Young British chemists to compete at world 'Olympics'


20 July 2009

Thanks to the contribution of major UK chemicals company INEOS a team of four talented young British pupils will attempt to take gold in a worldwide chemistry skills competition being staged in England this week.

The UK side will be up against others drawn from 25 countries in the International Chemistry Olympiad final at the University of Cambridge.

The contribution by INEOS is a result of a partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry, established to produce more talented scientists for the future.  

The 46,000-member society annually runs a competition to find a quartet of the best school chemistry pupils in the country to comprise a team to participate in the International Chemistry Olympiad finals, which have been held in cities around the world since 1969.

The RSC conducts a national competition over a nine-month period to select the most competitive team to represent the country.

Currently the scheme reaches 380 schools and the involvement since 2007 of INEOS has enabled the RSC to enhance the programme and to extend its reach. Last year the British team travelled to Budapest where it won a pair of silver medals and a couple of bronze against strong opposition.

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC, said today: "By gaining INEOS as a corporate partner the RSC is positioned to widen and strengthen its work to promote chemistry at schools and this is vital for the UK's future economic competitiveness. The selection of the UK team in the International Olympiad and its performance in the competition is an exciting part of our work at the RSC and we are delighted that our partnership with INEOS has been so helpful in our work in the education sector."

Dr Pike added: "We believe that there is a major, mutually-beneficial, role for the corporate sector in science support. We welcome collaboration with companies that are willing to acknowledge the importance of science to the UK's future health and wealth.

"INEOS is one such company, which is well aware of the urgent need to nurture young chemistry talent in our own country and worldwide to enter industry in the coming years. 

"The involvement of INEOS extends beyond money, because its scientists and sites are involved in the new programme.

"Our relationship benefits youngsters primarily, but INEOS recognises fully that its contribution is also an investment in its own future and that of other companies in the chemicals industry."

INEOS has existed for only 12 years but is already the UK's largest private company and one of the largest chemical firms in the world. It has over 65 manufacturing facilities employing 15,500 people in 14 countries. It has nine facilities in the UK employing around 4,500 people. 

Established in 1997 to bring about a management buy-out of former BP petrochemicals assets in Belgium and the UK, it expanded rapidly through strategic purchases involving former parts of companies including Amoco, BASF, BP, ICI and Dow.

A spokesperson for INEOS said today: "It is critical that the increasing skills shortage does not stifle the potential that we have to maintain a competitive lead in the UK. The products and innovations of the chemical industry underpin the rest of the manufacturing sector in the UK. Whether it is innovation to prevent climate change, new research in health and nutrition, or innovation in new technology, it will be developments in the Chemicals sector that will be at the heart of new and inspired advances. And it will be talent such as we have here in the UK Olympiad team that will be at the heart of this inspiration".

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