Tag Archives: George Osborne

Latest on UK and graphene

The Brits are at it again with another graphene funding announcement, from the Dec. 28, 2012 news item on Azonano,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, today announced £21.5 million of capital investment to commercialise graphene, one of the thinnest, lightest, strongest and most conductive materials to have been discovered, marked by the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics as one of the world’s most ground breaking scientific achievements.

Three research projects at Imperial will share the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding as part of a new programme with a number of industrial partners, including aeroplane manufacturer Airbus. The scientists receiving the grant hope to develop graphene technologies that will contribute to the UK economy and can be applied by industries around the world.

The Imperial College of London Dec. 27, 2012 news release, which originated the item, describes how the college’s £4.5M award will be used for three of its graphene projects,

In one project worth £1.35 million, led by Professor Tony Kinloch from the Department of Mechanical Engineering with colleagues from the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, researchers will explore how combining graphene with current materials can improve the properties of aeroplane parts, such as making them resistant to lightning-strikes. They hope the same technology can also be used to develop coatings for wind-turbine blades, to make them scratch resistant and physically tougher in extreme weather conditions.

Professor Eduardo Saiz, from the Department of Materials, will develop new manufacturing processes using liquids that contain tiny suspended particles of graphene, in order to reduce the cost of currently expensive industrial techniques. This project will receive £1.91 million funding and involves scientists from Imperial’s Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Queen Mary, University of London.

£1.37 million of funding received by Professor Norbert Klein, also from the Department of Materials and shared with Imperial’s Department of Physics, will pay for new equipment to deposit extremely thin sheets of graphene, so scientists can explore its electrical properties. They hope that new medical scanning technology may be developed as a result of how graphene responds to high frequency electromagnetic waves, from microwave to terahertz frequencies and all the way to the wavelengths of visible light.

As noted on numerous occasions here  (most recently in an Oct. 11, 2012 posting), there is a competition for two prizes of 1 billion Euros each to be awarded to two European research projects in the European Union’s Future and Emerging Technologies Initiatives (FET). There are six flagship projects (whittled down from a larger number a few years ago) competing to be one of the two winners. There’s more about the FET Graphene Flagship project here. As you might expect, the Brits are heavily involved in the graphene flagship project.

Care to commercialize graphene in the UK?

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced a call for proposals for research that is directly linked to commercializing graphene. From the Feb. 28, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The aim of the call, where there will be up to £20 million of funding available, is to focus research on manufacturing processes and technologies linked to graphene in order to accelerate the development and generation of novel devices, applications technologies and systems.

In 2010 the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to UK researchers Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester, who demonstrated graphene in 2004. EPSRC has funded their work for over a decade.

The call is divided into two parts: research programmes and equipment bids. EPSRC is committing £10 million to the call, with up to £10 million more available by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to fund the capital equipment as part of either research programmes or for equipment-only bids.

Proposals for research programmes should range between £1.5 million and £3 million and should seek to understand how to commercialise and enhance the ‘manufacturability’ of graphene as the material of choice. Programmes should have an emphasis on applications, strongly align with industry needs and foster an environment of collaboration across the UK. The programmes of research should also focus on developing people to stimulate the future sustainability of UK graphene engineering research and future commercialisation opportunities across a variety of sectors.

Proposals for equipment are to allow groups with existing capability in graphene research to help researchers advance the commercialisation of graphene and improve the emphasis on applications.

There’s a 10 pp. PDF description for the call, which includes gems like this, as well as, details about the call,

Recognising this opportunity, on 3 October 2011, the Chancellor (George Osborne, UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer [roughly equivalent to a Minister of Finance]) pledged a £50M investment to establish the UK as a graphene research and technology ‘hub’ with the aim to capture the commercial benefits of graphene (http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2012/Pages/graphenehub.aspx). The chancellor stated “We will fund a national research programme that will take this Nobel prize-winning discovery from the British laboratory to the British factory floor…” “We’re going to get Britain making things again.” (p. 2)

There’s a six-page PDF called an Expression of Interest for interested parties to fill out. For anyone who experiences difficulties filling out PDF forms and/or submitting them, there is a set of guidelines.

Frankly, I found the description for eligibility in the EPSRC Funding Guide a little confusing but it seems a fairly safe guess that pretty much everyone involved in the proposed project, investigators, postdoctoral students, and research assistants must be resident in the UK.

It’s fascinating to track this graphene effort, which seems designed to lift the UK from its economic doldrums, from afar. It seems there’s some sort of announcement on this front on a weekly basis, at least (my most recent posting about these efforts is Feb. 21, 2012).

My experience with these kinds of announcements is that they are often recycled. For example, an announcement is made in Oct. 2011 about government funding for graphene research then months later, a research funding agency announces a call for proposals with references to the amount of research money available. Next on the agenda will be an announcement of the recipients for the grants. This practice can make it seem as if the second and third announcement are for new funds when it is money that was promised months before.