Innovation nailed by Highland business

10th January 2020

Kirker Europe Ltd, maker of premium nail polish, were matched by Interface’s Carol-Ann Adams to James Hutton Institute for a research project which is helping them remain competitive in Europe.

We asked Technical Manager Graham McGregor a few questions about the collaboration.

Describe your business/organisation in under 10 words.

Premium nail polish manufacturer for European and global brands.

Where do you want to take the business – regional, Scotland-wide or global?

Kirker business took off in 2002 when we focused on winning business with premier retailers in the UK. After some immediate success we then had a European strategy which led Kirker to be the no 1 supplier in Europe. Brexit has certainly pushed a downturn in business for us reducing European sales but we are currently fighting against this with new innovation and aim to be a leading player again in the next few years.

Which university did you work with and what was the issue you wanted to overcome by working with academics/students/researchers?

We were linked with The James Hutton Institute who helped with specific testing which could prove Kirker produce a ‘clean’ product within the cosmetic legislation and this helped sell the Kirker formula to a leading luxury brand in France which was a great win for Kirker.

What benefits did the collaboration bring to your business?

Proof that we have a ‘clean’ product and we can then promote our latest technology bio-sourced formula to new clients with back up proof.

How did Interface support help your business?

Interface created the link for the work and found the best partner for us.

What impact has the initial collaboration had in terms of growth/jobs/new products/financial savings?

It has helped Kirker when Brexit has caused us problems. For the future this will help stabilise the company and provide a platform to gain new business in the future.

What would you say to other businesses thinking of partnering with academics, but are unsure about it?

It will depend on the business. For years we maybe didn’t have an appropriate project but now we find we have a few potential projects to link to universities. Timing is everything but Interface are certainly worth a knock at the door.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 16, Edinburgh Napier University had a roadshow at my school advertising a course in Polymer science and Colour Science combined. This meant 1 year in Edinburgh, 1 year in Galashiels, (now Heriot-Watt University) and then one year in industry which I spent in Tiverton, Devon, at a colour textile factory. It sounded so varied at the time and the work experience in the middle of the course made my choice easy. That work experience led to a job offer but in the end I moved to Suffolk to work in paint development before moving on to developing new nail polish. Moving to Kirker in 2002 we have developed colour change technology, magnetic effects and crackle nail polish over the years among other novel products which you may find in various retail shops!