Grangemouth develops cluster-based vision for the future

Chemical companies

Grangemouth Oct14Exactly a year ago this week, the INEOS petrochemical business at Grangemouth in Scotland was facing closure.  This would have been a disaster for the thousands of people employed directly and indirectly, as well as for Scotland.

The blog was very closely involved in helping to achieve a successful outcome alongside the Scottish and UK governments, INEOS and the UNITE union.  One key lesson from the dispute was the need to plan ahead, as the BBC summarised at the time:

“Perhaps the main lesson to learn from this is the need to think and plan ahead….For 49 hours between Wednesday and Friday, the threat to Grangemouth prompted Scotland to face up to a future without the business of producing and processing hydrocarbons.  This has taught us a lot about the refining and chemicals industry, just one facet being the threat facing Europe from efficient competition in other parts of the world.”

A year later, the blog is delighted to be able to update on the exciting developments now taking place.  It chaired a recent Round Table in Scotland of senior executives from industry, academic and government, organised by Scottish Enterprise.  Its summary is captured in the above interview.

The detail of the discussion is contained in an excellent ‘Chemicals in Scotland’ publication and series of video interviews with key players including Tom Crotty of INEOS and Sandy Dobbie of Chemical Sciences Scotland (both produced by ICIS for Scottish Enterprise).

One key outcome was a Vision for 2025.  This aims to set the framework for future development.  It will be based on building clusters, in line with Shell Chemicals’ CEO Graham van’t Hoff’s focus described yesterday.  The full Vision is as follows:

Scotland’s chemical and pharma sector will be providing its customers with products that deliver greater performance and are more economically affordable. It will be much larger and also exporting more.  There will have been a convergence between bio-, physics, chemistry and computational sciences, and companies will be operating with a solution orientation.  Technology translation will thus be a core skill and there will be a landscape of relevant technology centres. Investment in bio-refineries will also be well underway. 

“Scotland itself will be operating as a cluster, and this concept will be replicated in different ways in different functions and industries to enable companies to “work around” silos and produce solutions. 

“Spectacular new science will have been developed in formulation and there will be an ability to solve big complex problems, with research progressing through to the provision of real-life solutions via strong collaboration between industry and academia.  Examples will probably range from world-leading expertise in crystallisation across to marine products. The development process will have built on the concept of diversity to avoid focusing on a few “big bets”. 

“There will be a Europe-leading cluster at Grangemouth based on a portfolio of advantaged feedstocks and a virtual cluster based on the pharma/fine chemicals supply chain.  Scotland will also have built strong SME collaboration around customer-facing businesses.  The university base will be carrying out broad and deep research linked to effective delivery methods.”

Grangemouth’s renaissance is an example for everyone involved in Europe’s petrochemical industry.


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