The Entrepreneur: Rob Gros, Chemical Intelligence Limited

The founder behind the low-cost antimicrobial tech which is helping to stop the spread of healthcare-acquired infections around the world shares his story...

Founder: Rob Gros
Company: Chemical Intelligence Limited
Description in one line: Research and development into antimicrobial technology for use in high volume, disposable, consumable medical devices, such as medical examination gloves.
Previous companies: London City Press Limited, Sheetfed Limited, Content Entertainment, PatientPak Limited, Sanitas Healthcare
Turnover: $5m per annum

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Chemical Intelligence is a research and development company focusing on antimicrobial technology to be used in high volume, disposable medical devices.
  • The business has been self-funded since its inception and has grown to become a company that innovates within its sector.
  • The low-cost technology is set to help reduce healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) in hospitals and healthcare institutions across the globe.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Developing and patenting an antimicrobial technology to be used in medical examination gloves that could become the next standard in medical gloves worldwide, enabling me to sign a joint venture agreement with Malaysian-based glove giant Hartalega – the biggest medical glove manufacturer in the world, who produce over 30 billion gloves per annum. This is my biggest achievement to date.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Given the nature of our work, at any one time we can have hundreds of microbiological experiments going on.

Invariably, every day I find myself looking at the efficacy results measuring antimicrobial activity, which enables us to understand the performance of our technology. It is measured in both logarithmic reduction and percentage.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

The technology – for which we now have a patent in the US – had its European launch on 31 May 2018 in London.

With the business thriving, we hope to apply the molecule to other types of medical gloves, making ‘antimicrobial medical gloves’ an industry standard worldwide. The joint venture with Hartalega will help to achieve this.

Describe your growth funding path:

When I started the company in 2012 I found it challenging to secure funding from research, government or financial bodies, so I took the decision to self-fund the business. It was a risk at the time; I had to borrow money from family members and at some points it looked like the business was going to collapse.

However, I was optimistic that the venture would turn into a success and by the time organisations were willing to invest I no longer needed their backing, and I was able to keep the business independent.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

The technology that made the biggest difference to our business was developing our own patented technology. It would have been impossible to achieve the efficacy, safety and cost constraints with an off-the-shelf technology, therefore the only option was to develop our own.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

In three years’ time it would be great for our antimicrobial technology to be in gloves used worldwide. Our aim is for the product to become industry standard, becoming the gold standard for medical examination gloves across the world, as well as expanding into other medical device applications that could be compatible with our molecule.

We would like to be two to three times our current annual turnover.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

I had to sell my home to continue to fund my business and be able to pay off my debts.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Persevering with sub-standard suppliers! Being completely new to the sector with little prior knowledge in the field, the whole process has been a learning curve and in hindsight I wish I had been quicker to deal with poor suppliers and make better, alternative arrangements.

Had these actions been taken then I think the research and development time to get the molecule right could have been reduced, and therefore the product launch time brought forward.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

The biggest challenge to growth I’ve experienced is the lack of funding that is out there for healthcare innovation. I was fortunate in some respects in that I could just about pull together the finance I needed to make my innovation a reality, however, many are not in such a position.

The health service is already under strain, so accessible funding is crucial to ensure vital developments that could release the burden, and save lives in the process, continue to be pursued.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

All too often I see great entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas setting up without solid financial or growth strategies.

Although I didn’t receive external financial funding at first, I would always recommend entrepreneurs to have a water-tight funding path which can be effectively implemented – the value of this in attracting serious investors cannot be underestimated!

How will your market look in three years?

New developments are occurring every day within the medical industry, which are producing marked and groundbreaking changes to the way we approach healthcare provision.

However, with the emergence of new resistant bacteria and ‘super-bugs’, the need for innovation to prevent the spread of infections will only grow, creating a rise in the demand for medical innovation companies such as Chemical Intelligence.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Never to underestimate the importance and value of working with different, brilliant minds!

I only work with people I trust to do the job well and as a result the collaboration between myself and the scientists has produced some fantastic ideas I would never have achieved alone, driving the company forward.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My Rolex Daytona.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learning on the job worked for me!

If I was advising my son I would tell him executive education. When I started Chemical Intelligence, I had little prior experience in scientific research and development, but I had an idea that I was confident in, so I surrounded myself with great minds to form the perfect team to create a revolutionary product, and formed a great partnership with the biggest glove manufacturer in the world.

I continue to learn from Professor Richard James and Dr. Paul Wight, who have been the leads in developing this antimicrobial molecule, every day.

What would make you a better leader?

More knowledge. I try to continue to learn everyday, it’s what drives me on and makes every day exciting. Personal growth equals company growth.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

The value of having good business advisors. Whilst you may have a brilliant idea or concept that could revolutionise an industry, never underestimate the value of having an experienced team behind you to focus on shaping and planning the business.

The logistics behind a business are just as important as the innovative idea to establishing a successful and thriving company.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

Whatsapp – the groups help me interact instantly with different teams across the world.

Business book:

Principles by Ray Dalio.