Chemostrat is an unusual company – can you tell us about what it does?
The Hafren Scientific Group, of which Chemostrat is part, offers analytical solutions in sectors ranging from oil and gas to mining, archaeology, water analysis and environmental studies. One example of Chemostrat services is the elemental finger - printing of rocks. All rocks have a unique signature, which makes it possible to map changes in layering. This is useful in assisting international oil companies in oil or gas exploration and development opportunities. We’ve grown from a two-person operation to a world-class analytical laboratory that can analyse more than 20,000 samples per year. As well as our base in Welshpool, we have offices in Houston, Calgary and Perth (Western Australia). We take our laboratory services to oil well sites and other remote locations, and we were the first company in the world to offer chemostratigraphy services on site. In 2001 we entered into a 10-year research collaboration with Halliburton Energy Services, one of the largest service companies in the oil and gas sector. We were involved in launching well-site services in the USA, Canada and the Middle East.
How easy is it to find experienced scientists and graduate entrants?
We have a number of qualified geologists who left the area to study elsewhere in the UK, but came back because they prefer the lifestyle here. We’ve been able to develop good relationships with academia. With Aberystwyth and Glyndŵr Universities nearby, we have an excellent pool of potential recruits. We have an ongoing project with Aberystwyth, which gives us access to its Innovation and Enterprise Campus to provide support for developing new services and techniques. We also have connections with Bangor and Cardiff Universities.
Has working with the Welsh Government been a straightforward process?
Their support has been a crucial part of Chemostrat’s success and our continued development. They have provided help with growth and innovation, as well as useful links through their business network opportunities. The key to this success has been our relationship with our Welsh Government account manager, who helps us to access the right support and information within the Government and in the wider business community.
You’ve received support for expansion, export and R&D. How important has this been?
When we moved to Welshpool, we received Welsh Government grant support for specialist software, laboratory equipment and instrumentation, office fit-out and IT support. This gave us a commercial advantage to grow expeditiously rather than by a slower, organic process. It enabled us to take advantage of a growing market for our services. We’ve also received support for specialist training and staff, and for conferences and business trips glob - ally. That has increased our international footprint.
Do you think Wales is fertile ground for anyone with an innovative business idea?
The support structure is definitely here. You have access to decision-makers in the Welsh Government and a desire from Welsh universities to partner with innovative companies. This, coupled with a positive attitude from the Welsh economy, provides the right environment for developing ideas into business prospects. We’re here for the duration. We have strong local roots, and we’ve recently entered into a joint venture with another Welsh company that has helped increase our service portfolio and reach. Further on, we hope to create a geoscience centre of excellence based in Mid Wales – some - thing we hope will have a global influence.