Brian Mercer Charitable Trust

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History of the Trust

The Trust was established in 1999 according to the wishes of Dr Brian Mercer OBE, F.Eng, FRS (1927-1998).

Brian Mercer was a prolific inventor and industrialist. In 1956 he invented a revolutionary process for the manufacture of plastic nets that became known as Netlon. The Netlon process has become accepted as only the ninth generic textile process since the dawn of civilization. Its ingenuity comes from making a net not by weaving, but by the integral extrusion of molten plastic into mesh structures. Global interest in the process resulted in Netlon being rapidly licensed to many of the largest international companies in more than 30 countries around the world. Netlon products are well known in applications such as the packaging of fruit and vegetables, gardening meshes for plant support and fencing, and in the field of Civil Engineering for land stabilisation. A later invention in 1983 led to the use of Netlon for reinforcing grass sports surfaces and in particular horse race tracks.

As the inventions became more technical he conducted joint research with many universities and was very much a pioneer of joint funding of research between industry and universities which is now commonplace.

Research into strengthening Netlon through molecular re-orientation by stretching resulted in the invention of Tensar, a plastic grid as strong as steel. Tensar is widely used within civil engineering for reinforcing the earth structures such as road and railway embankments.

All of Brian Mercer's inventions have originated, been developed and manufactured in Blackburn to the benefit of the town's economy. His inventions have been protected by hundreds of patents around the world making him one of Britain's prolific and well-respected inventors. He was inventing until he died.

Brian's work has been recognised by honours from many learned institutions. In 1984 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. This is the highest scientific distinction awarded in the Commonwealth. It is quite exceptional for such an award to be bestowed upon one whose work is within industry rather than academia. A separate bequest to the Royal Society established the Brian Mercer Awards for Innovation. A portrait of Brian Mercer by Salvador Dali was also bequeathed to the Royal Society.

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