Manchester University launch new commercial graphene spin-off

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The University of Manchester is planning to sharpen the region’s graphene credentials after launching a new company to develop and commercialise new graphene products.

The new company, Graphene Enabled Systems, has been briefed to create a number of for-profit businesses from the wonder-thin material.

Graphene was first isolated from graphite at the university in Manchester in 2004, and since then the city has carved out a competitive advantage in the technology and built up a sizeable portfolio of graphene patents.

The University’s spin-out businesses will use these patents to turn a profit.

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Insiders expect many of these spin-off businesses to be based in the local area, which could create new jobs, bolster the local economy and see the creation of a brand new 2D technology hub in the Greater Manchester region.

Graphene Enabled will be headquartered at the University’s Innovation Centre on Grafton Street and is owned entirely by the University.

The new project will be headed up by CEO, Andrew Wilkinson, formerly of Socomec.

He said: “The University of Manchester has been at the forefront of this scientific breakthrough and, based on this, we are now in a unique position to harness the full potential of Graphene and other 2D materials.

“At Graphene Enabled, we plan to create a huge range of exciting new products such as stronger, lighter composite materials; new flexible conductive inks; super-tough abrasion resistant coatings; special filters designed only to let selected materials pass through them and a huge array of new high-performance electronic components and energy strorage devices such as batteries and capacitors.

“All of these potential new products are made possible by the work that is being carried out at the University and our job, at Graphene Enabled is to work with industrial partners, investors and entrepreneurs to turn this innovative science into real products. “

Overcoming past criticism

Although scientists knew that one-atom thick graphene existed, and knew it had a unique range of remarkable physical properties, no-one had yet worked out how to extract the material from graphite.

That was until two scientists from the University of Manchester, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov managed to isolate the material as part of some pioneering research that would later win them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

The University has sought to capitalise on their history with the material, notably by building a £61 million National Graphene Institute in the city in 2015. In recent months though, the University has faced questions about its ability to commercialise the technology.

Earlier this year a parliamentary inquiry was launched into the UK’s efforts to capitalise on the 2D technology, particularly the University’s ability and desire to protect valuable intellectual property rights.

The new commercial arm, Graphene Enabled, signals a different approach to protecting research and development at the university.

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