Geoff is well known for his pioneering work in the timber trade over many years, initially driving the introduction of Medite MDF from the USA into the British Isles and then for over 35 years, for the significant expansion in the use of MDF in the UK and in many other international markets. As sales and marketing director for Medite Europe, Willamette Europe and then Weyerhaeuser Europe he had responsibility for establishing one of the most distinctive and innovative brands within the European timber industry and for developing an ever expanding, added value multi-million-dollar turnover business. Subsequently as marketing and business development director for Coillte Panel Products, he actively drove and continued the brand extension and led the critical and well-established process of new product development
He has always believed in the value of strong and dynamic timber trade organisations and to that end is a former President of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), the European Association of MDF Manufacturers (EMB) and the Fibre Building Board Federation (FIDOR). Currently he is President of the Institute of Carpenters’ (IOC) and is also a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, (the global network for professionals in the materials cycle).
Today Geoff runs his own specialist forest products and international trade consultancy – Geoff Rhodes Associates. He has a particular interest in both providing research for international trading opportunities and promoting educational initiatives within the sector. Geoff was appointed chair of Edinburgh Napier University’s Forest Products Research Institute (FPRI) in 2011 and has played a key role for the University in developing industry funding for Post Graduate MSc scholarships.
Dr Knut Kappenberg
Knut has worked within R&D, innovation management and technology transfer roles for over 20 years. He spent 7 years as Global R&D Manager at Sonae Industria, one of the largest global manufacturers of wood-based panel products, where he was the recipient of the 2011 Schweighofer European Innovation Award. In addition to his native Germany, Knut has worked in Spain managing European research programmes designed to support SMEs and in Ireland where he managed the European timber industry research network Innovawood. Knut is currently the Manager for International Affairs at the Energy Research Centre of Lower Saxony (EFZN), Germany and also continues his work as a freelance innovation consultant in the forest, wood products and energy sectors. He is proficient in five European languages and has a PhD in wood science from the University of Freiburg.
Dr Rob Elias
Dr. Rob Elias is the Director of the BioComposites Centre (BC) at Bangor University. The Centre was established in 1989 and is focussed on the translation of applied science into commercial opportunity. It has been at the forefront of research, development and the commercial application of bio-based alternatives to synthetic materials in manufacturing and industry. Rob has worked at BC for 16 years. He is also the chair of the International Panel Products Symposium and has an extensive network of industrial contacts throughout the UK and EU.
Prior to his involvement with BC, Rob held senior positions in production and development at some of the largest MDF manufacturing groups in the world including Kronospan and Norbord. Rob has a major interest in the development of bio-derived materials that reduce global warming potential and his PhD, awarded by Bangor University, was on the modification of wood fibres for composite applications.
Ray Howard has accumulated in excess of 45 years of experience, predominantly within the manufacturing and related sectors. Ray had some seven years ago taken on the role of Chief Executive of a law firm whilst retaining interests of varying roles within a number of entities. The law firm has launched a full consultancy support service which he is now driving.
Prior to this and for the previous 12 years he has worked as Deputy Chief Executive of a boutique consultancy, with the emphasis on strategic growth and business transformation within industry and the financial & professional sectors, Ray has during that period in particular spent a significant amount of time supporting owner managed SME’s including pre revenue entities.
During his career Ray has held corporate and senior management positions within a diverse number of sectors, including that of MDF manufacturing. He has managed companies with turnovers ranging from £10m to £150m, whilst contributing to group growth of a major USA corporation with turnover in excess of $5 billion.
His detailed achievements profile demonstrates his key strengths which he believes lie in his ability to transform businesses, providing them with hands on strategic support, developing and assisting with the implementation of clearly defined strategic plans to maximise the enterprise’s potential.
Most assignments during the past 20 years have resulted in taking either, executive or non-executive Board roles in order to influence the outcome. Ray possesses significant experience of acquisitions, divestments and joint venture formulation.
His considerable expertise working across a very wide spectrum of small, privately owned companies to multi-national, billion pound enterprises, gives him a unique set of credentials and proven track record of achievement. This makes him an ideal leader to initiate new direction, implement change, and sustain the drive for growth.