- Research: find a new niche in a marketplace you know well
- Get a patent to secure your place in a market
- A Victorian Government voucher can help set you up with the right partner
Since 1987, Melbourne-based company Micronisers has established a firm place within the highly competitive chemicals industry with its major product zinc monoglycerolate (ZMG) – a key additive to plastics such as polypropylene used to make items such as drink and take-way containers and furniture.
But next year a major competitor product will come off patent. This will likely result in Micronisers rapidly losing market share due to lower cost competitors.
Micronisers manufacture an important additive used in the commodity plastic, polypropylene. This additive, called ZMG, strengthens and increases impact resistance of polypropylene. Micronisers currently sell ZMG to a global leader in the plastics industry, who would like to continue to use ZMG and is collaborating with Micronisers to improve the performance of ZMG formulations.
To improve the performance of ZMG, Micronisers established a collaboration with Monash University‘s Department of Materials Engineering, and won a Victorian Government Small Technology Industry Uptake Program Feasibility Voucher (now known as a Technology Development Voucher under the Technology Voucher Program) to support the project. To undertake the research and testing, the collaborators required access to specialist polymer processing equipment, available from the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Polymers.
The supported research is achieving dramatic improvements in the performance of ZMG. Results from the research to date have shown that the modifications permit the amount of ZMG to be reduced by 50 per cent. In addition to needing to use less, Micronisers expect that the new ZMG formulations will cost 50 per cent less, and perform up to 20 per cent better. The company believes that these modifications will also make the new ZMG highly competitive in other polymer applications and hopefully result in greatly expanded sales.
Because of the unique chemistry involved in the new ZMG formulation, the company is hoping to successfully obtain between one and three new patents. If successful, the new patents will make it more difficult for new entrants next year and so secure Micronisers' place in the global plastic additives market.
Using a Victorian Government voucher, Micronisers began work with university researchers to gain an edge over competitors. They were able to improve the dispersion of ZMG within the plastic and reduce the amount required. To date, they have reduced the amount of ZMG by 50 per cent, allowing the company to maintain its price and profit margin.