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Building on a Teesside legend; A Wilton start-up's deal with a multi-national could help realise its founder's dreams of underpinning Teesside's chemical future. KELLEY PRICE finds out more.

KRIS Wadrop's company is a labour of love.

The ex-ICI man wants to help build up Teesside's petrochemical base to its former glory, before it was hit by a string of major closures.

"In the 1990s, if you cut me through the middle you would have seen the ICI roundel," says Kris.

"But that industry has declined.

"Yes, there have been successes - but if you drive around Wilton, it isn't like it was in the 1990s."

Kris was technical manager at Uniqema, which sold to Croda in 2006.

"The Dow closure had had a knock-on effect, and the site closed," he said.

"We lost that site in early 2010."

But there's potential to make the foundations for UK manufacturing strong again, he says.

"There are materials that we consume here in petrochemicals that have to be imported from the US or Europe.

"For us to be competitive long-term, we need sustainable materials in the UK."

And that's where Solvert comes in.

"This was the main draw for Solvert," says Kris.

"The business was funded specifically to rebuild and help support the renewable chemical sector.

"Companies on Teesside would be able to source their raw materials from inside the UK.

"We want to underpin UK manufacturing - that's what we are about.

"It could not only make UK companies competitive, but differentiate them."

The company takes organic waste and turns it into the building blocks of petrochemicals for every day products such as paints and plastics.

It's piqued the interest of bosses at Suez Environnement, the parent company of SITA UK, who are investing in a year's R&D programme with the company.

Over the next year, Kris will travel the length and breadth of the country, taking samples from a range of different wastes across SITA's Materials Recycling Facilities.

It's a ringing endorsement from the national waste management company.

"Energy from waste (EfW) has its place, but SITA UK recognises doing something more with waste than simply putting it into EfW or landfill," says Kris.

And with the weight of such a big name behind the company, investors could soon come knocking.

But it hasn't been an easy ride.

"With the financial markets in the UK and in Europe being how they are since the 2008 crash, trying to promote a technology company has been practically impossible," says Kris.

"It's through effort and tenacity that we're getting corporate interest.

"Through that investment, there's an opportunity for Suez to re-invest. "Having these guys interested means the venture capitalists prick their ears up.

"They are more than happy to ride the coat-tails of corporates.

"Hopefully the next stage will be financial backing. There's also a significant government focus on this.

"It's only the beginning for Solvert."

CAPTION(S):

Kris Wadrop, left, founder of Solvert, at the Wilton Centre, with business development director Stuart Hayward-Higham

170713WADROP_03 PICTURES BY PETER REIMANN
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 23, 2013
Words:477
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