By Kristy Dorsey

Among the numerous delays during construction of the £550 million Aberdeen bypass were on-going problems with run-off polluting the surrounding tributaries of the rivers Dee and Don. SEPA issued its first notice in January 2016 to enforce a clean-up, but by June of that year heavy downpours had overwhelmed the contractors’ safeguards, forcing the environmental protection agency to call a halt to construction.

Work resumed a few weeks later but these issues persisted until a low-profile firm from Ayrshire came on board with a different approach to the dilemma.

Headed by Iain Lindsay, Taytech Environmental specialises in wastewater treatment and has a wide customer base throughout the UK. It also has a growing presence in the construction market, which accounted for about 20% of its £4.6m of revenues generated during the year to March.

The typical approach to filtering out clay and fine silts dislodged during groundworks is to dig a sediment trap – what effectively looks like a lagoon – where flocculants are added to the collected water. Flocculants promote the clumping of fine particles into a larger mass that more quickly settles to the bottom, allowing clean water to be drained off the top.

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Most flocculants are based on aluminium or iron, but because of its proximity to two of Scotland’s most important salmon rivers, this was not acceptable in the case of the Aberdeen bypass. Taytech instead used QP-33, a vegetable-based flocculate whose molecular weight has been increased to maximise its efficiency.

It’s still a chemical solution, which might seem at odds for a company using “environmental” as part of its moniker. But as Mr Lindsay explains, Taytech’s core purpose is to provide clients with the lightest-touch chemical solutions possible, leading to the best environmental result.

“Selecting the precise chemical solution and then controlling and measuring the results is a highly-specialised process – that’s why we are a technical business and employ a high percentage of graduate scientists,” he said.

Mr Lindsay joined Taytech in 2014 after nearly 20 years of working as a chemist in the rubber and paper industries. Having taken over the top job from Taytech founder Michael Taylor, Mr Lindsay is now eyeing up new growth opportunities and possible international expansion.

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Raised in East Kilbride, he earned his degree from what was then Paisley College before joining EniChem Elastomers in Grangemouth in 1985. He transferred to the paper industry 13 years later when he went to work for Finnish-owned UPM Caledonian Paper in Irvine.

Paper mills have large water treatment systems, and it was during this time that he met Mr Taylor, who was then working for one Caledonian Paper’s suppliers. Mr Taylor went on to set up Taytech in 2006, where Mr Lindsay joined eight years later as operations director.

Since then, Taytech has grown from five to 15 employees on the back of its patented “plug and play” Flexible Dosing System. This can be rapidly deployed to any wastewater treatment facility in the UK – clients include Scottish Water, Welsh Water, Yorkshire Water and South West Water – that runs into difficulties.

“The way we think of it is our customers have a toothache, and we need to solve that as quickly as we can,” Mr Lindsay said. “Otherwise they have to shut down a factory or a treatment works, and nobody wants that.”

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The equipment is remotely controlled from Taytech’s headquarters in North Ayrshire, where construction of its £600,000 purpose-built headquarters in Dalry was completed in 2018. This has capacity for the company’s headcount to double, plus room to extend further.

While construction-related work has been halted for the last couple of months, the firm’s larger market in wastewater is an essential service. All of Taytech’s employees have continued to work full-time through the Covid-19 lockdown, with plenty of space in the head office to accommodate social distancing.

But as more normal business service resumes, Taytech believes environmental regulation will drive growth in the construction sector. The employee-owned company is also looking at the possibility of expansion overseas as it seeks to double in size within the next five years.

Revenues have fallen back from a peak of £8m in 2018, when the company benefitted from the height of work on the Aberdeen bypass. As contractors there have moved on to other major projects, Taytech has gone with them, and is hoping this will give the firm a foothold in the £100 billion-plus High Speed 2 railway project.

“They have asked us to come down and present to the High Speed guys, so we were down in Birmingham a couple of times before (lockdown) happened,” Mr Lindsay said.

“We are pretty low-profile – we get most of our work through word of mouth. We don’t spend much money on advertising or marketing.”

Six Questions

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Austria, I enjoy the culture and food, and the people are friendly. In my early 20’s enjoyed skiing hols but now city breaks and Christmas markets are where I get the most pleasure. France (West Coast) was a source of some great family camping holidays (with great wine and cheese included!).

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal? 
Wanted to be a policemen , no idea why.
What was your biggest break in business?
Biggest break would be when I was given the opportunity to travel widely within North America and Europe. Gaining the cultural exposure and multinational project experience accelerated my knowledge and understanding of business and how to work with people in a team, even when we spoke different languages.This gives patience and understanding and makes you better at appreciating an individual’s skills and experience. When in later life you get more opportunities to pick your own team, it pays back.
What was your worst moment in business?
Having to conduct redundancy processes when part of a large multinational company. Releasing good, highly-skilled colleagues was a learning experience that has made me look at risk and reward differently in business. It’s a reminder that employees are valued differently dependent on the business.
Who do you most admire and why?
Those who work with charities. They always find the time to be helpful, something I try to find more time to do myself.
What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?
I’m not a big reader, only when on holiday will I pick up a John Grisham legal thriller. Music’s not big for me either, but anything eighties  – Aztec Camera and Orange Juice were my favourites.