Founders Diaries: Chemical Intelligence CEO Rob Gros on charging ahead in R&D
8 min read
29 May 2018
Rob Gros shares his story on growing an R&D focused medtech business, Chemical Intelligence Limited, starting with launching the world’s first non-leaching medical examination glove with in-built antimicrobial technology.
Founder: Rob Gros
Company: Chemical Intelligence Limited
In a sentence: Chemical Intelligence Limited focuses on research and development into novel antimicrobial technology for use in high volume, disposable, consumable medical devices.
Turnover: $5 million
Your legacy: To make antimicrobial medical examination gloves in hospitals an industry standard across the world, as well as continuing to develop other medical innovations.
Describe your business model
Chemical Intelligence is a technology licensing company, focusing on the research and development of antimicrobial technology, to be used in high volume disposable consumer medical devices.
We have created the world’s first non-leaching medical examination glove with in-built antimicrobial technology proven to kill microorganisms in order to help prevent the spread of infections. The product was initially self-funded and is now funded by Malaysian global glove manufacturer Hartalega. Multiple patents have been filed around the world and already some gave been granted in the US. By applying our molecular technology to additional medical devices, we hope to develop more innovative products and increase our revenue streams.
Biggest marker of success
Chemical Intelligence has sparked innovation in a sector that could prove to be a game changer in medical glove distribution worldwide. We have created a technology that is completely unique and by reducing infection has the ability to save lives and relieve the financial burden on health care authorities. That would be success to me.
In our joint partnership with Hartalega, the world’s biggest nitrile glove manufacturer, we are intending to apply the technology now to other types of gloves. From there, we would like to apply our technology to other medical devices. Ultimately, we want this technology to be available in variety of applications in order to help reduce the spread of harmful infections throughout the world.
How did you fund your business?
When I founded the company in 2012 it proved very difficult to secure financial help from research, government or financial institutions, so I made the decision to self-fund the company. This move was definitely a risk as I had to put every asset I had into the venture and at some points it looked like the company was going to collapse. After meeting Hartalega in 2014 the relationship developed into a licensing agreement enabling the development to be joint funded which relieved a lot of the financial pressure we had been enduring.
In five years
The medical industry is constantly experiencing new developments, but we are still in need of so many more. With the increase in resistant bacteria, more innovation will undoubtedly be needed to prevent the spread of infection. With a growing concern against tackling ‘super-bugs’ the aim is for the antimicrobial molecule we have developed to become industry standard, supplying both medical and consumer products, and become the new norm for a variety of medical applications across the globe.
Your highest point
One of the highest points was the first significant breakthrough with the efficacy – to see your technology actually working was a very satisfying moment. It brings the project to life and invigorates the whole team – it proves the hard work, decisions you’ve taken together, determination and tenacity is paying off. Notwithstanding that, I am not sure I can equal signing the license agreement with Hartalega. Having the biggest manufacturer of nitrile gloves in the world form a joint venture with you and trust you with such an important project was my highest point so far – I knew once they were supporting the project there was little chance it could fail.
Your lowest point
Because I was attempting to infiltrate a sector that I had very little experience in, there were some interesting learning curves. One mistake I made early on was persevering with sub-standard suppliers. In hindsight, I should have been more decisive in making alternative arrangements and it cost us some time in getting the product to launch.
What would tell your younger self?
Don’t let the pressure take away from the pleasure.
Your policy wish list
More funding available for healthcare research from the government. The healthcare service is under strain, but accessible funding can result in vital developments that can ease the burden. I personally struggled to find investment for my idea but was able to pull together the necessary resources. Many can’t, and this may result in groundbreaking ideas not being pursued.
Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs
Stay focused on your project. It’s so easy to get distracted by other good ideas. If you have any chance of success you will need to commit 100% to it. That way you will at least have no regrets.
Guilty pleasure: Galaxy chocolate. I’m supposed to be on a diet, but I just can’t resist.
What would make you a better leader?
More knowledge. As someone who likes to innovate I have a thirst for learning, not just about technology but also in ways to run my business more efficiently and my own personal development. To harness respect from you everyone you work with and for, you need to lead by example. I work around some very exceptional people and it is difficult not to pick up good habits from them. Personal growth equals company growth.
The one app you use the most: WhatsApp, because I work with teams in both the UK and Malaysia, it’s very convenient to create WhatsApp groups to action tasks and get instant feedback.
A day in your life
A 5K run at 7am followed by a nutri bullet, desk by 8am, start running through my task list for the day prepared the night before, conf call with Malaysia at 10 am, lunch at 12:30, if possible any meetings are booked for the afternoon, when working from my home office I can be there to put the kids to bed at 7pm.
On your reading list right now: Principles, by Ray Dalio
On your watch list right now: Suits S7