A Welsh start-up producing alternatives to the chemical made famous by Hollywood actress Julia Roberts in the 2000 film ‘Erin Brockovich’ has received £1m investment in their bid to tackle a $2.5 trillion global problem.
Hexigone Inhibitors, based in the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone, has secured the investment from Development Bank of Wales (DBW) and angel investor, Phil Buck, as well as an innovation loan from Innovate UK for their innovative approach to tackling corrosion by developing an alternative to the recently banned, carcinogenic inhibitor, hexavalent chromate.
Hexavalent chromate achieved global attention in 1996 when Erin Brockovich, despite her lack of formal legal education, pursued a successful $333m lawsuit against the PG&E of California for contaminating drinking water. The company had used hexavalent chromate to fight corrosion in a cooling tower system, and the wastewater had percolated into nearby groundwater.
Hexigone hopes it's safer, smarter way to tackle corrosion will become the industry standard in anti-corrosion technology, and this new investment will help support this ambition, as well as bringing jobs, an initial 40 are planned, and further investment to west Wales.
Alexander Leigh, Technology Ventures Investment Executive at DBW commented: “The Development Bank of Wales is delighted to announce its recent investment into Hexigone Inhibitors Ltd. Our funding will assist with the full-scale commercialisation and distribution of the product. This makes it a perfect fit for the Wales Technology Seed Fund which supports innovative University spin-out companies and helps them bring their products to market, creating high-value jobs and wealth in Wales.”
Corrosion costs the world economy 2.5 trillion dollars every year, and last month, the EU banned its most effective inhibitor, hexavalent chromate, because of health concerns. Hexigone Inhibitors plugs the gap by offering a new additive for metal coatings that is safe and ten times more effective than market leading alternatives - protecting buildings, cars and aeroplanes for longer.
CEO and founder, Dr Patrick Dodds, made the discovery when working at Swansea University on his Welsh Government (ERDF) funded doctorate. The technology – Intelli-ion – protects in a unique way. Unlike their competitors, Hexigone uses ‘chemically intelligent’ micro-reservoirs that make the coatings responsive to the environment, triggering the release of the inhibitor ‘on demand.’
The team is already working with 20 industry partners across four continents, including leading global coating manufacturers.
Industry expert and investor, Phil Buck, commented: “In my forty years in the industry we have been looking for a comparable performance from an anti-corrosion pigment that we previously enjoyed when we used lead and chromate complexes. None of the new developments have given that. Now, at last, we have a corrosion inhibitor that provides the level of performance that our clients need to protect their assets (cars, buildings, planes and ships), and the people who use them; for longer. Hexigone are now able to offer the corrosion industry what they have been seeking for a generation and it demonstrates that Wales has the skills and talent to build world class products and businesses.”
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