When the Royal Society of Chemistry, a leading community of chemical scientists, advancing excellence in chemical sciences, announced the name of Bitrez CEO Paul H. Jones FRSC as the 2021 Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year, no one was surprised. For almost 35 years, he has concentrated on designing and developing specialty polymers and specialty synthetic resins. And, in recent years, Paul’s focus has been on developing ground-breaking bio-based products. The Royal Society of Chemistry’s award recognises his pivotal role in creating UK businesses that are “globally recognised for innovating speciality polymers employing green chemistry principles.”
Under the leadership of Paul, Bitrez is using sustainable resources to develop more bio-based polymer products and resins. The company’s target is a reduced hazard rating and reduced environmental impact. And Paul’s aim is to make carbon neutrality a reality.
Paul started working with Bitrez as a teenager in the 1980s. And he has spent his entire career at the company, progressing from Operations Manager to Head of R&D to CEO. Paul is also the Managing Director and Co-owner of Anacarda Ltd, a manufacturer of polymers derived from cashew nut shell liquid. And he is the Founder and Owner of Chemical Processing Services Ltd, a bespoke consultancy services in the polymer-chemistry field. Paul’s inherent quest to learn and zeal for innovation have enabled him to achieve more than what he had aspired to achieve. Today, he is considered one of the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing and the chemical industry.
Beginning and Series of Swift Promotions
When Paul was a teenager, he would get distracted easily and could not focus on his studies. So he cut short his education and chose to seek employment. “By a twist of fortune, I ended up in a chemical plant, Bitrez, working in the laboratory and finding an immediate aptitude for the products, production, and all the associated systems,” Paul says.
Paul was always older than his years and possessed natural leadership tendencies. While working in the lab, he discovered his “unquenchable thirst” for knowledge in the chemical business. “I rapidly learned my craft and went through a series of swift promotions,” Paul says. Even before he turned 20, he had earned the respect of his colleagues at work and, the company, too, saw his talent and potential and gave him the responsibility of the site.
Paul turned down several tempting job offers from multiple oil companies, who were willing to pay him a significantly higher salary. “I elected to remain at Bitrez because of a combination of loyalty, a better the devil you know, and the opportunities unfolding before me,” he says. Soon afterward, the company offered Paul a share in the business. He was made the Director of Bitrez.
Queen’s Award-Winning Company
Bitrez won the Queen’s Award for the Innovation of its Curaphen phenolic resins in 2019. Established in 1982, it manufacturers an extensive range of innovative, specialist polymer products and synthetic resins. And it serves a broad range of markets. “We provide products for specialist coatings, serving the packaging food sector, marine and industrial markets,” Paul says. “And, also we produce Matrix systems for composite applications.” Bitrez’s formulated products and solutions allow its customers to create or enhance their product range. And the company also works with technologies that help mitigate the impact of climate change.
Bitrez was one of the first companies in the chemical industry to reduce its dependence on petrochemical derivatives. It now generates products that are derived from sustainable feedstocks. “Many of our products are not only derived from sustainable materials, but several of them are also used to manufacture parts for equipment that is used to harvest clean energy, as well as systems for electricity transmission and distribution,” Paul says.
The company is constantly enhancing its products, making sure that they meet the increasingly demanding regulatory restrictions. “We do this with a consciousness and consideration of existing threshold limits but also taking steps to avoid product development that includes regrettable substitution,” Paul says.
Bitrez also develops products that enable continuity of supply as materials are withdrawn or rationalised due to REACH or other directives or restrictions that are associated with Hazardous Substances. Paul says that their innovative approach has allowed them to generate safer and cleaner products. And the high performance of these products enables the company’s customers to maintain a competitive edge.
“Through selective strategic alliances, we have supported market leaders with our specialty polymers to ensure that they maintain their prominence,” Paul says. “We look to increase commercial value through innovative solutions and provide products whose performance adds value.”
The Wigan-based company has maintained an “enviable reputation” for resolving technical issues and enhancing the performance of products, ensuring that they last longer, go further or faster, withstand operation in adverse conditions, or satisfy problematic customer or market requirements.
And, as the CEO of Bitrez, Paul is responsible for strategic planning, key account liaison, overseeing research and development, and providing support to the management team. He is a leader who is available to his business and employees round the clock. “Having worked in the business as both man and boy and having worked in virtually all departments, I tend to be available to anyone who wants a background or insight into a particular topic,” Paul says. He also generates process safety and related awareness videos to provide information on policy and views on specific topics.
Staying Ahead of Competition
Innovation and technology are the lifeblood of Paul’s businesses. They are critical to Bitrez’s survival. “We don’t have the plant or infrastructure to survive other than offering specialty grades that have added value,” Paul says. And they can only offer that through technical performance, safety or regulatory compliance, and/or being based on sustainable materials. “Many of the products we offer have been developed to be free from substances of high concern or they provide added value through faster cure and return to service,” Paul says. And, the company’s alignment with market leaders allows them to understand their demands and support their vision and needs.
And, as Bitrez offers products that are invariably added value and refined or precision manufactured to specific narrow parameters, it has always stayed ahead of its competition and the commodity manufacturers. All the credit for that goes to Paul’s dynamic leadership and his innovative team.
Paul has opted to patent products in order to protect their inventions from competitors. He says that patents protect intellectual property and allow licensing, should the need arise.
Overcoming Hardship Makes Final Success Rewarding
Paul owns three very successful businesses. The very much visible tag of success does not mean that it was a bump-free, smooth ride for him. He, too, faced adversity, just like many others, when starting out. There were challenging days due to shortages of resources or materials, financial burden, or cash flow. Sometimes it was also hard to achieve a specific requirement. But all that did not make Paul step away and choose a different career path. He thinks problems and adversity build character and equally reveal that of others.
Paul subscribes to the belief that overcoming hardship and difficulty makes the final success more rewarding. “And the people still at your shoulder when the storm subsides are the ones you respect, remember and progress with,” Paul says. “And the measure of a man, or woman, is surely their response in the face of adversity.”
He highlights that his team faces problems head-on, and through their guile and determination, they always find a way to succeed. But Paul cannot qualify or quantify what success and satisfaction mean to him. “However, I feel privileged to have exceeded my aspirations and have been more successful than I may have hoped or expected to have been,” he says. He also takes “great pride” in being able to provide for those closest to him.
Motivation Stems from Endless Opportunities
Paul points out that his business has technical demands. “And, hence, it goes without saying that there is a need for various skill sets,” he says. But he still values loyalty above everything else as for him, “business is about the people.”
“I have been privileged enough to amass a team of specialists with outstanding character, and they form the core of the business and are quite simply the reason for our success,” Paul says.
The fast-paced nature of the industry, along with business demanding dynamic responses, has created unlimited prospects. “We have so much being sent our way that the motivation stems from the endless opportunities that we are presented with,” Paul says.
And he is trying to readdress his failure to maintain a proper balance between personal and professional life through recruitment of his team and empowering the key members. He is also stepping back a little to provide his team members the freedom to express themselves.
Successfully Protected Everyone from Covid-19 Pandemic
Paul took reasonable steps to protect both business and employees from the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “From the first suggestion of some concern over the outbreak of COVID-19, we took the World Health Organisation FLU pandemic emergency response plan, and with some subtle modifications we introduced our control and prevention measures to protect personnel and the business,” Paul says.
He points out that the nature of their business necessitates risk assessment, control, and mitigation measures, as well as provision of procedures with personal protective equipment employed when the risk doesn’t reach an acceptable level. And because of his correct assessment and measures, there was no need to stop the company’s operations throughout the entire period. “We successfully protected everyone within the business,” he says.
Providing a Means to Ensure Carbon Neutrality
Countries and companies across the world are in a race to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to Net Zero by 2050. Acknowledging that the chemical industry has played a big part in climate change, Paul says that they need to rectify the damage caused – especially when the Net Zero target is in sight.
“Whilst there is a global requirement to address Carbon neutrality,” Paul says, “I believe as an island nation of explorers, innovators, entrepreneurs, visionaries, and leaders with a history of embracing a challenge, we are perfectly placed to use the same kind of ingenuity that fathered the industrial revolution, to develop green products and processes to address climate change.”
“If we consider the Greek proverb that society was once thought great when old men planted trees in whose shade they would knowingly never sit, then society must now protect those trees and develop a unified drive for extensive reforestation,” Paul adds. “Re-instating trees to help mitigate climate change is one of a multitude of requirements needed to address anthropogenic effects and satisfy the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” These goals are all-encompassing and provide a framework designed to address a global imbalance regarding social and economic discrimination. And they also encompass numerous targets to help protect our planet. Paul points out that these additional SDGs are associated with the prevention of further damage to the environment. “They also rectify some of the former damage we have caused or contributed to.”
While accepting that chemical industry has inadvertently contributed to the current problems, Paul says that the Science and understanding behind this process of chemistry will also be the Science and understanding that will provide a means of recovery. “Our plans include helping resolve these issues and providing a means to ensure carbon neutrality is a reality,” he adds.
Advice to Aspiring Leaders
“I think we enjoy what we are good at,” Paul says. “I would advise any aspiring business leader to be focused on their core strengths.”