The UK’s first, and only, supply chain expo servicing the chemical industry

Hosted over two days at the Yorkshire Event Centre, Harrogate, ChemUK 2019 was the very first event of its kind; and what a successful event it was! With 170 exhibitors and over 70 speaker sessions, ChemUK is the UK’s only supply chain expo servicing the chemical industry.

We used the opportunity to meet with some of our clients who happened to be exhibiting, but the most rewarding part of the event was learning about the key topics that are currently impacting the chemical industry.

Over two stages, there were sessions covering a variety of subjects, including:

  • Chemicals, ingredients and raw materials
  • Plant, process, flow and control
  • Health, safety, environment and regulations
  • Logistics, storage, handling and fulfilment
  • Laboratory, research and development
  • Sustainability, green and bioeconomy

Although many speakers were limited to only 15 minutes, there were some incredibly insightful and thought-provoking presentations. Let me share with you, my key takeaways from the expo.

Sustain-a-what-ability?
There were quite a few sessions that looked at the choices chemical companies should be making towards a sustainable future. In his session, Dr. Geoff Mackay of BASF Plc., stressed the importance of leaving behind a better world for future generations. He said that our generation’s duty of care is to examine the impact the chemical industry is having on the climate, the environment, developing countries, etcetera, and to change the way we think and the choices that we make to protect our children and our children’s children.

(Not so) plastic fantastic
We continue to hear about the negative impact that single-use plastics are having on our natural environment and are being encouraged to move to biodegradable or recyclable alternatives, but how does this affect the chemical sector?

Brenntag UK and Ireland’s Commercial VP, Richard Ward, presented a few sustainable and responsible initiatives that Brenntag have implemented as they work towards a fully sustainable model. Richard highlighted how important plastics are in the safe storage and distribution of chemicals but emphasised that more organisations should be doing their best to reuse and recycling plastic containers and packaging to reduce the damage that it is having on the natural world.

Dare to mention the “B” word?!
You are probably not surprised to hear that “Brexit” was mentioned throughout the expo, in speaker sessions and through networking conversations with exhibitors.

In his keynote session, Peter Newport, CEO of the Chemical Business Association (CBA), presented some of the differences between the European Union REACH framework, and the potential UK equivalent that chemical companies will have to abide by once Brexit is finalised. He also pointed out that if any hard borders are established then chemical companies exporting goods into the EU will require more time to review documentation and terminology to ensure continued compliance across Europe.

In addition to Peter’s comments, Mackay also mentioned Brexit in his presentation, stating that it presents both challenges and opportunities for the chemical industry, which is an exciting prospect.

But, as we know, when it comes to Brexit it is important to note that whilst things are still up in the air, and until a deal is finally reached, trade associations like the CBA are helping organisations to get their voice across during this time of uncertainty. Companies were therefore encouraged to register with appropriate representation if they weren’t already.

My overall impression of the very first ChemUK expo was that it was meticulously organised, well promoted and received very positive feedback from visitors, exhibitors and speakers alike. Although the overall footfall is unknown at this stage, the event attracted people from chemical companies, manufacturers, distributors and industry associations located throughout the country.

With exhibitors already booking their slots at next year’s event in Manchester, the organising team should be very proud of the work they have done in preparing the first expo. Here’s to next year!