Most innovative state in the EU? That’s right…Sweden

Sweden leads Europe on innovation according to a new report from the European Commission. It is followed by Denmark, Finland and Germany, all of which are well above the average. The UK ranks fifth. Taken as a whole, Europe is apparently failing to close the gap between itself and the main international competitors: the US and Japan. Meanwhile, Brazil is making steady progress and China is catching up rapidly. The data suggest that the European problem lies primarily in the private sector, where the EU is producing fewer high impact patents than the US and Japan. 

Huntsman €30 million fertiliser plan

US speciality chemical company Huntsman has agreed ‘in principle’ to invest €30 million (£26 million) in a new magnesium sulfate fertiliser plant at the titanium dioxide pigments site in Calais, France. The company says that the new plant will use spent acid from the pigment manufacturing process, an environmentally friendly move that will enable it to close half of the Calais effluent treatment plant.

Taxol for the treatment of nerve damage

There seems to be no end to the benefits of taking popular analgesic aspirin, which has been linked to all sorts of good things, most recently lower risk of cancer. Could anti-cancer drug Taxol (paclitaxel) be the next molecular multi-tool? According to new research on rats, it might reduce scaring as nerves repair following spinal injury. Scar tissue represents a physical barrier to regrowing nerve cells. In addition, the drug stabilised microtubules, protein structures that provide cell structure. (F Hellal et al, Science, 2011, DOI: 10.1126/science.1201148

Valeant spends 350m on generics in Europe

Canadian pharma company Valeant is set to buy PharmaSwiss, a private generics manufacturer, for €350 million. In addition, Valeant will pay up to €30 million to certain PharmaSwiss shareholders for milestones reached. PharmaSwiss operates in nineteen countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and in 2010 it made sales of €180 million. It says it has been growing at 20 per cent per year over the last five years. Valeant operates primarily in neurology, dermatology and generics. 

PetroChina invests in Ineos refineries

Chinese oil company PetroChina has offered $1 billion for a 50 per cent stake in the European refining business of UK chemical company Ineos, including the refineries at Grangemouth, Scotland, and Lavéra, France. The deal will comprise two joint ventures, one covering trading and one covering refining. Ineos says it will ‘improve the long-term sustainability of the Ineos refineries, enhance security of supply for customers and secure jobs and skills in both the UK and France’. There will be a period of employee consultation before a binding agreement is signed. 

Aditya Birla buys into carbon blacks

Indian group Aditya Birla has agreed to buy the Columbian Chemicals Company – which is based in the US – from merchant banking firm One Equity. Columbian makes carbon blacks, which are used in a wide variety of products but primarily tyres. In September 2010, German chemical company Evonik signalled its intention to offload its carbon blacks business – according to the company, the second largest in the world. The Evonik business employs 1700 people and makes annual sales of about €1 billion.

Micro bits and bobs for hydrogen storage

UK speciality chemical company Thomas Swan & Co has invested in a new company that is developing micro fibres and beads for the storage of hydrogen as fuel. Cella Energy is a spin-out from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, part of the UK Science & Technology Facilities Council. The company says the micro-fibres, each 30 times smaller than a human hair, form a tissue-like material that is safe to handle in air and contains as much hydrogen for a given weight as the high pressure tanks currently used. Meanwhile, the micro-beads can be poured and pumped like a liquid, meaning drivers might ‘fill up’ in the familiar way.

Andrew Turley

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