Mark Hammond, CEO of Melbourn Scientific
Mark Hammond is CEO of Melbourn Scientific. Located within the East of England biosciences cluster, Melbourn Scientific provides high quality analytical and formulation services to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.
The company has particular expertise in drug delivery mechanisms, from tablets, creams and patches through to orally inhaled and nasal drug products (OINDPs) such as nebulisers, nasal sprays and dry powder inhalers. Clients include major pharmaceutical companies, drug delivery innovators, consultants and virtual companies. Born and raised in Haverhill, Mark joined Melbourn Scientific when he left school. He took advantage of the company’s training programme to gain a degree whilst working, before seeking experience elsewhere. He returned to the company in 2003 and has subsequently risen through the ranks, taking up the position of CEO in 2009.1. Melbourn Scientific seems to have had a great year. What have been your highlights in 2009?2009 has been fantastic! We celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we have reached and surpassed all sorts of targets that we had set for ourselves as an organisation. For instance, we wanted to achieve 30% of our turnover coming from outside of the UK and we have exceeded this goal – we now have customers in over a dozen countries that make up around 37% of our turnover. As a result we have been recognised by the government for our success, and in November we were awarded the ERBI Export Achievement Award, which was a particularly special endorsement. Earlier in the year we also completed successful UK MHRA GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) audit and FDA audits, despite being in the middle of major building works!2. How did you feel about being invited to Downing Street to meet the PM and Lord Mandelson?The Downing Street reception was a terrific opportunity to meet other business leaders and learn from their experiences. It was a great feeling to be congratulated by Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson for our export achievements. They emphasised that companies like Melbourn Scientific are the backbone of the British economy, and that our success would drive its growth and recovery – no pressure!3. What has been your secret for attracting overseas customers?Melbourn has developed an international outlook by making export a priority and encouraging greater cultural diversity within the company. We put our customers at the centre of everything we do and this is even more important for overseas clients where we have concentrated on improving our communication skills and practices at all levels. This has meant that staff are more aware of ambiguities in their speech and are making more effort to learn phrases in other languages.We have also adopted a policy of using ‘international’ English and reducing the amount of colloquial expressions used in business meetings, as these can be confusing for non-native English speakers.Melbourn has also benefited from working with UKTI. We have participated in overseas missions and the ‘Passport to Export scheme. 4. Where are your most far-flung customers?We have concentrated on reaching companies in Europe but we have clients as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. The Internet has played a major part in reaching potential clients in distant countries – some new business came as a result of an old contact reading one of our press releases on an online news wire. She had just taken a job in Australia and gave us a call to discuss a new project. 5. You were able to study for a degree during your early years at Melbourn. What is the current policy on staff development and training?Our staff are our biggest asset and investing in them makes sound economic sense, particularly at the moment. Working in a contract environment means that our analysts and formulators need to be multi skilled so we invest a lot of time and resources in training our people and link this with feedback from our quality system to achieve business objectives. As a result Melbourn now has one of the strongest and most committed teams in the industry. Over the longer term, our training policy has resulted in a flexible workforce that is able to adapt to fluctuating demands. We also offer open days and work experience placements to schools in the region, and a number of school leavers have started with us as trainees and are being encouraged to gain additional qualifications through day release, distance learning or ongoing training at Melbourn. 6. How important is innovation in your business?In our day-to-day work we handle all sorts of compounds and molecules, and provide highly skilled services including formulation studies, pharmaceutical analysis, and inhaled product analysis. We rely on cutting-edge equipment to provide reliable, meaningful results.Ensuring that we are using the latest technology helps us to maintain competitive advantage, and we work closely with equipment developers to pilot new innovations and approaches. We have a rolling programme to make the latest equipment, such as the new Terahertz Pulsed Imaging apparatus, available so that we can offer new services that complement our existing core resources. Unlike IP based companies where innovation is the catalyst to more products, as a service provider we have to continually challenge ourselves and innovate in the services we offer and the way we interact with our clients to make sure we meet their changing requirements. For example we have recently introduced ways to shorten project timelines by running key activities in parallel. This required a complete re-think in the way projects are planned, managed and performed..7. Has the clinical research sector suffered in the recent economic downturn?Whilst some parts of the sector are seeing a negative effect our long term business planning and our wide client base has meant that we have largely seen a positive effect on business. In periods of turbulence – either recession or strong growth – it is not uncommon for outsourced service providers like Melbourn to thrive, as companies look to move from internal fixed costs to external variable cost strategiesMelbourn Scientific was founded during the recession in the late 1980s, so we are used to responding to challenges in the life science industry, and coming out stronger on the other side.8. How important is your location to your success?Very important. Being located within the East of England biotech cluster enables us to take advantage of networking opportunities, and to work closely with innovative medtech, biotech and life-science companies in this area.
We are members of ERBI, which is a very useful and active organisation, both for the opportunities it provides locally, but also for the work it does promoting our region both nationally and internationally.The excellent transport links to the rest of the UK and Europe has also been pivotal in our expansion, in particular Stansted as a hub means we can be with our European clients almost as quickly the rest of the UK.9. What are Melbourn Scientific’s plans for the future?We are building upon our success and constantly looking for ways to improve the service we offer to our clients. We have just expanded our facility and have doubled our laboratory space, enabling us to create more dedicated areas for developmental formulation studies and client specific projects. The expansion underpins our commitment to our clients as it lets us expand the range of services on offer and greatly increase the amount of projects that can take place over a given period.10. What is your one piece of advice to other companies working in the life science arena?I think it would be the same for any company that handles client data, and that is to embrace a culture of quality and professional integrity. A core value of Melbourn Scientific is that we will always work to the same exacting levels and standards. With regards to pharmaceutical studies, questions concerning data quality can be very expensive, so it is worth the cost of being rigorous because it will ensure your company’s integrity.