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The Worshipful Company of Horners

Ralph Anderson Lectures

The 26th Ralph Anderson Lecture

Iron or Plastic – is that really the Question?

Once again, the annual Ralph Anderson Lecture took place on Thursday 16th November at the Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street.

This year, the Lecture was given by David Nicholls RSS, AWCF, RJF, LSHMC, CBT, CFP, CLS, Cert Euro Farrier, Master Farrier

He spoke of how two distinctly different industries farriery and plastics have grown together for the betterment of a horse’s wellbeing

Farriery, or the shoeing of horses, is an ancient craft, believed to have been practised first in the Roman Empire.

A farrier is a skilled craftsperson with a sound knowledge of both theory and practice of the craft, capable of shoeing all types of equine feet, whether normal or defective, of making shoes to suit all types of work and working conditions, and of devising corrective measures to compensate for faulty limb action.

David  shared his extensive experience from the last two decades  two distinctly different industries farriery and plastics have grown together for the betterment of a horse’s wellbeing.

page1image9822752 Having recognised the fact that the iron horseshoe produces a vast range of negative consequences in the equine world, he imparted how plastics are contributing to ‘hoof mechanics’ aiding how the horn capsule interacts with the horse’s natural motion.

Does there exists a need for a lightweight, shock absorbent, abrasion resistant, partially flexible horseshoe that will provide therapeutic advantages to the horse? David  explained all in this in his insightful lecture.

The 25th Ralph Anderson Lecture

“Advances in technology to fast-forward the circular economy” given by Professor Edward Kosior.


Climate change is not an event in the future. It is happening now. We have already breached many of our planet’s boundaries and can’t afford to be complacent about the next steps we take to drastically reduce our CO2e and plastic pollution.

In this talk Professor Edward Kosior explored how waste management sits at the heart of climate change, with globalwaste generating more than 1.3 billion tons of CO2e annually and goes on to define the cutting-edge technologies that are coming on stream to help the world turn plastic waste into a valuable resource.

From highly efficient sorting systems for plastics to unique decontamination processes to breathe new life back into post- consumer food-contact single use plastics and flexiblefilms, Professor Kosior deep dives into the future of circularrecycling of plastics.

Professor Kosior’s expertise in the plastics recycling sector spans 48 years, split between 23 years as an academic and 25 years working in plastic packaging recycling.

He is the founder of Nextek, a technical consultancy specialising in sustainable solutions for plastics and recycling and has been instrumental in designing numerous modern recycling plants achieving a number of patented recycling breakthroughs. He also provides support to organisations such as the Earth Champions Foundation, Plastics Oceans, PEW Foundation Trust on the Project “Stopping Ocean Plastics” and is the founder of NEXTLOOPP, the 47 strong multi-participant project aimed at closing the loop on food-grade PP.

The 24th Ralph Anderson Lecture 2021

Creating a Circular Plastics Economy with Engineered Enzymes

On 4th November at the Royal Society of Medicine, our usual venue for this annual event, the Lecture was given by Professor John McGeehan. Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation, School of Biological Sciences, at the University of Portsmouth.

The subject of his talk was “Creating a Circular Plastics Economy with Engineered Enzymes” a very topical subject given the need to deal with the problem of single use plastic containers and packaging.

John McGeehan is a Professor of Structural Biology focused on the global challenge of plastic pollution and leads a team of scientists researching natural enzyme discovery and engineering. He founded the Centre for Enzyme Innovation in 2019 where he is currently Director. Their work on PET-digesting enzymes has been widely covered in the media following two key papers in 2018 and 2020 in the journal PNAS, and the project received the Times Higher Education STEM Research Project of the Year in 2019. The group is rapidly expanding due to a £5.8 million grant from Research England which has allowed the recruitment of 15 additional researchers for the Centre.


The Master introduced Professor McGeehan to the audience of Horners and guests from other Livery Companies and the plastics Industry.

Professor McGeehan then gave us a fascinating lecture speaking about the discovery in a Japanese recycling facility of a bacterium capable of breaking down the man-made plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The Centre’s attention  was turned towards uncovering the detailed workings of the enzymes that can perform this remarkable reaction. Found in single- use drinks bottles, packaging, clothing and carpets, PET can take centuries to decompose, and together with other plastics, is accumulating in our environment at a staggering rate. A biological catalyst that can break PET down into its original building blocks opens new opportunities for recycling towards a circular plastics economy.

He explained that a combination of experimental approaches can productively inform the engineering of these enzymes to increase the speed of breakdown. In addition to field studies searching for novel bacteria in environments polluted with plastics, they are targeting the vast resource of DNA sequences known to code for thermotolerant enzymes that can be employed to breakdown PET at faster rates and are excited by a new collaboration with world-leading researchers at DeepMind to bring the latest advances in artificial intelligence to the team.

They have recently calculated the economics of enzyme-based recycled PET (rPET) versus fossil derived virgin PET (vPET) revealing comparative costs at scale, but with up to 80% energy savings across the supply chain and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 40%. The group recently joined the BOTTLE ( consortium which offers new opportunities for true interdisciplinary research across the diverse areas required to tackle the global plastic pollution crisis and are now partnering with industry to push forward the application of these bio-based technologies at scale.

The Master thanked Professor McGeehan for  a fantastic Lecture. Everyone was full of praise for a stunning lecture from a very passionate and enthusiastic Professor John McGeehan.

The 23rd Ralph Anderson Lecture 2020

‘Are Plastics Compatible with a Sustainable Planet?’
The 23rd Horners’ Ralph Anderson Memorial Lecture was held  on Thursday 5th November 2020 virtually by Zoom on the first day of Lockdown2 and was given by Dr Dr Marcus Gover .

Dr Marcus Gover has worked in the environment sector for over 25 years and has been Chief Executive Officer of WRAP since 2016.  WRAP is an independent charity working with governments, businesses and citizens to improve the way natural resources are used and specialising in the sustainability of food, plastics and clothing.

Before WRAP, Marcus was Commercial Director of Biojoule, a small start-up renewable energy company making wood pellets from forestry residues and energy crops and a Director of AEA Technology Environment – an international technical services business that is now part of Ricardo.

You can watch the Ralph Anderson Lecture 2020 here…

The story of plastics is a remarkable one.  The range of properties, ease of processing and costs of production are such that plastics have crept into all business and consumer sectors with astonishing speed.  Of course, most plastics are made from extracted feedstocks, but their durability and lightness are considered a sustainability advantage over other materials.

However, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 TV series at the end of 2017 brought the world’s attention to the problem of plastics leaking into the oceans, their impact on marine life, and onwards through the food chain. As a result, there has been an unrelenting focus on plastics from the public, the media and politicians in the last three years.

However, the problem is not with plastics, but with the way that we all deal with waste.  We cannot live without these materials in our world today.  Plastics make vehicles safer and more efficient, they make our hospitals safer and save lives, they have protected us all with PPEs during the pandemic and they preserve our food, allowing less waste.  Most of all, plastics consume much less energy than traditional alternatives and are therefore a major contributor to saving our planet’s precious resources.

The 22nd Ralph Anderson Lecture 2019

The 22nd Horners’ Ralph Anderson Memorial Lecture was held  on Thursday 7th November 2019 at the Royal Society of Medicine, for the 9th time. Guests included  Livery Masters, representatives from the polymer industry, and Horners.

This year, the Lecture was given by Professor Dame Julia Higgins DBE FRS FREng, a polymer scientist who since 1976 has been based at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College where, since 2007, she has been Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator. She is a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the City and Guilds of London Institute, of which she is Vice-President.

The subject of her talk was “Seeing is believing: Why polymers bounce, stretch and stick”.

Her lecture which was very well received was delivered in the comfortable surrounding of the modern lecture theatre at the Royal Society of medicine.  Afterwards everyone enjoyed a buffet supper laid on by the Society.

For a detailed report of the evening by Assistant Barry Maunders, click here.

The 21st Ralph Anderson Lecture 2018

The 21st Horners’ Ralph Anderson Memorial Lecture was held  on Thursday 8th November 2018 at the Royal Society of Medicine, for the 8th time. Guests included 21 Livery Masters, representatives from the polymer industry and Horners totalling 160 in all..

This year, the Lecture was given by Ian Shott CBE FREng. The subject of his talk was “New and Sustainable Manufacturing Processes for 21st century high-performance functional materials”. The lecture which was very well received was delivered in the comfortable surrounding of the modern lecture theatre at the Royal Society of medicine.  Afterwards everyone, including many guests and Masters of other Livery Companies enjoyed a buffet supper laid on by the Society.

Ian Shott CBE is the co-founder, CEO and Executive Chairman of Arcinova, a Contract Research and Development Business. He is also Managing Partner of Shott Trinova through which he invests in, chairs and leads a portfolio of life science businesses. In 2004, he founded Excelsyn, a Pharmaceutical Development business, selling it in 2010.

He served on the Governing Board of Innovate UK for 6 years and is a past President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering where he created the Enterprise Hub and chairs the Enterprise Committee for which he was awarded the President’s Medal in 2017. He started up and was the Chair of the UK’s Leadership Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and helped form the Chemistry Growth Partnership. He was made CBE for services to Chemical Engineering in 2009.

The converging challenges of this century are to improve the price and performance envelope of functional materials for ever more demanding applications whilst responding to, or pre-empting, increasingly stringent standards for environmental protection, health and personal care. Advanced manufacturing technology is a pre-requisite for success and there is a rapidly expanding armoury of tools, platforms and methodologies based around the exponential developments in the fields of genomics, bio-informatics and synthetic biology to provide the necessary solutions.

His talk presented an overview of these developments and illustrated process technology disruptions leading to the sustainable manufacture of functional materials in a circular economy addressing environmental, health and wellbeing issues and delivering ever-greater product performance.

Ralph Anderson, an active Horner and great supporter of the Plastics Industry, died in 1994. He left a substantial legacy to the Horners Company for charitable science educational projects and the Ralph Anderson annual lecture, inaugurated in 1997, is held very year in his memory.

The 20th Ralph Anderson Lecture 2017

The 20th Ralph Anderson lecture was delivered by Dr Mathew Burke, Head of Drug Delivery in the Platform Technologies & Science Department at GlaxoSmithKline.

His talk was entitled “Polymers to herald in a new age of medicine.

Dr Burke is a subject matter expert on oral modified release and continuous manufacturing and has worked at multiple sites in the US and UK within GSK.  He has 30 articles, patents and presentations.

He has served as an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University Biomolecular and Chemical Engineering department and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Pharmacy.

Polymers and plastics have played a key role in the development of medicinal products and therapies for several decades.  The application of polymers ranges from packaging materials to device components to formulated drug mixtures that are administered as oral pills or injectable products.  Much has been achieved but there is still much to learn as medicine evolves into the digital age and we discover new ways to improve patients’ lives through the application of novel approaches such as bio-electronic implants and the evolution of artificial intelligence and the human-machine interface.

The 19th Ralph Anderson Lecture – 9th November 2016

“Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering: A NICE approach to innovation and sustainability” Given by Professor Marc-Olivier Coppens

Dr Coppens is Ramsay Memorial Professor and Head of Chemical Engineering at University College London (UCL), where he also directs the Centre for Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering (NICE), which includes researchers from chemical engineering and chemistry to computer science and architecture.
Exciting times are ahead as evolution over a very long period of time has made Nature a treasure trove of clever solutions to sustainability, resilience, and ways to efficiently utilize scarce resources. For instance, we have learned a lot about the design of composite materials from detailed understanding of the structure of horn.

Professor Coppens’s multidisciplinary research aims to draw lessons from nature, from the molecular level to large structures in order to engineer innovative solutions to our grand challenges in energy and energy efficiency, fresh water production, materials, health, and living space.

His lecture illustrated many of the ways that scientists of today can learn from nature. The lecture was opened my our Master, Hugh Moss; Professor Coppens was introduced by the Chairman of the Polymer Committee, John Russell, and afterwards was thanked by our Upper Warden Alison Gill.

Held at the headquarters of the Royal Society for Medicine in Wimple Street, the Lecture was followed by an excellent buffet supper for the attendees which included the Masters of several Livery Companies and guests from the Polymer Industry.

The 18th Ralph Anderson Lecture – 11th November 2015

“Horns, Polymers and Polymaths: creativity, innovation and education for the 21st century”

Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff studied at King’s College, Cambridge, B.A (1969) and Ph.D. (1973) under the supervision of J. J. Turner FRS on the Matrix Isolation of Large Molecules. In 1972, he was appointed Research/Senior Research Officer in the Department of Inorganic Chemistry of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1979, he moved to a Lectureship in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. Promotion to Reader in Inorganic Chemistry and then to Professor of Chemistry followed in 1985 and 1991 respectively.

In addition, he is Honorary Professor of Chemistry at Moscow State University. From 1994-99, he held an EPSRC/Royal Academy of Engineering Clean Technology Fellowship at Nottingham. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (2002), of the RSC (2002) and of the IChemE (2004). He was awarded CBE (2008) for “Services to Sciences”, made Honorary Member of the Chemical Society of Ethiopia (2008) and Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2011). In 2012, He was elected a Fellow of the Academia Europiaea and, in 2013, Associate Fellow of TWAS, the World Academy of Science. He was a Council Member of the IChemE (2009-13) and Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society (2011-16). His research interests are focused on supercritical fluids, continuous reactions and their applications to Green Chemistry. Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff was knighted in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2015.

Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff’s lecture suggested how we might begin to educate the next generations of chemists and materials scientists so that they can address future challenges in a sustainable and creative way.

The 17th Ralph Anderson Lecture – 11th November 2014

“The Livery Companies and Education – A Scientific Perspective”.

Sir John Holman spoke to a very large audience at the Ralph Anderson lecture on November 11th 2014. The lecture had everything – amusing anecdotes, simple science questions that stumped many of the audience, very illustrative experiments which tested the skill and trust of the Master, but most of all a quality presentation which was highly informative and thought provoking.

Addressing the question why education is so important, Sir John focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). It is estimated that an additional 40,000 STEM graduates are needed each year and stressed that science careers were not ‘the preserve of men’. Encouraging children to consider education options leading to STEM qualifications was not easy and there is need for a change in the mindsets of many parents and politicians. One area where members of the livery could play an essential role was where they were appointed as governors in schools and colleges. Reference was made to some work sponsored by the Welcome Trust helping governors to ask challenging questions and finding ways to celebrate and improve.

Sir John concluded his talk by referring to three things those livery companies could do more: help schools engage with employers to provide authentic career guidance; as governors, ask the right questions about science and mathematics in your school; carry the banner for technical and vocational education.