Defining strategic priorities for the UK's formulated products sector

Posted on: 20/07/2018

A new KTN report identifies 5 priority areas and makes 7 key recommendations to secure the UK Formulated Products Sector’s leading position.

Formulation science and technologies play a key role in many chemistry-using sectors including Pharma, Food and Drink, Home and Personal Care, Paints and Coatings, Fuels and Lubricants, Agrichemicals, and Speciality Products.

So what is formulation? In simple terms, formulation is a material or mixture prepared according to a specific formula. In more technical terms, formulation can be defined as the creation of multi-component (often multi-phase) products that act as a delivery vehicle to perform a specific function. For example, this could involve developing a target (active) molecule, such as a pharmaceutical excipient, flavour, cleansing agent, perfume or lubricant, with a compatible carrier system such as a tablet, cream, lotion, solution, or gel, that transports the active component to the correct location and delivery system in order to perform a specific task at a specific location at a specific time (targeted delivery).

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The UK Formulated Products Sector is vital to the UK economy and plays a key role in tackling the societal challenges that we now face. The UK has a strong competitive advantage in formulation and is poised to take a global competitive lead to drive and take advantage of future market growth. Sales of formulated products by UK companies currently total around £180 billion per year Рlarger than the Aerospace and Automotive sectors combined Рand there is a rapidly developing overseas market.

With the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the formation of UK Research and Innovation and on-going discussions on sector deals, the UK Formulated Products sector has completed a preliminary collaborative industry consultation to ensure that UK Formulating Industries are represented within the developing Chemistry Sector Deal.

With this in mind, the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) has produced a report on UK Formulated Products Sector Strategic Priorities 2018, working with representatives from global companies including Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble (P&G), PZ Cussons, Unilever, Croda, BASF, BP and Syngenta, alongside consultation with many other formulations-based organisations. The report identifies 5 priority areas and makes 7 key recommendations to secure the UK Formulated Products Sector’s leading position.

The priority areas identified were:

  • Rapid Reformulation -¬†Late customisation of base formulation e.g. rapid replacements of key components; Regulation & REACH for Surfactants, market pull to naturals and bio-based materials and adapting to customer needs.
  • Smarter Formulation -¬†Technologies or methods which enable or improve the precisely controlled and targeted use of ingredients or which provide cross sector manufacturing best practice. Predictive design for new formulation development.
  • Greener Formulation -¬†Technologies which can be implemented in a production environment to provide better products, improved quality or a significant economic or environmental benefit towards more sustainable formulations.
  • Personalised Formulation -¬†Innovation linked to Formulation & Consumer Technologies. Technologies or methodologies which can enable the manufacturing base to meet the rapidly changing demands of personalised products.
  • Future Formulators -¬†Develop skills of the next generation of formulators as a key priority for the sector to maintain UK leading position. Training must include up-skilling the existing workforce and assisting in internal company redeployment.

Amongst the key recommendations there were suggestions that a working group be set up, and a request that the Chemistry Growth Partnership build upon the recent formation of the Food and Drink Sector Council, with assistance from Innovate UK and KTN, to disseminate these findings across the sector and voice the recommendations directly to government as part of the Chemistry Sector Deal. The report also highlights the importance of securing the future of the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and the need to extend the core funding for the National Formulation Centre (NFC). In terms of funding support, there is a recommendation to develop a dedicated UK Research and Innovation call with a focus on addressing common technical challenges where formulation science intersects across the market sectors. The report calls for the development of  a strategy across research, skills and facilities to support an emerging eco-system for digital design across length scales for smarter more rapid reformulation, and for methods to accelerate the design and optimisation of (new) formulated products throughout the supply chain from R&D to production and the market.

Rebecca Yates, Formulated Products Research Manager for Fuels and Lubricants at BP, said:

“The potential to participate in cross-industry solutions for formulated products enables transformation in finding future practical solutions and ways of working. Bringing together the formulation industry and the applications of formulation products will increase the profile of the industry as a whole.”

Emma McLeod, Research Principal at Mondelez International, said:

‚ÄúThe food and drink sector is the largest remaining manufacturing sector in the UK – it is bigger than the aerospace and automotive industries combined, and contributes over ¬£28.8 billion a year to the UK economy. As 97 per cent of companies in the sector are SMEs, the biggest challenge is getting the scale of formulations we need. CPI‚Äôs National Formulation Centre is integral to enabling the cross-sector collaboration and access to facilities required help get future food and drink formulations to scale.”

You can download the UK Formulated Products Sector Strategic Priorities 2018 report here.

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