17thJun 2011

Building long-term relationships with those in the know

The idea

Ilika is a science-based materials discovery company, which uses high-throughput technologies, developed by Professors Mark Bradley, Brian Hayden and Mike Hursthouse and Dr Samuel Guerin from the University of Southampton's School of Chemistry.

Kenneth Dibben House

The company span out from the University in May of 2004, when the current Chief Executive Officer, Graeme Purdy, was appointed. The company develops new materials for use in applications such as energy conversion, electronics and biomedical applications.

The company has gone from strength to strength with a range of R&D programmes, working with large multinationals such as Asahi Kasai, NXP, Shell and Toyota - Ilika's portfolio has already helped to accelerate products used in fuel cell electrodes, hydrogen storage alloys and electronic memory materials.

Hydrogen storage is potentially a critically important technology for sustainable transport. Ilika's technology goes a long way towards enabling these new industries and its development is a top priority for the company. in assisting its development. Developing materials for energy conversion; Ilika has already progressed and is looking to expand its research in the area of new materials for use in photovoltaics, fuel cells, batteries and many other applications.

In November 2008, Ilika, which is based at the University of Southampton Science Park, was listed in the Cleantech 100 list, acknowledging it as one of Europe's most innovative clean technology companies.

How SETsquared helped

Ilika's relationship with SETsquared & the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) began in 2004 when the company was created; the TTO saw the idea of using combinational R&D techniques for the discovery of new materials as an excellent opportunity. The TTO gave its expertise to the venture by identifying the right management team for the company and helping to secure initial investment from the SULIS seed-corn fund.

Ilika then became a member of the University of Southampton's SETsquared business acceleration initiative that provides support to high technology, high growth potential businesses. This support includes access to expertise through to assistance with the development of early business plans and strategy.

David Bream, Director of Southampton SETsquared Centre, described how SETsquared's assistance was offered to Ilika to give them the best foundation for success, he said: "When Ilika first became established, they already had a first-rate management team, but SETsquared were able to provide an environment, within which, the Ilika team could test and hone their business plans with other experts in areas such as, material discovery and high growth business development."

Testament to the strong relationship with SETsquared and the University of Southampton is demonstrated by knowledge transfer activities which still exist between the parties; currently working as the company's Chief Scientific Officer is Professor Brian Hayden, who is on secondment from the University and is a Professor of Physical Chemistry. As one of the co-founders of the company, Professor Hayden's knowledge is second to none in the area of surface science and he has a compelling track record of running successful industrial collaborations.

Current CEO, Graeme Purdy, commented on the success of the company so far and the attribution of which he accredits to highly productive collaborations, he said: "Ilika's team is highly motivated to build on the considerable success already enjoyed through the commercial collaborations established by the founding academics."

Ilika is a partner in the University's Enterprise Internship scheme and has offered places to young researchers from the School of Chemistry, who are seconded to the company to work on leading-edge projects.

In 2005, Ilika's use of thin film research to create new inorganic materials made it the perfect partner to once again collaborate with the University and its world-renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC); a project which worked on solutions for boosting memory storage in handheld devices such as digital cameras and mobile phones.


After the original funding from the SULIS seed-corn fund and IP2IPO, Ilika has raised two further private rounds of funding from private investors, totalling almost £9m to date.

Ilika has successfully won a number of grant-funded projects, including £1.75m from DTI and EPSRC for a 3 year project to discover and develop hydrogen storage materials looking to accelerate research into light metal hybrides, which would offer the potential for deployment of hydrogen storage technologies in automobile applications. Ilika has also successfully promoted itself to industry and has won more than £5m of commercial contracts to date.

The Team

Graeme Purdy - Chief Executive Officer
Graeme was appointed to head-up the Company from the beginning of May 2004, just before completion of the company's seed round of funding. Prior to joining Ilika, Graeme was Chief Operating Officer of a high- technology company in the Netherlands and before that worked internationally in a variety of technical and commercial roles for Shell. Graeme holds a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from Cambridge and an MBA from INSEAD business school in France.

Professor Brian Hayden - Chief Scientific Officer
Brian is currently on secondment to Ilika from the University of Southampton, where he is Professor of Physical Chemistry. Brian has published in excess of 100 papers in the fields of surface science, surface electrochemistry and fundamental aspects of heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and regular speaker at conferences.

Stephen Boydell - Finance Director
Stephen qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Deloittes in 1996, he held a number of positions at Hays plc and then AGI Media before becoming Finance Director of a successful Guernsey based group of companies. He was instrumental in the restructuring of that group and the subsequent successful sale to a competitor. Stephen studied Economics at Nottingham University.