James Baker, Business Director for Graphene at The University of Manchester, talks to AZoNano about the current state of the graphene market and the key next steps needed.
When we last spoke back in 2015 the National Graphene Institute (NGI) had been focused on the successful commercialisation of graphene through collaborative work between research and industry. How has the graphene community developed since then?
The University of Manchester (UoM) now has over 250 researchers working on graphene and 2D materials and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) has now been open for over 2 years. The NGI has provided a key facility and capability in bringing together the multi-disciplinary research from across the University together with developing partnerships and collaborations with industry to accelerate the development of graphene products and applications. We are also close to opening our second graphene building, the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, next year. This will allow the University to create a unique hub for 2D materials knowledge and commercialisation in Manchester alongside close links with industry.
The graphene roadmap was a crucial part of the conversation two years ago. Where do you think the industry currently stands in-line with these predictions?
Road-mapping is a key part of the commercialisation journey but I am now seeing a much more significant “applications pull” from industry which is resulting in increasing engagement of activity and translation into projects and the development of new graphene enhanced concepts and applications.
You recently spoke about commercialisation at Graphene Week 2017. What were the key areas of discussion this year?
As always there is a significant amount of new science being presented at Graphene Week, but there was also evidence of industry now starting to get “interesting” and “beneficial” results from their engagements and projects involving graphene with a significant amount of progress having taken place over the past two years.
We recently spoke to Dr. Zina Jarrahi Cinker, Executive Director of the National Graphene Association (NGA), about securing global standards for the graphene industry. What are your opinions on the impact global standards would have on the graphene industry?
One of the first international graphene standards was launched several weeks ago following activity involving NGI and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK. We have also developed a “standards-white paper” with NPL and will be launching a best practice guide and measurement service later this year - all this is key in the “journey towards commercialisation” and it is essential we continue these developments at pace on an international scale.
Graphene Innovation Summit & Expo 2017 is due to held next month in Nashville. How important are events like this for the global graphene community?
Graphene and other 2D materials open up significant new opportunities and potential to create value in new products and applications. Key to this is developing awareness and engagement and so I am supportive of events such as this.
Hopefully as the NGA develops then we could potentially collaborate on future opportunities and projects.
Have the issues surrounding graphene commercialisation changed over recent years?
Whilst graphene is still relatively “young” since its discovery in 2004 – I believe we are now seeing a real acceleration in the development of near term graphene enhanced products and whilst there is still some significant work needed to get these to market, we will see an increasing amount of new products and applications over the next few years
Have there been any significant mile stones achieved along the graphene roadmap recently?
A good example of a significant development is in the aerospace industry where we have now developed a strategy paper for the UK Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) which will be launched later this year which includes how graphene can influence future projects and programmes.
What are the next key steps for the graphene industry?
I think a key next step is that we need to have a transition to seeing more products were graphene adds real value to that product or application, rather than some of the more “marketing” type of examples that we are seeing today!
About James Baker
After 25 years in the defence, aerospace and security market leading and managing high technology businesses I am now Graphene Business Director at The University of Manchester.
Graphene, the exciting and emerging disruptive technology first isolated at The University of Manchester - now looking to develop a number of commercialisation opportunities in partnership with industry together with the National Graphene Institute (NGI) and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in The University of Manchester.
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