Fine chemicals are defined as small-batch, high-value products that are useful based on their molecular properties, and are purchased for specific functions like perfumes and pharmaceuticals. Due to their properties, they have a very interesting history and origins story – fine chemicals date back to the late 1800s when modern pharmaceuticals were beginning to develop. Initially, the chemicals industry consisted of explosives and dyestuffs, and pharmaceuticals were not something that was regularly thought about – obviously, since then, the pharmaceuticals industry has grown exponentially, and therefore so has the demand for fine chemicals UK.
During World War I, a monumental amount of change in the chemicals UK sector was sparked, and there was a sharp spike in demand for chemicals all over the globe. There was an intense period of growth and innovation, and many new chemicals were being made and discovered. The UK put its effort into state-run companies, and the modern fine chemicals UK industry was born.
World War II saw a huge boom in research, with many chemicals companies opening new research centres and laboratories, for research into chemicals and drug production. After the war, the basis of the modern pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical industry was set, and the industry was eventually split into the sectors of commodity chemicals, speciality chemicals and fine chemicals. The fine chemicals UK sector was recognised at this point in time mainly due to the success of the histamine receptor antagonists Tagamet and Zantac, which created a widespread demand for organic chemicals used in the manufacturing.
The beginning of the fine chemicals UK industry is usually accredited to a supply contract between Smith Kline & French, and Glaxo, both popular chemical companies (which many will now know as GlaxoSmithKline) that signed the document in the 1970s. Following this contract, pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals grew in complexity and demand. This introduced a different mode of production by using multipurpose plants.
The introduction of biopharmaceuticals created, even more, demand for fine chemicals UK, and fine chemicals were used more and more as the active ingredients of both drugs and agrochemicals.
In more recent history, fine chemicals UK have been viewed as the glamour sector of the chemical industry – however, they have a lot more potential that just the production of soap or paint. The fine chemicals of today are high tech materials, made in clean batch processes, which are the building blocks of some cancer drugs.