How PI-KEM started - by our founder Dr Ian Rouse

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publication date
January 26, 2024
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Dr Ian Rouse, founder of PI-KEM, graduated as Industrial Chemist (BSc City Univ. 1966) and PhD Catalysis (Bristol Univ. 1969).

Industrial experience included R&D (Laporte Ind.), applications research (Unilever), marketing precious metal catalysts (Johnson Matthey Chemicals), Zirconia product manager (Mandoval, RTZ Group). After developing business as Director of Zirconia Sales Europe, I also set up Minchem, as associated trading Company in Advanced Materials.

Dr Ian Rouse, PI-KEM Founder and his wife Penny Rouse

When I spoke with Ian and asked him about the PI-KEM journey this is what he said:

'In 1990, I moved from RTZ Metals Group to RTZ Chemicals to set up new Advanced Materials Company, based on RTZ Borides, when RTZ Chemicals was taken over by Rhone Poulenc who sold their Advanced Materials interests both in France and Borides UK, I took redundancy.

At age 49. In 1992, I decided to start my own company PI-KEM (an original name idea was Penny and Ian Chemicals) to distribute Advanced Materials, hopefully to some previous customers. I started in the spare room with an Amstrad computer, and a new-fangled fax machine!

Rhone Poulenc offered YBCO powder for new superconductor technology , and whilst sales never grew beyond a few kg, the product lead to customers needing associated products including single crystal substrates (Akzo/ Surfacenet), sputter targets (various supply) and spin coaters (Speciality Coating Systems).

Slowly over 2 years I established new suppliers especially via a USA visit in 1994 including Aremco, SB Boron. Seattle Speciality Coatings and Chemat Technology. Other early products included Sapphire windows and Silicon wafers.

Penny looked after the Accounts and by 1996 sales has increased to about £250k. Colin joined to further develop sales, as we both continued to work from home. In 1999, Colin and I visited USA and had our first contact with MTI at the Boston MRS Exhibition. The initial purchases of small laboratory saws, and later wafer carriers eventually led to PI-KEM handling all MTI products for UK and European market.

The next development was for Colin to move to a shared business premises in Tamworth, while I moved in to a dedicated home office.

During the next 15 years, we took sole use of the business premises. Expanded into additional units 18, 19 and 20, Fiona joined the company from her teaching career, staff grew to 15 and sales increased to £2.5m. Colin took over as Managing Director, and I finally fully retired at the end of 2013.

The rest as they say, is history….'