Thursday, November 07, 2013

Manchester's Graphene opportunity - an essential SmartCity goal

Manchester's Graphene opportunity - an essential SmartCity goal :

So what’s the truth about Graphene?

It will soon be a decade since two scientists discovered wonder product Graphene at the University of Manchester. For our city and for the University the work that those two eminent scientists have been doing remains vital to giving the city a critical edge.

Indeed, at our SmartCity conference on the 13th of November at MOSI we will be hearing from Mike Emmerich, the chief executive of New Economy Manchester about these developments in Graphene and how the city will benefit in the future.

But a common view expressed is that Manchester’s opportunity has gone. That this is now an opportunity likely to be exploited by America and Asia, not Northern Europe. The evidence for this lies in the number of Chinese, Korean and US patents being registered, as well as the daily production of research papers all over the word.

In an article in The Manufacturer, Dr Helen Meese, head of materials at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, says:“The UK is at the very forefront of graphene research, but academics are increasingly concerned that little is being done to encourage industry to develop practical uses. This must change.”

She says over 7,500 graphene-based patents had been filed worldwide by the beginning of this year but only 54 were from the UK. In comparison, over 2,200 are held by China and 1,754 by South Korea. The Korean company Samsung alone hold 407 graphene-based patents.

It’s a point reiterated by a research report from the Patent Office.

But the view from Manchester is that this doom and gloom can be overplayed. The building of the Graphene Institute is evidence of a serious research facility and the appointment Nathan Hill from Oxford Instruments is a sign of series intent as is a new prize for scientific work on commercialization.

Nathan Hill’s goal is to set up a graphene Industry Club and a number of strategic partnerships with major companies and the University.

His view is: “Having lived through the development cycle of superconductor and semiconductor materials and devices, working with the great team and resources at Manchester was too good an opportunity to miss. I’m very much looking forward to supporting the next stage of making graphene a powerhouse for further research, manufacturing and jobs in Manchester”.

I’m ever the optimist, the stakes may be sky high, but hopefully there is more going on than many realise and that Manchester’s role in the future of this wonder material is bright.

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