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Science & Innovation

June 27th 2020 marked the fourth Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (MSME) day, established by the International Council for Small Businesses (ICSB).

Along with online events, the ICSB published its annual report highlighting not only the importance of MSMEs as they relate to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals but also calling for further political and regulatory support for the sector as the global economy looks to make a recovery.

 Concept of a green economy

Concept of a green economy 

Ahmed Osman, President of the ICSB, used the annual report to share his perspectives on the future for MSMEs in the post pandemic world and posed the question ‘What is the new normal for MSMEs?’  

‘There are six key factors every MSME or start-up needs to keep in mind post Covid-19,’ Osman stated, the first of these being financial assessment and security. Encouraging MSMEs to put in place a financial action plan, obtaining information about government relief packages and getting a clear picture of investor expectations, Osman said;  ‘Once this financial risk assessment and support ecosystem are in place, one can execute the plan. This may involve deciding on a potential pay cut, pull back on investments related to infrastructure or expansion, halting new recruitment etc…’

 Digital Business and Technology Concept

Digital Business and Technology Concept 

Having secured the financial footing the next factor was to re-evaluate the business plan in light of the new conditions. Osman stressed the importance of involving all stakeholders to come up with a mutually agreed set of new targets. The third factor to consider, according to Osman, was creating a ‘strong digital ecosystem.’ ‘If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught businesses. It is the power of digital engagement. Even as an MSME, it helps to be present and active on digital media…Additionally, a digitally enabled internal ecosystem also needs to be in place that can accommodate remote working…without compromising data  security or productivity of employees.’

The fourth factor Osman highlighted was adoption of the fourth revolution for business. ‘…This is also time to leverage the new age technology innovations and adopt the fourth revolution for business. While most SMEs and MSMEs look at this as an ‘out of league’ investment, it is actually very simple and can be incorporated for a higher ROI in the long run. Be it automation, CRM, ERP, IoT, a well planned strategy to scale to technology-enabled, highly productive next generation business can be worked out with a two to three year plan,’ Osman said.

 Bulb future technology

Bulb future technology

Less reliance on physical space was the fifth factor Osman highlighted, anticipating a reversal in the trend that led to increasing the number of people in an office and home working becoming more normal.

The final factor Osman highlighted was the need to have a crisis management strategy in place. ‘It is vital to chalk up an effective crisis management plan that will take into consideration both immediate and long-term impact,’ he said.

Encouraging MSMEs to take stock, Osman asked ‘How did you help in the great pandemic? Quantify what you did for your employees, customers, community and country. Leverage the opportunity to build a better business, have credible solutions to the new major challenge and think globally act locally.’


Careers

In this third article in our ‘How to…’ series, we reflect on what we learned from Martin Curry, STEM Healthcare, in his training session on managing the money.

What is a profit and loss table?

A table detailing all business transactions showing all incoming and outgoing cash activity. This will inform potential investors and credit sources how your business will generate its income and manage its costs. Documenting this information is important to show the progression (improvement) over a period and to forecast whether your business is set to make a future profit or loss.

 profit loss forecasting

So why is forecasting important?

A profit and loss table give businesses an idea of where the business is headed financially.

If your forecast suggests that profit levels will be low and therefore capital will be limited, it can help you to become more cautious with your credit and supply chain arrangements. Having this level of insight can help you to manage your risks and allow you to rethink your strategy in order to reduce loss and increase profitability.

 Manufacturing costs

Manufacturing costs

Monitoring your manufacturing costs is critical in order to represent the efficiency of the production process. There are two types of costs: fixed and variable.

Fixed: rent, rates, employee, insurance,

Variable: raw materials, transport, utilities,

Keeping track of the manufacturing costs will allow you to review the expenses associated with all the resources spent in the process of making the finished goods. To maximise the productivity of each unit of materials you use in the manufacturing process, ensure you review your procedures, materials and ensure waste is reduced to its minimum during the process.

 Financial awareness

Financial awareness

Awareness of the market is key to impressing potential investors; knowing what the key drivers are and understanding the risks and the market demand. Having this information enables you to provide evidence that you can effectively evaluate the commerciality of the project.

In summary, investors will be able to learn a great deal from the financial figures of a business. Thus, preparing a profit and loss account (detailing the business transactions) is critical to providing an insight of the business’s overall position within the market.


Careers

This latest instalment of SCI Energy Group’s blog delves deeper into the working life of another one of its own members – Peter Reineck.

Peter is currently a consultant working alongside technology developers. Throughout this article, he shares insights into his career to date.

 Peter Reineck

Figure 1- Peter Reineck

Peter, can you please provide a brief introduction about yourself? 

I worked with a number of chemical and environmental service companies in the UK and Canada in commercial operations roles.

I now work as a consultant with technology developers to support market and business development.

Can you please explain how your job is aligned with the energy sector? 

I have a particular interest in advanced combustion systems with CO2 capture.

Most recently, I became involved in a new project to produce bio-based plastic that would replace fossil-based plastics in packaging and other applications.

Bio-based plastic has the advantage of producing biogenic CO2 if composted or sent for energy recovery at end of life.

In your current role, what are your typical day-to-day tasks?

Typically, my work involves communicating with stakeholders by phone and email and in meetings, assessing their responses and planning developments accordingly.

 chemicals in vials

Figure 2 - A knowledge of science is particularly helpful

How has your education/previous experience prepared you for this role?

I would say that English language skills and a knowledge of science and chemistry in particular have been the most helpful in my career.

What is your favourite aspect of your current job role?

Consultancy works well for me as the focus is on business development activities; as well, the hours are flexible.

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

A high degree of self-discipline is required in order to meet deadlines.

So far, what is your biggest accomplishment/ achievement throughout your career? 

The most satisfying were moving a number of businesses forward into new markets and applications.

 hourglass

Figure 3 - Self-discipline is required to meet deadlines

In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest problem faced in this field of work at present? 

I think the biggest problem is regulatory changes which affect the potential market for new technologies for packaging and power generation.

These changes are governmental responses to activist claims which are not based on a holistic interpretation of a complete set of data.

What advice would you give someone who is seeking / about to enter the same field of work? 

A practical understanding of science and statistics is essential. Combined with, an ability to translate new technologies into solutions which are economically viable.


Careers

On 6 December 2019 SCI held its entrepreneurial training day for this year’s Bright SCIdea Challenge. The first article in our How to series will take a look at what we learned from Neil Simpson, R&D Director at Borchers, in his training session on how to market and brand your idea.

In order to successfully promote a product or service, it is essential to understand the customer and the market. It is important to be more effective than your competitors in creating, delivering and communicating your idea.

Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP) is a useful tool to help you to define your product and customer base.

When segmenting your customer base, consider the demographics including age, income and gender, as well as their geographical location and behavioural traits.

Once you have segmented your customer base, you will be able to identify which groups are the most suited for your product.

After you have considered which segments to target, you need to take into consideration what your product solves for these people – what is your unique selling point?

 Marketing Mix

The 4 Ps – Marketing Mix

Once you have used the STP framework to define your product and customer base, you can use the 4 Ps Marketing Mix to develop a strategy to bring your product to the market.

Product – This can be a tangible product, for example clothing, or a service. You should consider: What does your product stand for? What needs does it satisfy? How does it differ to your competitors?

Price – It is vital to think carefully about the pricing of your product. Do you compete on price or quality? Consider the perceived value of your product, along with supply costs and competitors’ prices. Pricing your product too high or too low could harm your sales and reputation.

Place – Where is the best location to provide your product to your customer base, and how do you distribute it to them? If you understand your customer base, you will be able to answer important questions such as: Where do your target customers shop? Do they buy online, or in high street shops?

Promotion – What is the most effective way to market your product and which channels should you use? Will you run a social media and email campaign? Would you benefit from attending conferences and exhibitions?

 laptop
Use SWOT to summarise your position

Finally, a useful tool to analyse your current position is the SWOT model. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Strengths – How are you perceived by your customer base? What separates you from your competitors?

Weaknesses – What do others see as your weaknesses? What do your competitors do better than you?

Opportunities – What are current market trends? Are there any funding opportunities you could apply for? Are there any gaps in the market?

Threats – Are there any emerging competitors? Do you have any negative media or press coverage?

Using STP, the 4 Ps, and SWOT will be invaluable when it comes to completing your business plan. The more you understand your product, your customer base, where you sell it, and how you sell it, the more successful you will be!

 ipad graphic



image
Use SWOT to summarise your position

image
Use SWOT to summarise your position


Policy

 Bright SCIdea Challenge 1

All Images: Andrew Lunn/SCI

On 19 March 2019, SCI hosted the second annual final of the Bright SCIdea Challenge, bringing together some of the brightest business minds of the future to pitch their science-based innovation to a panel of expert judges and a captivated audience.

As an opportunity to support UK/ROI students interested in commercialising their ideas and developing their business skills, the final included talks and training from our judges and networking with industry professionals.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge

The day started with a poster session and networking, including posters from teams Glubiotech, Online Analytics, HappiAppi and NovaCAT.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge
 Bright SCIdea Challenge

Training sessions came next, with Neil Wakemen from Alderley Park Accelerator speaking first on launching a successful science start-up.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne from Genius Foods spoke next on her personal business story, going from the kitchen to lab to supermarket shelves.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge

Participants could catch a glimpse of the trophies before giving their pitches.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge
 Bright SCIdea Challenge

The first team to pitch were Team Seta from UCL, with their idea for a high-throughput synthetic biology approach for biomaterials.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge
 Bright SCIdea Challenge

Team Plastech Innovation from Durham University presented their sustainable plastic-based concrete.

 Bright SCIdea Challenge 11
 

Closing the first session, Team DayDreamers. pitched their AI-driven mental wellness app.

 

The break was filled with networking between delegates and industry professionals.

 
 

Opening the second session, Team BRISL Antimicrobials, from UCL, showcased their innovative light-activated antimicrobial bristles that could be used in toothbrushes.

 
 

The final pitch of the day was from Team OxiGen, from the University of St Andrews, presenting their designer cell line for optimised protein expression.

 

After asking lots of questions during each pitch, the judges were left with the difficult task of deciding a winner.

 

Team HappiAppi, from Durham University, were voted the best poster by the audience!

 

The second runner-up was Team Seta!

 

The first runner-up was Team BRISL Antimicrobials!

 

Congratulations to the winners Team Plastech Innovation!! They win £5000 towards their idea.


We would like to thank our participating teams, sponsors (INEOS and Synthomer), guest speakers and judges (Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Robin Harrison, Inna Baigozina-Goreli, Ian Howell & Dave Freeman).


Health & Wellbeing

Clinical trials for a new coeliac disease vaccine are being fast tracked by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) due to promising initial results.

gluten free bread

Coeliac disease is caused by an autoimmune response to gluten and affects approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide. Those affected must eat a gluten-free diet, or they may experience uncomfortable digestive symptoms, mouth ulcers, fatigue and anaemia.

What’s the big deal with gluten? Video: TED-Ed

Problems occur for coeliac disease patients when they are exposed to gluten – a protein found in wheat and other grains – and the immune system is triggered to attack the body. This results in inflammation, mainly in the intestines, and causes the subsequent acute symptoms related to the condition.

Over 90% of coeliac disease patients carry immune recognition genes known as HLA-DQ2.5. These genes are human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, which usually relate to specific diseases.

 injection needle

ImmusanT, a leader in the development of therapies for autoimmune disorders, has developed a vaccine that targets patients carrying the HLA-DQ2.5 genes. This novel therapeutic vaccine, known as Nexvax2, works by reprogramming specific T cells that are responsible for triggering an inflammatory response when gluten is consumed.

 


Careers

University students from across the UK came to SCI HQ in London on Friday 7 December 2018 for a day of face-to-face business and innovation and entrepreneurship training, which was exclusively available to entrants to the Bright SCIdea Challenge 2019.

The students heard from experts in their fields on topics such as ‘Managing the Money’, ‘Defining the Market’, Intellectual Property (IP) and ‘How to Pitch’.

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 1
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 2

Sharon Todd, SCI’s Executive Director, introduces the students to SCI and the Bright SCIdea Challenge.  

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 3
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 4

David Prest, from our corporate supporter Drochaid Research Services, talks to delegates about defining the market and taking their product from lab to the market.

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 5
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 6
 

Our Bright SCIdea applicants learnt about IP from Charlotte Crowhurst, a patent lawyer and partner from Potter Clarkson.

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 8
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 9

Martin Curry from our sponsor STEM Healthcare teaches the audience about managing the money of a business.

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 10
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 11

Libby Linfied – one-third of our 2018 UCL winners Team Glucoguard – spoke about her experience and journey to last year’s final. 

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 12

Victor Christou, CEO of Cambridge Innovation Capital and 2018 Head Judge, ran an interactive session on how to pitch. 

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 13
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 14

Groups were given everyday objects to pitch to Victor.

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 15
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 16
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 17
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 18

The students made compelling arguments for a plug adapter, hi-vis vest, ‘phone pillow’ and lunchbox.

 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 19
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 20
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 21
 The 2019 Bright SCIdea Challenge 22

Delegates and trainers mingled at a wine reception in the evening.


The Bright SCIdea Challenge 2019 final will take place on Tuesday 19 March 2019 at SCI HQ in London. Teams will compete for a chance to win £5,000!


Careers

 

Interested in the pharmaceutical industry and research community? Take a look at this short video to see how we bring science and business together. 

Policy

 

💡In 2018, we launched the #BrightSCIdea Challenge – an opportunity for students with a science-based innovation to gain expert training in developing an idea into a business. 💡

💡The response was incredible, and we invited six fantastic teams to pitch their innovation at the very first final. The winning team walked away with £1,000… 💡

💡Now, we’re taking entries for 2019, and we’re offering the winners not double, not treble, but five times the prize! To find out more and register your interest for the 2019 #BrightSCIdea Challenge, visit www.soci.org/brightscidea 💡

💡Show us you mean business!💡

Policy

 

💡In 2018, we launched the #BrightSCIdea Challenge – an opportunity for students with a science-based innovation to gain expert training in developing an idea into a business. 💡

💡The response was incredible, and we invited six fantastic teams to pitch their innovation at the very first final. The winning team walked away with £1,000… 💡

💡Now, we’re taking entries for 2019, and we’re offering the winners not double, not treble, but five times the prize! To find out more and register your interest for the 2019 #BrightSCIdea Challenge, visit www.soci.org/brightscidea 💡

💡Show us you mean business!💡

Careers

 

💡 bit.ly/SCIdea2018 💡 Bright SCIdea Challenge – show us you mean business. Watch to find out about our competition, for students with a bright idea for a science-based business. There’s a £1,000 prize! 💡

Sustainability & Environment

English wine is on the rise. In 50 years, production has increased by more than three orders of magnitude, from a negligible 1,500 bottles/year to a respectable 5.3 million.  

Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, grapes are harvested around two weeks before the traditional dates. In the Champagne region, harvest kicked off on 26 August 2017, while the average date for previous years was 10 September. In Burgoyne, home of Beaujolais wines, harvest began on 23 August, also two weeks ahead of schedule. Harvest workers in that area are also doing night shifts to reduce heat stress for the sensitive grapes.

 French vineyards

French vineyards are struggling with the changes to traditional harvests. Image: Max Pixel

Both phenomena – the success of English wine and the earlier harvests in France – are linked to climate change. In a few decades, the favourable wine-growing conditions historically enjoyed by the Champagne region may have migrated to England.

As the life cycle of the grapevine – and therefore quality and quantity of the wine obtained – is extremely sensitive to temperature and weather extremes, wine growers have already been noticing the effects of climate change for years. Researchers have detailed how conditions have changed, how they are likely to change further, and what vineyards can do to adapt.


High-value product

All agricultural products are likely to be affected by climate change at some point, but wine occupies a special position due to its high value. Therefore, wine growers have always watched the weather and its effects on their vineyards very closely, and recorded their observations.

cheese and wine gif

Originally posted by butteryplanet

Climate scientist Benjamin Cook from Columbia University at New York and ecologist Elizabeth Wolkovich from Harvard University, have analysed harvest data spanning more than 400 years, from 1600 to 2007, from European regions, together with the weather data.

While many studies have covered the last few decades, this one reaches back to the time before the Industrial Revolution.

Higher temperatures in spring and summer generally speed the whole process and lead to earlier harvests, like the one in 2017, while cool and rainy summers can delay the phrenology and thus the harvest time. Traditionally, the observation was that a warm summer and a period of drought just before grape picking is the best recipe for an early harvest.

 Grape picking

Grape picking is easiest after a warm summer. Image: Pixabay

‘Our research, and other work, has clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that climate change is already affecting viticulture worldwide,’ explains Cook, adding that: ‘There are lots of opportunities for adaptation in various locations, such as planting different varieties, but the most important thing is for people to starting planning for the next several decades, when conditions are likely to get even warmer still.’


Adapt or move?

So, what could be changed? Short of pulling up Pinot Noir vines in Champagne and replanting them in Dorset, there are some steps wine-makers can take to ensure a good harvest.

The Chemistry of Wine. Video: Reactions

For instance, growers could add a few days to the ripening cycle by delaying the spring pruning, or by allowing the vines to grow higher above the ground, where the air is slightly cooler than just above the soil. While these changes are benign, other measures, such as reducing the leaf area, may have complex consequences that could interfere with the quality of the wine.

In selecting the plant material, growers could reverse the trends of the 20th Century, when it made sense to select rapidly ripening varieties. Simply by adapting the choice of variety from among the range of varieties already used in a given region to the changing climate, growers can to some extent mitigate the anticipated effects.

cheers gif

Originally posted by wildsouls-thirstyhearts

Alternatively, wine production could migrate closer to the poles. Wines now coming from California may be produced in Washington State, and the premium fizz we now call Champagne may one day be known as Devon or Kent.

 

Sustainability & Environment

Cellular agriculture involves making food from cell cultures in bioreactors. The products are chemically identical to meat and dairy products, and it’s claimed they have the same taste and texture.

The technology is an attractive option because it would reduce the world’s reliance on livestock, which is unsustainable, and would have potential knock-on benefits of lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced water, land, and energy usage than traditional farming.

milk gif

Originally posted by butteryplanet

IndieBio helps biotechnology start-ups. Since 2014, it has funded several new US-based businesses in cellular agriculture: Perfect Day, formerly Muufri, makes milk from cell culture; Clara Foods is developing a way to make egg whites from cell culture; and Memphis Meats is focusing on animal-free meat using tissue engineering.

Growth is driven by the clear benefits this technology can offer, says Ron Sigeta, IndieBio’s Chief Scientific Officer. ‘It takes 144 gallons of water to make a gallon of milk or 53 gallons of water to make an egg. Cellular agriculture products don’t require such large water supplies, or large tracts of land, or produce the same level of greenhouse gas emissions.’

 Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria are not present in cell-cultured milk so there is no risk of infection. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Food safety is also a significant issue. ‘Cellular agriculture makes products in an entirely controlled environment so it’s a source of food we can understand with a transparency that is simply not possible now,’ says Sigeta. For example, raw, unpasteurised milk can carry bacteria, such as salmonella, which is not a problem for Perfect Day’s milk as there are no bacteria-carrying animals are involved.


So how does it work?

Cellular agriculture products can be acellular – made of organic molecules like proteins and fats – or cellular – made of living or once-living cells.

Meat industry critics argue that it is not sustainable and lab-grown meat is the future. Video: Eater

Acellular products are made without using microbes like yeast or similar bacteria. Scientists alter the yeast by inserting the gene responsible for making the desired protein. Since all cells read the same genetic code, the yeast, now carrying recombinant DNA, makes the protein molecularly identical to the protein an animal makes.

Other products like meat and leather are produced by a cellular approach. Using tissue engineering techniques muscle, fat or skin cells can be assembled on a scaffold with nutrients. The cells can be grown in large quantities and then combined to make the product.

 cultured beef patty

The first cultured beef patty was made in 2013. Image: Public Domain Pictures

Mark Post at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, made the first cultured beef hamburger in 2013 using established tissue engineering methods to grow cow muscle cells. The process, however, was expensive and time-consuming, but his team has been working on improvements.

‘We are focusing on hamburgers because our process results in small tissues that are large enough for minced meat applications, which accounts for half of the meat market. To make a steak, one would need to impose a larger 3D structure to the cells to grow in.

‘It is very important that such a structure contains a channel system to perfuse the nutrients and oxygen through to the developing tissue and to remove waste as a result of metabolic activity. This technology is being developed, but is not yet ready for large scale production.’

 genetically engineered meat

Surveys have shown that the public are behind genetically engineered meat alternatives. Image: Ben Amstutz@Flickr 


Future outlook

Commercial challenges include finding a cost-effective medium for cell nutrition developing a bioreactor for industrial scale production. Public perception may also be a challenge: Will people buy synthetically engineered food?

A recent crowdfunding campaign shows the global massive support for the idea of clean meat, says Koby Barak, SuperMeat’s chief operating officer and co-founder. However, he believes these will be overcome shortly, and it will not be long before companies see ‘massive funding’ in this field and the creation of clean meat factories worldwide.

Sustainability & Environment

In March 2017, the world’s largest coatings producer, Pennsylvania-based PPG – which three years ago announced it had budgeted $4bn for major acquisitions but still has nothing to show for it – laid siege to Amsterdam-based rival AkzoNobel. More recently, US hedge funds have drawn Basel-based Clariant into their sights.

While the motives of industrial investors and hedge funds differ, the tactics of forcing a company to make strategic changes that seemingly will generate more value suit both. Pursued for some time by private equity, and aware that other would-be suitors were hot on its trail, Akzo earlier in 2017 announced plans to hive off its speciality chemicals business into a standalone company. The same concerns were central to Clariant in its decision to merge with Huntsman. As it appears, neither tactic has deterred or deferred activist action.

 Binnenhof The Hague

Binnenhof, The Hague, Netherlands. The Dutch government assisted Akzo in avoiding the attempted takeover. Image: Wikimedia Commons

At Akzo, PPG wielded the battering ram into June, with even the lure of a €26bn deal making no impression. With moral support from the Dutch government, the European coatings market leader parried the thrust. Nevertheless, financial markets have it that the US rival, with support from activist investor Elliott Advisers – which owns 9.5% of the Dutch player’s share capital – will return to fight another day.

Elliott continues to stir the waters with legal challenges. It has lost two cases so far, but the tentative truce sought by the courts until Akzo holds an extraordinary general meeting in September appears shaky. Already, the defence effort has taken a toll on the Amsterdam company, which owns the assets sloughed off some years ago by erstwhile chemical industry heavyweight ICI.

train gif

Originally posted by juliendouvier

Swiss chemical company Clariant, whose interests vary from transport to beauty, are also under siege from US opponents.

Down the road in Switzerland, Clariant is being pummelled by White Tale, an acquisition vehicle for US hedge funds Corvex and 40 North, which have meanwhile acquired 10% of its share capital. The funds are seeing to torpedo the merger with Huntsman, contending that the combination lacks strategic rationale and undermines the Swiss group’s strategy of becoming a pure-play specialty chemicals company.

Because of the family’s interest, the New York vulture capitalists can’t get their hands completely around the Huntsman jugular, but making the leaders of the family-led business uncomfortable about the impact on its business may generate some degree of satisfaction. The US firm has already reacted to pressure by spinning off its pigments business.

 Clariant CEO Harriolf Kottmann

Clariant CEO Harriolf Kottmann. Image: PressReleaseFinder@Flickr

Also under obvious pressure, Clariant CEO Harriolf Kottmann, in presenting semi-annual financial results in July, announced that management was amenable to selling about a quarter of assets to appease the markets. This, he suggested, could include the divestment of the speciality chemicals group’s lower-margin Plastics & Coatings division.

The Swiss player’s largest business unit, spun off last year, which manufactures masterbatches and pigments for colouring plastics, accounts for 40% of group sales. With the proceeds from the asset sale, the investors reason, Clariant could pay a special dividend and make them more willing to stay the course without a merger.

The chemical industry sector is undergoing some huge changes worldwide. Video: PWC’s Strategy&

At least openly, no activist ‘invader’ has yet been spotted trying to overcome the well-fortified ramparts of Deutschland AG or been coldly brushed off by the Ecole Nationale-trained leaders of France’s chemical producers. However, if the raiders’ recent forays into the Netherlands and Switzerland eventually succeed and find imitators, the picture could change – especially as acquisition-hungry companies and the so-called vulture capital funds that took a wrecking ball to Dow and DuPont seem to have joined forces.

Meanwhile, there may be some relief on the horizon for CEOs currently struggling through sleepless nights. Even with deal fever still simmering, some M&A watchers believe takeovers or mergers worldwide may have reached their zenith. Not least, as global economic recovery gathers strength, rising interest rates will cool the enthusiasm for more expensive transactions, the argument goes.