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3M BIC firm is making 30,000 ltr of hand gel daily for frontline

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AS soon as it became plain that there would be a shortage of hand sanitising gel – vital in the fight against coronavirus – a laboratory based at the University of Huddersfield’s premises sprang into action.

In less than two weeks, it had set in motion a process that has resulted in the manufacture of 30,000 litres of gel a day.  The product is now widely distributed in hospitals, care homes, hospices, pharmacies and other frontline settings.

Large quantities have also been donated to schools, and the gel – noted for the fact that it sanitises hands without leading to dry and cracked skin – is also being distributed among key workers, such as Royal Mail personnel.

The University is home to the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC), where the company Surfachem has a laboratory.  As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic emerged, the team began to investigate the formulations for hand sanitising gel that the lab had on file.

They fast-tracked safety assessment and EN testing to comply with current regulations of the most suitable product and Formulation and Technical Development Manager Lisa Cripps visited the Middlesbrough plant of MP Storage and Blending, which – like Surfachem – is part of the highly-diverse 2M Group, which stresses the importance of ethics and community.

Lisa delivered training to staff at the Middlesbrough company and production was soon under way.  Within days, the gel was being supplied to the NHS and police forces.  Meanwhile, 2M employees were urged to suggest people and organisations in pressing need.

“For example, someone might have a sister on the NHS frontline and they know they are short of hand sanitizers, so we send donations there,” said Lisa.

“We have managed to keep up with demand so far,” she added, although a shortage of specialist plastic bottles for the gel was an issue being addressed.

There is a bonus with the formula of the Surfachem gel – which will be rebranded by many suppliers.

“It’s very moisturising,” said Lisa.  “We are getting lots of feedback from frontline staff who say it’s a lot kinder to their hands!”

The Surfachem lab at Huddersfield’s 3M BIC has been operational for five years and has a regular full-time staff of eight.  In normal times, it looks at trends in the market and works on new concepts for personal and homecare products.

Article by: University of Huddersfield

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3M Buckley Innovation Centre is  ‘Covid Secure’. We have a comprehensive risk assessment which has been shared and refined with our staff and tenants, which is kept under regular review