Richard Baker

31 Aug 2012

Richard Baker received his doctorate in physical chemistry in 1966 at Imperial College, London, where he studied under Professor R. M. Barrer, one of the pioneers of membrane science.  Subsequently, he joined Amicon Corporation, Lexington, MA, and developed a series of ultrafiltration membranes now sold under the name Diaflow®.  While at Alza Corporation (Palo Alto, CA) from 1971 to 1974, he collaborated in the development of the Ocusert® ocular delivery system.  In 1974, he co-founded Bend Research, Inc. (Bend, OR), where he was the Director of Research until 1981.  Dr. Baker founded Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. (MTR) in 1982, as a research and development company specializing in membrane technology. 

Dr. Baker is the author or co-author of more than 100 papers and 120 patents, all in the membrane area.  His book, Controlled Release of Biologically Active Agents was published in 1987.  Two editions of his book Membrane Technology and Applications were published in 2000 and 2004, and the third is being published this month by Wiley UK.  

PDF of presentation


Abstract


Starting Your Own Membrane Company


In 1982, being out of work and with nothing else to do, I started a membrane company (MTR).  For the first ten years, the company was closer to a research institute than a commercial organization.  We were financed by research contracts from U.S. Government Agencies interested in various membrane processes.  In the early 1990s, we started an effort to turn some of our research results into commercial products.  This was harder than we thought and we didn’t have real success until 1996, when we found a “killer app”:  the separation and recovery of propylene from polypropylene plant resin degassers.

Over the next 15 years, the company gradually evolved into a commercial business.  Our 2011 sales were about $24 million, and the company has grown to 70 employees.  Research is still a big part of the organization, and we have dreams for the future.

In this talk, I will describe the MTR history in a bit more detail.  From a distance, the growth of our company looks like a smooth trajectory; up close, it was a bumpy ride.  I will spend the final portion of my talk describing some of the lessons learned along the way.