Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Chemical Formula Right for Synthesising Great Wealth

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Chemical Formula Right for Synthesising Great Wealth

Article excerpt

The North-East has the chemistry essential to be a world leader in technological advances, says Brian Nicholls.

One glance at the Top 200 will show how times have changed ( and how the North-East chemicals sector for example has diversified, broadened its horizons even further and taken the region onto new frontiers of development.

Once "North-East chemicals" and "ICI" were invariably uttered in the same breath. ICI, since 1883, had led Teesside's growth as a global chemicals centre. Its workforce reached 35,000 at peak.

ICI is still there ( and at Prudhoe in Northumberland ( but now employing fewer than 1,000 people to turn out a variety of products from paints and polymers to ingredients for toothpaste and soap.

True, it has among other interests pounds 50m invested in a nitrobenzene and aniline plant at Wilton.

But the nature of the beast has changed.

Even when it has a great thing going, it might now choose to sell it on, as it has done with catalyser Synetix to Johnson Matthey.

At the top end of the Top 200 today it's names such as Huntsman International, BASF, Petroplus and Dupont Sabanci Polyester you see filling sixth, 10th, 17th and 24th places respectively ( companies with know-how brought in from the USA, Germany and the Netherlands.

Other mighty participants include Dow Chemicals, BP, Conoco Phillips and Elementis, the world's biggest producer of chrome chemicals.

There has been a huge diffusion of commercial interest, in other words, which whatever else the implication, means the North-East's reputation as a chemicals centre remains sound internationally.

Process-chemicals industries, as they are now called, thus remain the region's biggest generator of wealth. Whatever the job cuts announced from time to time, they still provide work for 35,000 people ( 25pc of the region's manufacturing workers.

Though some companies in that sector come and go and re-invent themselves the North-East has potential global excellence in this field. …

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