The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Contamac is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
Contamac’s Saffron Walden HQ
proudly bears evidence of its two
Queen’s Awards for Enterprise
Essex-based Contamac transformed how contact and
intraocular lens materials were produced on its way to
becoming a niche market leader. Today, it is using that same
“never say never” attitude to manufacture a new generation of
active, implantable medical devices.
A good test of a company’s pedigree is whether it passes the “dinner party test”
(sometimes also known as the “pub test”): that is, easy to describe in a few words,
with each new statement no less impressive than the last. An example of this might
be as follows.
Contamac makes the materials from which speciality contact and intraocular lenses
are made. As such, it has helped improve and restore the sight of millions of people
worldwide. It has also assisted diabetes sufferers by partnering in the development
of an implantable continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system not much bigger
than a grain of rice. It’s one of the world’s leading specialists in the research,
development, manufacture and marketing of biocompatible polymers. Itsells to
over 65 countries, is a two-time Queen’s Award for Enterprise winner, and was
started 31 years ago in a garden shed.
Although Contamac’s story began with contact and intraocular lens materials (and
they remain the products for which it is best known), for decades now it has also
been quietly honing its expertise in synthetic and polymer chemistry for a broad
range of biomedical and other applications.
Today, Contamac offers clients what is effectively an all-encompassing R&D,
manufacturing, marketing and fulfilment facility focusing on biocompatible polymer
»Founded in 1987
by JohnMcGregor OBE
and three friends
»Based in Saffron Walden, Essex,
with offices in Colorado and
specialist contact lens
»No. of employees: 93
»Turnover: £16 million
»Pioneer in the development
and manufacture of active
implantable medical devices
»Two-time Queen’s Award for
»Sold major shareholding in
2017 to Haohai Biological
Technology Co Ltd of PRC
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
26 | CONTAMAC
» AREAS OF
»Polymers for aiding
»Coating and encasement
coatings and encapsulation. It is ISO
accredited and aware of regulation
– having sought and obtained FDA
approval for many products. With
offices in the UK, US and China, it is
also fully conversant with international
markets, and ideally placed to engage
with new ones.
A new way of doing things
“Manufacturing is in our DNA,” says
Contamac’s MD, Rob McGregor.
Innovation is plainly also in the
company’s DNA, as its first automated
lathes had to be built in-house; no
one else was making them at the
time. A string of R&D projects –
from a hydrogel dressing that heals
burns from the inside out, to a way
of improving quick-pour canned
drinks using polymer disks – evolved
into a burgeoning consultancy
business, and proof that there’s a
healthy entrepreneurial strand to
Unusually, not all projects are
necessarily negotiated on a purely time
and materials basis.
Rob adds: “We’re hungry to find out
what else we can do, and we’re not
afraid to explore blue-sky technologies.
Sometimes we take on a new project
as a supplier. Sometimes we like to
invest. We’re at the cutting edge of
our industry, but we know we’ll only
stay there if we keep learning. We like
to be challenged.”
It was possibly this attitude that led
to the Haohai Biological Technology
Co Ltd of Shanghai, the People’s
Republic of China, buying a significant
shareholding in Contamac last year.
Haohai is itself engaged in the research
and manufacture of absorbable
biomedical materials for use in a wide
variety of surgical applications, including
orthopaedics, ophthalmology and
medical aesthetics. A listed company,
Haohai sees as much potential in
European markets as Contamac sees
inthe Far East.
Rob’s team has worked hard to raise
Contamac’s profile globally, but he’s
quick to praise the role the Department
for International Trade has played
in helping the business to expand
overseas. It now exports to every
continent bar Antarctica, necessitating
a sales and marketing team fluent
in nearly a dozen languages and
capable of speaking to clients in
practically every world time zone.
In2012, Contamac received a Queen’s
Award for Enterprise for International
Trade. A similar award for innovation
followed in 2016, while earlier this
year chairman and founder John
McGregor received an OBE for services
to international trade and innovation
Located at the centre of an otherwise
unprepossessing trading estate within
the pretty market town of Saffron
Walden, near Cambridge, Contamac’s
headquarters never fails to surprise
science is underpinned
by a unique fusion of
engineering with state-
all projects are
a time and
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
the steady stream of foreign visitors
who’ve passed through its doors since
they opened in 2015. Built on three
levels (although only two are visible
from the front), the 35,000-square-
feet facility includes research and
testing laboratories, a 3,500-square-
feet ISO7 (Class 10,000) clean room,
a state-of-the-art manufacturing
plant, a despatch warehouse, a fully
functioning contact lens fitting facility,
and modern offices and presentation
suites. A further 14,000 square feet,
including 6,000 square feet of clean
rooms, is due on stream by the end
Saffron Walden itself falls within the
Oxford-Cambridge high-tech corridor.
Just an hour from central London by
train, it enjoys excellent road transport
links (M11, A11, A1) and is a short
distance from London Stansted Airport.
As part of its aspiration to continuously
raise standards, both within its own
organisation and its industry sector,
Contamac has a long track record
of collaborating with academics,
educational establishments and
professional bodies. It’s active in
developing educational materials,
writing articles, participating in
forums and promoting best practice.
The company also regularly hosts
round-table discussions with leading
Contamac has close ties with many
leading international universities,
andoften advises PhD students.
Earlierthis year it launched
SpecialitySight.com, a practical guide
to common eye conditions and their
treatments, with separate streams for
both practitioners and end users.
Rob is keen for his team of specialists
to maximise their potential by
partnering with similar pioneers in the
healthcare and medical device sectors
to develop new polymer technologies
“Implantable biocompatible polymers
are our unique area of expertise.” He
smiles, before adding: “You might say
we’ve got this polymer business under
close ties with
» CASE STUDY: EVERSENSE CONTINUOUS GLUCOSE
The Eversense CGM System is a new way to continuously monitor glucose
levels in adult diabetes sufferers. Conceived by Washington DC-based
Senseonics, it uses a sensor implanted subcutaneously in the upper arm.
Contamac worked closely with Senseonics over an 18-year period to help
perfect a patented, fluorescent, glucose-indicating polymer technology that
measures glucose in the interstitial fluid. This data is then relayed to a smart
transmitter. Contamac remains a critical supplier, responsible for encapsulating
the sensor prior to it being sterilised.
Contamac invests in a
broad range of education
programmes aimed at
and the public
device encapsulated by
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.
In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.
We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.
With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.
And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.
As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.