Seminal moment for graphene as university signs scale-up deal in Abu Dhabi

University of Manchester signs Graphene deal in Abu Dhabi

A spin-out company from the University of Manchester has formed a partnership to scale-up graphene-based technologies in the United Arab Emirates.

UK-based Graphene Innovations Manchester Ltd (GIM), founded by University graduate Dr Vivek Koncherry, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Quazar Investment Company to create a new company in the UAE.

The new venture will seek to develop and produce environmentally-friendly products using advanced 2D materials, including breakthrough graphene-enhanced concrete that does not need cement or water and can be made using recycled materials.

Dr Vivek Koncherry, chief executive of Graphene Innovations Manchester, based in Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), said: “We can assemble a powerful world-class team to provide us the opportunity to massively deploy our graphene-based technologies.”

Waleed Al Ali, chief executive of Quazar, who will be active in helping bring the new company to successful, large-scale commercialisation, said: “The new graphene company will take a global lead in making environmentally friendly concrete and other products. We are glad that Quazar can play an active role in helping fulfil the UAE’s His Highness Sheikh Saeed Bin Hamdan Bin Mohamed Al Nahyan’s support for the UAE Vision 2030”.

Other products and businesses covered by the collaboration include GIM Hydrogen (Type IV & V) – graphene-enhanced storage tanks and pipes made using advanced proprietary AI-based robots with substantially improved H2 barrier properties and leak prevention; and GIM Smart Clothing – protective clothing PPE technologies that actively cool workwear and improve comfort for people in extremely hot environments.

Graphene was first isolated in 2004 by two scientists at The University of Manchester and they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Graphene is the strongest known nanoscale material, and it is also highly thermally and electrically conductive.

James Baker, chief executive of Graphene@Manchester, added: “This agreement with our GEIC partner Graphene Innovations Manchester and Quazar is a seminal moment for the commercialisation of graphene as it demonstrates huge confidence in the potential for this advanced material to help lead our transition into a net zero world.

“It is also a very proud moment for the Graphene@Manchester community as it confirms that our innovation ecosystem is providing exactly the right platform to nurture pioneering R&D into graphene and other 2D materials that is world-class.

“Manchester is known as the ‘home of graphene’ – but increasingly, it’s also being recognised as the home to its commercialisation potential. We are therefore able to form international partnerships, such as those in the UAE, based on this reputation; and from this position of strength we can place our city-region and the UK more generally into graphene’s global economy.

“As Greater Manchester further develops its innovation and manufacturing potential – all underpinned with the University’s leadership in advanced materials – this city-regional will have great opportunities with access to international supply chains, foreign investment and global markets.”

As part of this ambition a new ‘Sustainable Materials Translational Research Centre’ is set to be created by the multi-million pound Greater Manchester Innovation Accelerator programme. The new centre is a partnership with the University’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, the Henry Royce Institute, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and Rochdale Development Agency, and aims to connect local businesses to national opportunities, all underpinned with outstanding materials research.

The scheme is linked  to the Atom Valley Mayoral Development zone which Mayor Andy Burnham discussed at the recent Invest North round table as a way to create quality science jobs in the city region as part of a northern economic powerhouse.

Furthermore, the graphene innovation ecosystem at The University of Manchester has recently been cited as an exemplar in attracting inward investment into the local regional economy – and therefore helping to boost the UK’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. The spotlight comes in a report entitled, The role of universities in driving overseas investment into UK Research and Development  published by universities think-tank the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

A strategic partnerships that is highlighted is the ambitious agreement between the University and Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa University of Science and Technology which aims to deliver a funding boost for graphene innovation to develop new sustainable technologies. Attracting international funding to the North-West is also helping the UK government level-up R&D spending across the nation.