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Case Study

Singleton Birch

Singleton Birch is the UK’s leading independent lime supplier, with a 200-year history in delivering service excellence, 120 employees and a worldwide customer base. Its lime products are used in a variety of industries, including steel, chemicals, waste and water treatment and construction. 

The company entered into a 15-month KTP partnership with the University of Hull in September 2017 led by Research & Development Manager Dr Chris Meyer.

Challenge

Singleton Birch were keen to start producing a very pure lime hydrate (also known as calcium hydroxide) which can be used for many different applications.  

A fast turnaround was needed, so the company rejected the idea of setting up a PhD to achieve this. Dr Meyer approached the University of Hull to understand if there were any other options, and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was proposed. A KTP is an Innovate UK funded programme that builds a three-way partnership between a business, university and a graduate (“Associate”) to deliver a specific programme of work.  

Approach

Dr Meyer was impressed by the people he met at the university and by the possibilities offered through a KTP: “I like the structure of the KTP; it’s flexible and goal driven. And the government funding also helps”.

David Kocsis was selected as the KTP Associate. David was coming towards the end of his Masters degree in Engineering, and saw the KTP opportunity through the University’s Careers Services. “It was a fantastic opportunity for a recent graduate like me, to be exposed to a real world business application while continuing with my research”. David has been able to use his experience at Singleton Birch to complete an MSc in Chemical Engineering at the same time.

Working closely with a wider team at the University, David was instrumental in achieving the goal of the KTP.

Benefits

Over the 15-month KTP, the team, Dr Meyer, Dr Jay Wadhawan, Dr Nathan Lawrence (both from University of Hull) and David, were able to develop a new hydrate product, superior to the competition. This has enabled the company to start exploring new markets areas.

“The benefits of a KTP is that it’s very focused, so you can achieve results quickly and then move on to other things”, says Dr Meyer. “We exceeded our goal and now have a product that’s better than the competition. This is novel stuff and has opened up a whole new area for us.”

Another benefit to Singleton Birch has been the ability to trial a new member of staff before committing to a permanent position.

Future developments

David was able to prove his value to Singleton Birch, and has now been taken on permanently as Process Improvement Coordinator, leading the development of the company’s engineering infrastructure. 

Meanwhile, the KTP with the University of Hull has been extended, with a new graduate Associate, to continue with the project.

The company is now patenting the new technology, and has recently completed a £600,000 investment in a new research and development centre at its North Lincolnshire quarry, which will support the development of new lime-based products.

Dr Meyer says “We are now doing more and more research which has led to the building of our new, state-of-the-art centre. Our work has previously focused on testing and quality control but we are now focusing more on developing new products to support the various Singleton Birch businesses.”

“We exceeded our goal and now have a product that’s better than the competition. This is novel stuff and has opened up a whole new area for us.” Dr Chris Meyer Research & Development Manager