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Industry and academia must look for the chemistry in collaboration

Small businesses and universities have much to offer one another, and many ways to achieve it. But too often, they don’t realize it. Attitudes need to change, says John Conti-Ramsden.

In the summer of 2004, Andrew Creeth left his job as a chemist at Unilever to set up ACAL Energy. Creeth wanted to develop an idea he’d had to make cheaper, more durable fuel cells by replacing platinum cathodes with a liquid cathode capable of regenerating itself.

At its inception, ACAL, based in Runcorn, Cheshire, lacked the equipment and scientific expertise necessary to test its technology. The company was, however, a founder member of the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry. This collaboration­—between industry, the Technology Strategy Board’s Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network and leading research institutions­—works to bring business and academia together.

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