iFormulate 2022 Review: A COVID Rebound?

By David Calvert, December 2022

Reflecting back on 12 months ago, here in the UK we were facing the Omicron COVID variant and – due to government advice – entering another pseudo-lockdown. I remember thinking at that time, where would we be in a year’s time – and would life, both personal and business, ever return to “normal”? Well times have changed and as the saying goes, we have now entered a “new normal”.

Although we had participated in a few in-person events in 2021, exhibitions, courses and conferences returned properly in 2022. We attended several exhibitions and presented in-person at ChemUK 2022 in Birmingham and then I attended an in-person networking event on “Sustainability in Cosmetics” in York in February. It seemed somewhat surreal going back to “business speed-dating” but the smiles of all participants (the majority without masks) were something special.

As the year progressed, more familiarity returned with exhibitions such as “Making Pharmaceuticals”, “SCS Formulate” and “Surfex” and we continued our efforts to help educate the next generation of formulators by delivering lectures at both the University of Lincoln and the University of York, as well as contributing to the activities of the SCI Formulation Forum.

Our in-person training courses picked up with Formulation – The Basics being sold out on its first appearance in London in September and the Spray Drying course with the University of Leeds was well received. There has been a noticeable change in attitudes to on-line training though and we saw this with the second live online edition of Informa’s “Introduction to Agrochemical Formulation Strategies” which saw participation from companies in Malaysia, South Africa, the US and all around Europe. In our projects, we have noticed that there has been a trend towards hybrid projects where we have delivered on-line training tailored to a company’s activities, together with an element of consultancy. This “Trainsultancy” looks like it is here to stay.

We have carried out a number of projects and conference presentation on agrochemicals with an emphasis on biopesticides, or BioControl Agents (BCAs) as they are the industry now prefers to call them. Following presentations at the World Bioprotection Forum event in Birmingham and running a formulation session at the inaugural IBMA UK/University of Swansea conference on “New IPM”, we also recently ran a workshop at the Annual Biocontrol Industry Meeting (ABIM) in Basel. This event had over 1500 attendees and combined an exhibition, with a conference and workshop programme. We were invited to lead an interactive workshop on “Formulating for Biology” and with over 50 attendees this was a challenge and experiment which I am pleased to say was received well. The exhibition demonstrated the massive growth potential of biocontrol agents and formulation has a key role to play in delivering the growth potential. As would be expected, the conference programme had an emphasis on regulations, and this is still hindering the introduction of BCAs in Europe especially. This may change with the EU’s “Farm to Fork” strategy but there is still a long way to go to match the progress seen in Brazil where it has been recently reported that from 107 biological pesticide registrations in 2013, there are now 433 registered through March 2022 with over 500 expected by March 2023[1]. So, what do we expect in 2023 for formulation in general? Well, change is always to be expected and formulators cannot ignore the cost-of-living crisis which people around the globe are facing. We would expect a formulation “evolution” rather than revolution both in terms of technology and delivery but the importance of formulation will continue to grow – and with that we wish you all a happy Christmas and successful 2023.  

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[1] https://www.agribusinessglobal.com/biopesticides/biopesticide-registrations-have-skyrocketed-in-brazil-heres-why/