These days, graphene is the glamourpuss (a US slang term from the 1940s for which I have great affection) of the nanoscience/nanotechnology research world and is an international ‘object of desire’. For example, the UK government just announced a GBP 50 M investment in graphene research. From the Feb. 2, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,
Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: “This significant investment in graphene will drive growth and innovation, create high-tech jobs and keep the UK at the very forefront of this rapidly evolving area of science. With a Nobel Prize and hundreds of published papers under their belts, scientists in the UK have already demonstrated that we have real strengths in this area. The graphene hub will build on this by taking this research through to commercial success.”
A key element of the graphene hub will be a national institute of graphene research and commercialisation activities. The University of Manchester has been confirmed as the single supplier invited to submit a proposal for funding a new £45 million national institute, £38 million of which will be provided by the UK Government. This world-class shared facility for graphene research and commercialisation activities will be accessible by both researchers and business.
I’d never really heard about graphene until 2010 when Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in graphene. (In 2012, both scientists were knighted and I could have referred to them as Sir Geim and Sir Novoselov.) Since that time money has been flowing towards graphene research. As far as I can tell this GBP 50 M is the tip of the iceberg.
The University of Manchester and other institutions in the UK are part of an international consortium competing for a 1 billion Euro research prize through the European Union’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme. (I have a bit more about the FET competition in my June 13, 2011 posting.)
There does seem to be some jockeying for position. First, the graphene consortium is currently competing for the FET money as the Graphene Flagship. Only two of six competing flagships will receive money for further research. Should the consortium’s flagship be successful, there will be six member countries competing for a share of that 1 billion Euro prize. The UK is represented by three research institutions (University of Manchester, Lancaster University, and the University of Cambridge) while every other country in the graphene consortium is represented by one research institution.
The decision as to which two FET flagship projects receive the funding will be made public in late 2012. Meanwhile, the UK not only announces this latest funding but last fall also launched a big graphene exhibition, anchored by the three UK universities in the consortium, in Warsaw. I wrote about that development in my Nov. 25, 2011 posting and questioned the communication strategy. It’s taken me a while but I’m beginning to realize that this was likely part of a larger political machination designed to ensure UK dominance in graphene research and, I imagine they dearly hope this will be true, commercialization.
ETA Feb. 6, 2012: Dexter Johnson at the Nanoclast blog (on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE] website) noted this about the UK and commercializing graphene in the electronics industry in his Feb. 3, 2012 posting,
The press release emphasizes how “The graphene hub will build on this [investment] by taking this research through to commercial success.” So I was wondering if there would be any discussion of how they intended to build up an electronics industry that it never really had in the first place to exploit the material.
Tags: Andre Geim, commercialization, David Willetts, Dexter Johnson, European Union, FET, Future and Emerging Technologies [Fet11]) in information technology, graphene, Graphene Flagship Project, Konstantin Novoselov, Lancaster University, UK, University of Cambridge, University of Manchester