CatSci (Cardiff)


The opportunity to start the business was precipitated by changes within pharma giant AstraZeneca. The co-founders’ knowledge of the pharmaceutical development identified a gap in the market for the exploitation of a specific type of chemistry called chemo-catalysis to enable innovative pharmaceutical development. Knowing the potential commercial value, the objective then was to deliver the high quality science that the co-founders had excelled in delivering within AstraZeneca. The first major challenge was establishing the company and siting its unique scientific laboratory in a relatively short timeframe and it took just six weeks from getting the keys to the new premises in Wales to starting the first project. From there, the challenges came thick and fast. For example, the initial focus was on technical quality, but quickly became the need to learn the essential business and commercial skills to grow the business and win new customers in a highly competitive vertical market; the directors’ transition from a large corporate with management structure and support functions to an SME start-up with none; and having decided to grow organically and not take on any debt, lots of sweat equity was required to get the new SME going, especially given the laboratory necessitated relatively high overheads from the start.

Success Factor

A key success factor has been the refocussing, and latterly the rebranding of the company, to full process research and development services for pharmaceuticals, particularly in the US market. Another is the recruitment of great scientists and non-technical staff to enable CatSci to win business and deliver its services to the highest quality to ensure that they always meet customers’ expectations. Finally, there has been a continual reinvestment of the company’s profits into staff and facilities.

The Future

CatSci has a seven point growth plan that focusses on the three key areas of its business to more than double the top-line in the next 3 years (2018 £1.8m to 2021 >£4m). In sales and marketing, headcount will be increased by three in the next year for outbound activities. There will also be a focus on account management excellence to maximise repeat business, build brand equity and stimulate inbound enquiries. The business will also be employing over 15 new technical staff and 5 support staff and management to deliver the projects whilst maintaining a motivated, performing and well rewarded team.