaner than existing processes – encouraging change in a sustainable, corporately responsible and profitable way.