New UK graphene centre to focus on application development

A new centre has been created to help innovators realise the commercial potential of graphene.

Announced yesterday in chancellor George Osborne’s Spring Budget, the new £14m Graphene Applications Innovation Centre will be based at north east England’s Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), which is part of the government’s network of Catapult technology centres.

The new centre – part of a new £74m commitment to UK science from Osborne – will open later this year to provide facilities and expertise to help companies to develop, prove, prototype and scale up graphene-based products and processes.

’If Britain isn’t leading the world in science and technology and engineering, then we are condemning our country to fall behind…[Graphene is] a great British discovery that we should break the habit of a lifetime with and commercially develop in Britain,’ Osborne said in his speech to parliament yesterday.

In a statement, Nigel Perry, CEO of CPI said: ’The new centre will work alongside academic organisations such as the National Graphene Institute, graphene manufacturers and end users, to develop and prove commercial applications for a range of major industries. The new centre will integrate with existing development facilities at CPI’s printable electronics and formulation centres based at Sedgefield, Co. Durham.

’The UK has a strong position in the fundamental science of graphene and the new centre will increase the focus on exploring potential applications via the scale up of manufacturing processes for both material and products.

’If the UK is to create economic benefit from graphene it will require a concerted effort to become closer to market by proving that processes work at an industrial scale.’

Graphene was first isolated at Manchester University in 2004 and has since been regarded as a material with the potential to transform a range of products. Its electrical and thermal conductivity, optical purity and mechanical strength could be used in high-capacity batteries, flexible screens, ultra-fast transistors and other electronic components, super-bright lasers and materials from sports equipment to aircraft wings.

CPI says it has been awarded the centre due to its existing activities in the development and scale up of new products and processes, as well as its current work with graphene technologies and formulation.

The £74m in science funding will see a further £5m invested in the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre in Manchester and £55m invested in a Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre, a large-scale manufacturing facility designed to anchor the manufacture of new cell-based therapeutic products in the UK.