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Battelle UK 21st Anniversary – An Interview with Darren Grafham

Battelle Crop Protection Solutions recently celebrated its 21st Anniversary with an event held at Landing 42 in London, UK. Since Battelle UK Limited (BUKL) opened its facilities and laboratories in Chelmsford (Essex, UK) over two decades ago, many memorable developments, scientific advances and business successes have transpired.

Throughout these years, BUKL has provided unique, solution-based services and has shared its extensive expertise and technology advancements to help the crop protection industry protect the environment and become more sustainable.

Darren Grafham, Battelle’s Crop Protection Division Manager since 2016, shares his insights about our organization and highlights the greatest achievements and the outstanding and valuable staff in this commemorative Battelle Crop Protection Solutions anniversary interview.

A lot has happened from BUKL’s foundation until today. What do you believe have been the most important milestone events?

Following the foundation of BUKL at Ongar in Essex, the first step change event was the acquisition of the Havant site in 2006 to expand our capabilities into formulation development. Over the next decade, the Havant group has been expanded four times and added biological capabilities alongside formulations, which we believe is a world’s first in the contract research environment.

In 2017 we offered our first full-time, UK homeworker contract in regulatory affairs and this opened the possibility to attract highly skilled talent to our operations. The success of the first post has grown to enable homeworking contracts in a broad range of countries to enable us to widen our net for attracting and retaining talent in a tight global market.

As we saw continued success at Ongar, we outgrew our facilities and in 2013 moved to a new, purpose-built space in Chelmsford, Essex where we are still located today.

Beginning this year as part of our sustainability initiatives, the Chelmsford office will have solar panels installed to support our energy needs.

What do you think makes BUKL so special and unique in the CRO industry?

BUKL is truly independent and offers high quality, end-to-end solutions for our clients looking to develop and register crop protection products in Europe and the United States. Through our formulation capabilities and know how, we are developing licensable technologies to make possible previously impossible products (i.e., our highly innovative Banyan technology to formulate stable, liquid and efficacious SU herbicides). With the backing of Battelle Memorial Institute, we can also offer unique business models to help our clients bring their products to market. We are very clear that we do not make products ourselves so are not in competition with our clients. We are also keeping an eye on emerging trends and topics and entered the biologicals formulations market in 2018, ahead of any of our competitors.

How do you think BUKL’s employees have positively impacted the organization as a whole?

At BUKL, we still have five employees who started on day one of the organization and continue to make a massive impact on the culture and approach. While we are approaching 120 staff members, there is still quite a family feel to the organization and over the past 21 years we have seen a number of marriages and births from our employees.

How do you feel Battelle’s values and culture have had a positive contribution on the work performed at BUKL?

Beginning as a small group of staff meant many people had multiple roles to establish the organization in a regulated environment. As a result, everyone got stuck in to making things work. That togetherness and “just getting things done” mentality has served the organization well as it has grown, shifting the barriers and questions about “whose role is it” to “what is needed to be done in order to move things forward”. This kind of curiosity sets the team apart and enables us to challenge the current position and continue to grow.

Since joining the company in 2016, what have been the most noticeable changes you’ve seen that have allowed BUKL to grow to where it is today?

One of the most significant impacts to aid growth was the introduction of remote work for staff who were not lab based. This led to us being able to adapt quickly when the COVID crisis hit. Our lab operations had to remain open, but to protect those staff on site, all other operations explored what could be done in a remote manner. This led to shifts in thinking that could have taken decades to come to the fore. We have settled on a hybrid work scheme now which aims to provide better work-life balance where possible. We have no plans to set up labs in anyone’s garages, but if work can be done productively from home, then staff can take that option.

As we celebrate over two decades of BUKL’s existence, where do you see Battelle and the Crop Protection Solutions division in another 20 years?

I see a path to continued and sustained growth in all our current areas of activity as well as seeing new products come to market through our clients because of our formulation technologies. The first product we helped develop should be on sale in 2023 and the development cycle is long, so I hope that in the next two decades numerous products that BUKL technology has had a hand in developing will be available to customers. I would like to see us expand our range of offerings and have a stronger presence in the biologicals and bio stimulants markets to help our clients to accomplish their sustainability goals. I also believe we will continue to expand our Havant and Chelmsford facilities to support the string of demand we are currently seeing for our services.

Contact us today to connect with a Battelle Crop Protection expert and learn more about BUKL’s full suite of solutions.


November 10, 2022
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
4 Mins

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