News and Events

In The Spotlight With Chris McDonald Of Materials Processing Institute

  • Posted

What Are The Biggest Challenges To The Business?

The purpose of the Institute is to use technology to make British industry more competitive and particularly the metals and materials industries.  Our customers are facing big challenges at present and whilst the steel industry is in the headlines, the same issues are there right across the materials sector, yet without materials and our foundation industries UK industrial supply chains would simply melt away.  This is why we are calling on Government to create a new innovation ‘Catapult’ for metals and materials to give this industry sector the same support as for instance, automotive, aerospace and offshore energy.

What Are Your Biggest Achievements For The Business?

The 2014 divestment, in taking the business independent again, was a defining moment. It was a major change in strategic direction and required the full range of business skills in strategy, financing and above all looking out for our employees who were experiencing this huge change.  It was both challenging and exciting, but having the TBI corporate legal team and John Walters at my side during the discussions was a great support.

What Did You Want To Be When You Were At School?

When I was quite little I wanted to be a doctor, but I remember at the age of 15 discovering what a Chemical Engineer was and instantly deciding to do that, which I did.  I think this shows just how important good careers advice is, particularly in broadening the horizons of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, who will be naturally less aware of the huge number of trades, professions and career routes out there.

What Was Your First Job?

My first proper paid job was in a battery factory in Peterlee when I was 14, during my school holidays.  I was paid £10 per day and was delighted.

What Job Would You Like To Have Other Than Your Own & Why?

I really enjoy the challenges working in innovation and technology.  I am also the innovation lead for the UK Metals Council, which links industry to Government and here I see some of the major challenges and also opportunities for us in helping SMEs to innovate and grow and to increase the competitiveness of UK manufacturing supply chains more generally.  If I weren’t in my current role, then doing something in this policy area would certainly interest me and I would also consider politics more generally.

What Do You Love Most About Working In The North East?

There is a real sense that we can get things done and a real independence of spirit.  This can though tip over sometimes into not proclaiming our achievements loudly enough and yet we have so much to be proud of.

What Do You Love Most About Living In The North East?

There is almost too much to mention!  My family are here, the quality of life is amazing particularly compared with many parts of the UK, the landscape is beautiful and the people are really friendly!

What Do You Do In Your Down Time Away From The Office?

I have two small children and for me every minute when I’m not at work is best spent with them and my extended family. 

What’s Your Number One Piece Of Advice For Anyone In Business Or Wanting To Start Up?

I would say that once you know what you are trying to achieve, then persistence pays.  I am an incredibly tenacious person and I see real value in diligently covering as many angles as possible and then if you are knocked back, looking for something new, or different that you can bring forward to try and achieve your ultimate goal.


It seems a bit morbid to think of your own epitaph, but I’m pretty sure I would like to be remembered more for how I treat other people than for what I might have achieved.  I think the values you learn in childhood tend to stick for life, so it is important for me to behave with integrity and treat everyone with equal respect.  It seems quaintly old fashioned, but to be thought of as a Gentleman, with all that entails, would be good enough for me.

Would you like to take part in our 'In The Spotlight' series? If you think you stand out from the crowd please email us with the following information:

Your full name, the business or charity in which you are involved and why you would like to take part.

If selected we will be in touch to interview.