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MAGPIE POLYMERS: Vertical Integration into PGM Refining Processes

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VIPREP (MAGPIE POLYMERS: Vertical Integration into PGM Refining Processes)

Reporting period: 2014-10-01 to 2015-03-31

The objective of VIPREP was to assess the technical and market feasibility of integrating vertically the use of Magpie into refining processes. In other words, not only using the resins to remove final traces of platinum group metals (PGM) from waste-effluents, but also use the polymers to separate precious metals during the refining process.
The objectives were therefore to asses technically if this is possible with Magpie and more efficient with Magpie than with competing technologies and secondly how the market would perceive such a solution.
In the context of VIPREP, Magpie engaged with the technical experts at these refining companies in conversations about future needs and the possibility of using Magpie resin solutions inside the refining process. Indeed, the market interest for this kind of solution was confirmed. The use of old-fashioned, inefficient separation technology is something that the precious metal refining industry would like to move away from. The use of aggressive reagents such as hydrazine is something that needs to be limited or even phased-out, and efficient use of resin technology is one of the ways the industry hopes to tackle these problems.
As such, it was possible to initiate four projects during VIPREP: replacing zinc sedimentation and separating rhodium from a rhodium/iridium stream in PGM refining, and removing platinum and palladium from the silver refining process in two different, commonly used silver refining processes. The objective is to build-out the technical advantage of Magpie's unique resin technology to a lasting competitive advantage in the market of precious metal refining.
The main take-away message from the VIPREP project for Magpie has been that the need for in-process use of selective resins is there. Customers have unsolved problems in their refining processes and the old-fashioned way of dealing with this is either inefficient, expensive or not acceptable in terms of health and safety. The business idea of vertical integration was therefore validated. This can be seen by the fact that customers are willing to engage in the discussion, but also provide laboratory samples and run production pilots to validate Magpie for the intended use.

Strategically, vertical integration is key for the development of Magpie as a company. It is a way to take a larger share of the value-created compared to waste-treatment. It is also a very good way to interact closely with customers, thus obtaining a lock-in of the customer to the unique products of Magpie.

With the advances made during the project, Magpie has been able to sell a number of pilots (approximately 70 k€ worth of sales) and more importantly make the revenue target of 500 k€ - 1 M€ for 2015 realistic with full-scale operations coming close to realisation. This will be a key step in the development of the company as this years revenue will bring Magpie to financial equilibrium.

So far, no IP has been filed specific on the VIPREP approach, but as the research continues there will be opportunity to protect several innovation related to the project. This is expected towards the end of 2015 or in 2016.

Based on the results of the project, Magpie will grow the marketing and sales team. Under supervision of the Business development and sales director who was hired in August 2014, we are looking to hire a technical sales person. A key attribute we will be looking for in this hire will be knowledge of the refining processes so that more knowledge is brought into the company and the vertical integration approach will pushed further with his or her know-how. Finally and specific to Customer 4 from the project, an intern-ship will be done this summer with a fluent Russian speaker to better understand the customer need of this specific customer and advance with Magpie on the Russian market, number one producer of primary palladium in the world.

Bringing disruptive innovation into a conservative industrial market such as precious metal refining takes more than technically sound solutions. It also requires time, patience and adaptability of the innovation to match exactly the customer needs. This is why Magpie will continue to invest in VIPREP both on the laboratory level and on the business development level so that by 2018 approximately half of the recurring revenue of the company will be from waste-treatment and the other half from vertically integrated solutions.