A GROUP promoting the interests of Yorkshire's £2bn-plus chemical industry has reported a successful first year.
Yorkshire Chemical Focus, launched in Huddersfield in 2005, represents chemical companies of all sizes - the bulk of them based in West Yorkshire and Humber.
Huddersfield firms backed by the group include Syngenta and Avecia at Leeds Road, Deighton; James Robinson at Hillhouse; and Grosvenor Chemicals at Linthwaite.
The update comes as the industry prepares for new regulations to protect human health and the environment.
YCF chief executive Dr Jane Mockford, who is based at the Syngenta plant, said major issues facing the industry included the likely 2007 introduction of REACH - new European regulations for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals.
REACH will require any organisation making or importing more than a tonne of chemicals each year to produce a dossier detailing the make-up of the chemical.
Dr Mockford said the new rules would effect industries such as engineering, printing and packaging, food processing and plastics as well as the chemical industry.
YCF is holding a seminar on REACH on February 17at the Briar Court Hotel, Birchencliffe. It is alerting other groups such as the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses to the event.
YCF was launched with funding from regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the European Union.
In a hectic first year, it has provided a voice for more than 230 chemical companies across the region - helping the industry improve its competitiveness, dealing with skills and training issues and promoting greater understanding of the chemical industry's role in the regional economy.
Dr Mockford said another major issue for the industry was recruitment - and the need to enthuse young people about the career prospects of chemistry.
"We are working with schools to encourage children to take an interest in science and the chemical industry," she said.
YCF plans to stage an event entitled A Day Without Chemicals to underline how chemicals feature in almost every aspect of everyday life.
YCF is also active in lobbying on behalf of the industry; organising events to bring businesses together to network; and setting up a buyers' group to improve the purchasing power of chemical companies.
YCF has also take up issues such as pollution and the environment.
Before taking up her post with YCF, Dr Mockford was a research and development director with ICI.
She has also worked in the laboratory of the Government Scientist analysing materials such as sand contaminated in oil spills - and even the glue on postage stamps.
Said Dr Mockford: "It has been a busy year and we have made a lot of progress.
"We have increased membership and we have made contacts with start-up and spin-off companies from universities.
"The main task has been to make companies aware of issues affecting the industry and we have had regular events on matters such as regulation, skills and the help available to firms."