|Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman.
May I take this opportunity to thank Tom Swan, Executive Chairman of Thomas Swan Co. and his colleagues for inviting me to visit Consett today to officially open this new multi purpose supercritical fluids plant.
I am delighted to be able to open this facility, as it represents the UK manufacturing and industrial environmental management at its very best. It is also an excellent example of green chemicals, highlighting that we must use science to solve our environmental problems, with examples like this leading the way.
Its completion is the result of collaboration between Thomas Swan Co., The University of Nottingham and Chematur Engineering of Sweden and is the first of its type in the world.
I am looking forward to seeing the plant in action and having the opportunity to find out more about the technology that has been used to bring this seven year project to fruition.
In recent years Consett and the North East have seen many changes; traditional industries have declined or diversified and new businesses have been attracted to the region.
The message now is a positive one - companies like Thomas Swan Co., which innovate and use new pioneering technologies, are flourishing, and are evidence of the potential of the North East as a prime location for innovative businesses. Thomas Swan Co. also recognise that there is more that can be done at a regional level to improve the competitiveness of all the stakeholders in this sector, and is working with the Regional Development Agency, One North East, on developing a strategy for the Pharmaceutical and Speciality Chemical Cluster.
To help us to look ahead, the Department of Trade and Industry has set up an Innovation Growth Team for the Chemical industry, under Byron Grote who is the Chief Executive of BP Chemicals. This is formulating a vision of what the future chemicals industry in the UK might look like and how we might get there. The IGT will be reporting later this year and will make recommendations to industry, Government and others for specific actions. I know that Dai Hayward here is actively involved in the work of the Innovation and Technology Pull-Through Strategy Group and I look forward to seeing the results of all the IGT's hard work.
The new supercritical plant is designed to provide faster, cleaner, cheaper and more selective synthesis. It is very important that, as in this instance, scientific research and innovation gets translated into applied uses in business. Thomas Swan is an excellent example of a company that uses innovation and new technology to find commercial solutions and opportunities, and Tom Swan has worked relentlessly at the frontier of developing new applications for chemicals, which has included a DTI funded project in photonics. Tom Swan has also worked consistently to seek to improve the reputation of the chemicals industry, most notably through the Children Challenging Industry Programme run out of York University, and it is imaginative schemes with children, like this, which will influence the future.
Though supercritical fluids have already been used successfully in other specialised applications including the decaffeinating of coffee and hop extraction in brewing this is the first full scale facility for continuous multi-purpose synthesis using supercritical fluid and can synthesise up to 1000 tonnes per year.
I want also to congratulate Thomas Swan for being cited in a leading US trade magazine, (Chemical Week Supplement on Chemical Speciality Companies Sept/Oct 2001) as one of the world's top twenty innovators. It is very encouraging that a medium sized UK company was featured in the top twenty and I hope that others in the North East and the chemicals industry will follow this lead.
I was also pleased to hear that Thomas Swan's achievements were also recognised earlier this week at the Chemicals Industry Association Annual Industry Awards when they won awards in two of the seven categories for their work on Innovation and Responsible Care.
It is with great pleasure that I now declare the Thomas Swan Company Supercritical Fluids Plant open. This is a shinning example of British innovation at it's best and I wish it every success.