Research and development are critical to creating a more prosperous, competitive Wales. These activities are often centred on the nation's world-leading higher education sector. Port Talbot-based Hexigone is just one example of the ability of higher education institutions to develop new technology and drive economic well-being.

Hexigone was established by its founder Dr Patrick Dodds, whose research at Swansea University saw him develop technology to inhibit metal corrosion. The company's coating solution promises to solve a problem that costs the global economy billions annually. The product fights corrosion when used in primers with full-system barrier topcoats. In addition, it is compatible with a broad spectrum of resin and coating types.

Hexigone has been supported through Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.



Here, Dr Patrick Dodds explains how he developed his business and its product, looks at some of the hurdles he has encountered along the way and offers advice to other entrepreneurs looking to develop a business idea.


Tell us about Hexigone
We have developed and patented a coating solution that will reduce corrosion costs to the world economy in a way that also protects the environment. This corrosion inhibitor is heavy metal free and, I'm pleased and proud to say, is already a world market leader. I created and patented the product while doing an EU-funded doctorate at Swansea University. The long road to commercialisation started when I formed the company with investors in 2017. Investors included the Development Bank of Wales and the wonderfully-named Worshipful Company of Armourers & Brasiers (a medieval guild in the City of London founded in 1322, no less!). Soon after, I joined the Business Wales AGP, and the programme has provided continued advice and support ever since. We've gone on to attract other investments from angel investors. So there's been no shortage of interest in the company, which reinforces what we already know: that we have a great product.

The road to commercialisation and bringing a product like this to the market is long. We are not a technology company where you can get a product to market in months; it takes many years. Our market is conservative, there are vast amounts of money at stake, and even when we secure a client, the cycle is such that it could be four years before income starts to flow in.

Business Wales AGP has supported us in our efforts to build resilience. As a result, despite setbacks - especially Covid - we've managed to stay the course and gain market traction globally. We've also obtained two more patents in key markets. Now, we've scaled up to our next phase and anticipate substantial growth for the next ten years at least. We employ more than ten people now – and have a majority of female staff, most of whom work in high-level roles. The culture of the company is forward-thinking and inclusive.


What are your proudest moments in business so far?
We have a few, and our response to Covid is one which I'll talk about later. But I think in terms of our core business, securing our first export sale was a real landmark for us and something which made me enormously proud. But a thriving company is about more than the bottom line; it's about a team of people's skills, knowledge and endeavours. So I'm proud of the development of our team here at Hexigone; we've created an authentic culture of innovation and respect. It's been such a humbling experience.


What challenges have you faced in business
We've had a few in our time! But as I mentioned above, when we started, the real challenge was the long sales cycle due to the complexity of the market and our products. It took us a while to realise this, but working with Business Wales AGP gave us clarity. That initial journey into business also made us realise just how important it is to get recruitment right.

Covid presented us with a whole new challenge. We had moved to a new factory the day before the lockdown was announced. Some staff opted to take furlough, but given the crisis and our material formulation skills, we switched to making hand sanitiser. We sourced the alcohol for free and sold our products at fair prices to local authorities and charities. We donated profits from this to Mental Health UK. It was an enormous challenge, but I'm so proud of what we did during that time.


If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
I think we'd have raised more money at the beginning. A start-up like ours needs finance to meet its growth ambitions, so that was something we needed to unlock earlier. Also, we'd have liked to have been commercial and independent earlier.

Another thing, which I think is shared by other businesses in the same sort of place in terms of their cycle, is to have taken more care and time in choosing the people we needed. That recruitment covers both employees but also board members too. When starting out, getting the right people into your company is central to success.


How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
I mentioned earlier that the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme has been central to our resilience through some tricky times but is crucial to unlocking our growth potential.

We've worked with AGP across a range of areas of our business, and I think this reflects how helpful the programme is to us as a firm and how useful it could be to other business leaders in Wales. For example, the expertise from AGP has supported us with manufacturing processes, scaling up, sales, marketing and business leadership development.

More broadly, we've accessed finance from the Development Bank of Wales and have received support with trade shows and missions. This support means we've been able to get our brand and offering out there to a global market.


What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?

  • Raise a lot more money at the beginning to give you the lead in time you need.
  • Trust your gut – trust yourself.
  • Develop tough skin.
  • Find the right trusted advisors and support.
  • Keep going, and enjoy the journey.

To learn more about Hexigone, visit here.

Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme


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The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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