INEOS chairman Jim Ratcliffe has won an award for his outstanding contribution to the world in which we live.
He was presented with the Petrochemical Heritage Award at the 2013 International Petrochemical Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Previous winners of this lifetime achievement award – long viewed as one of the most prestigious by the industry – have included some of its most prominent pioneers from all corners of the globe.
Tom Tritton, president and CEO of The Chemical Heritage Foundation, said Jim had been this year’s overwhelming winner due to INEOS’ rapid growth and incredible success over the past 15 years.
“Science-based industries need people like Jim,” he told INCH magazine after the ceremony. “He combines an understanding of basic science with an acute level of insight into how to translate science to practical application.
He also knows how to take well-timed risks that will turn ideas into reality.”
It is the first time that a Briton has ever won the award in its 17-year history – a fact that did not go unnoticed by Jim.
“I was a bit concerned that your standards were slipping,” he said with a smile.
But the former chemical engineer, who graduated from Birmingham University in 1974, said INEOS’ success was not the work of just one man.
“I am here because of what INEOS has achieved but it has not just been myself who has done that,” he said.
“We are quite a tightly-knit group of people in INEOS so it has very much been a team effort to get us here.”
INEOS, he said, worked in a different way to most similar-sized companies.
“We are more like a federation of businesses,” he said. “We give our businesses a lot of autonomy. We give our management and chief executives a lot of autonomy and independence.
That’s why people in INEOS behave, I hope, more like owners than employees. And it hopefully generates that spirit of entrepreneurship, being nimble and making quick decisions.”
He said INEOS was very focused on fixed costs, operating reliable machinery, profit and safety.
“Everybody in our industry talks about safety but we have about 10 or 15 board meetings a month and the first item on every board agenda is safety,” he said.
During his acceptance speech and subsequent Q&A, Jim also touched on INEOS’ proud history, the 2008-2009 recession and how INEOS managed its way out of that crisis and the shale gas boom which has transformed America’s manufacturing industry.
He also spoke about why INEOS disliked bureaucracy – ‘it suffocates businesses ‘ – and why, he believed, the UK, once home to INEOS’ headquarters, was still in recession.
“I am a firm believer that any economy must have a strong manufacturing base,” he said.
“The main reason that the UK has not come out of this recession is because it has no, or very little, manufacturing.”
He said it had been quite depressing to witness the virtual collapse of manufacturing in the UK where 15 years ago it had been on a par with Germany – at about 25%.
Today only about 10% of the UK’s economy is manufacturing while Germany’s is still at 25%.
That happened, he said, because the British Government, at that time, had been more interested in financial services than manufacturing.
“They thought financial services was the future,” he said.
Jim told guests that for manufacturing to be successful in any country, it needed to have unique selling points (USPs).
“If you look at the UK today, there are not many USPs,” he said. “There are not many reasons why someone what want to manufacture in the UK, other than perhaps the English language.
“Taxes are relatively high, the unions are difficult, pensions are expensive, there are logistics and energy costs are extremely expensive.”
He said America – on the other hand – had ‘lots and lots of USPs’.
“You have skilled labour, the unions are sensible, pensions are sensible, and you have this enormously strong new one, which is cheap energy and cheap feedstock,” he said.
During the question and answer session, Jim was asked about shale gas – the cheap feedstock that has revived America’s manufacturing industry – and whether the US government should limit shale gas exports to protect the American economy.
“I can understand it in certain areas perhaps it being restricted,” he told them. “But across the board I think that would be regarded by the world as creating a difficult precedent because America imports a lot of oil.”
As the 17th recipient of the Petrochemical Heritage Award, Jim joins an elite group, including the former president of Cain Chemical and the founder of Texas Petrochemicals Company.
“Jim’s career shows how an optimizer steadily grows,” said Tom Tritton. “He has taken INEOS through two major industry downturns to success after success.
He is also clearly a man who is in for the long haul. He has held the chairmanship at INEOS since 1998 and this year he finished, Paris, London and Geneva Marathons in under four hours.
To me, running a marathon is a wholly admirable accomplishment. It demonstrates dedication, persistence in the face of adversity, and a willingness to take on hard goals.”
The Chemical Heritage Foundation and the Founders Club established the Petrochemical Heritage Award in 1997 to recognise inspiring individuals who had made an outstanding contribution to the petrochemical industry and promoted public understanding of the modern sciences, industries, and economies.
What’s in a name
Ever wondered where the INEOS name comes from?
It was a question asked of Jim Ratcliffe after he accepted his award in Texas.
Two sons, two dictionaries and an acquisition deadline led to the company’s unique name when it was first established 15 years ago.
On the Friday before Jim was to close the acquisition of the company his lawyers needed a name. By Monday.
On Saturday morning, Ratcliffe bought two dictionaries, one Greek, one Latin and sat down with his two sons, then aged 10 and 12. The three then set to work on a name. And at a cost of $20, they came up with one word that holds a lot of meaning.
The new company’s business was previously INspec Ethylene Oxide and Specialties, so the letters fell into place.
From the dictionaries the three found ‘INEO’ which is Latin for a new beginning. ‘EOS’ is the Greek goddess of the dawn and ‘NEOS’ is new, novel and innovative. So the name was chosen – ‘INEOS’ - representing the dawn of something new and innovative.
The company has been living up to its name ever since.