Graphene: supporting ‘Powerhouse’ innovation in the North West
09 October 2019
Paul Wiper, Application Manager at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), discusses the ‘almost limitless’ potential of graphene and how collaboration can help drive innovation across the region.
Graphene is a remarkable new material, first isolated at the University of Manchester. Perhaps the most remarkable feature is that it has such a broad array of unique characteristics and properties. For example, it is the strongest and stiffest material currently known to us; the most electrically and thermally conductive; impermeable to all liquids and gases and the thinnest material that can be imagined.
Because of the broad range of characteristics, the potential applications are almost limitless, but we are working with partners in some areas where there are already real benefits being shown. These include significantly reducing the weight of aviation and automotive components, creating improved anti-corrosion and barrier coatings. We’re also doing a lot of work around battery and supercapacitor technology right now, which is hugely important with the rise in electric vehicles.
It is a really exciting time to be working with businesses around the North West, educating them on the benefits and seeing the creation of new jobs and new products as a result of graphene. I think that’s what probably excites me the most.
The North West has a strong history of innovation – we created the industrial revolution here and Manchester was home to the first computer.
I think you only need to look around the region and see some of the ‘powerhouse’ innovation companies that have now chosen the region as their home – companies such as Autotrader, Booking.com and even the BBC. However, just as important are the range of SMEs and start-ups that are small enough and agile enough to take new technologies like graphene and make it work.
For me, collaboration is imperative in the growth of SMEs and start-ups – it’s essentially why the GEIC exists. Our mission is to bridge the gap between the scientific studies at the university and real-world industry, and it’s often the SME sector that takes these innovations and turns them into exciting new products.
I’m actually responsible for the team at the GEIC that leads the SME engagement programme and so I’m personally working with these companies every day - it’s really important to me.
As a main sponsor of the event, I’ve been heavily involved in the judging panel for the Venturefest North West Innovation Showcase competition.
It was refreshing and exciting to see so many start-ups and established small businesses across the North West pitching their ideas. Based on what I’ve seen during my time on the panel, I am confident that Venturefest provides a unique platform for start-ups and SMEs to leverage a range of services and expertise to drive growth and job creation across the North West.
We’re looking forward to promoting the GEIC and its capabilities at Venturefest, as well as showcasing the work of four of our partners.
These are businesses that have either developed or are developing products using graphene and are looking to bring them to market. They are all great examples of what can be achieved through working in partnership with the GEIC.
To find out more about graphene and collaborative opportunities with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, please visit graphene.manchester.ac.uk.