In his recent blog, ‘Catalyst’ graphene can drive sustainable transport revolution' James Baker, CEO, Graphene@Manchester, re-asserted the importance of graphene in meeting the world’s sustainability agenda, especially in the context of COVID. And this salient point was duly reinforced in MIDAS’ recent webinar, ‘Opportunities for lightweighting and other multi-functional materials for low carbon transport in Manchester’ hosted in partnership with the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Department for International Trade and The University of Manchester.

A key message which emerged during the webinar was the importance of maintaining and strengthening trans-Atlantic ties during the pandemic to ensure timely and rapid global innovation. The webinar highlighted how the incredible and ongoing research being undertaken at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) and their truly collaborative approach can help U.S businesses who are searching for ways to revolutionise their products using advanced materials. 

Chris Green, Assistant Director, Economic Development and Competitiveness, Washington State Department of Commerce, introduced the webinar:

“We are so appreciative to everyone who is thinking about how we can engage internationally and how we can continue to find meaningful and productive trade relationships with markets that are really important to us and the UK is right at the top of that list.”

Robin Twyman, Consul (Business & Government Affairs) UK Government Office, Seattle, , continued:

“Backed up by strong flows of direct investment in both directions – Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon are amongst the Washington companies that have set up in the UK, both to expand their global business and to take advantage of the R&D capability we offer.  Similarly, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, GKN and HSBC are amongst the UK headquartered companies that have set up here.  And whilst we look forward to growing that through a UK-US free trade agreement in due course, in the short term it’s useful to focus on specific opportunities where we can help our respective companies grow international business opportunities, particularly as they take the opportunity to pivot and innovate in the face of COVID disruption.”  

As the webinar progressed James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester outlined the breadth and depth of the research being undertaken at The University of Manchester, with over 350 researchers and experts focussing not just on graphene but over 100 other types of 2D advanced materials that have now been isolated. James highlighted how these advanced materials can be used for lightweighting and for other multifunctional components in a whole host of industries:

“We have worked with over 100 companies from all over the world including automotive, aerospace and energy from large corporations to SMEs, start-ups and spin outs and we want to continue to drive a whole series of industrial collaborations. With investment support from the UK government we have the opportunity to continue to create new companies and extend the products and capabilities of existing companies.”

James noted that innovation can be challenging and it traditionally takes a long time from initial discovery until new materials are properly applied and can hit the marketplace. For example, carbon fibre which is only now used widely in aerospace manufacturing is approximately 60 years old.

James added: “In Manchester we are trying to break this long innovation cycle and in order to do that you not only need the right innovation model but also partnership and collaboration which is realised through a strong supply chain. It is essential we have the right companies who can mix the materials along with companies who can integrate these materials in aircraft, vehicles and other products. The GEIC is designed to unite graphene applications with the industrial pull in terms of the challenges that face society today.”

“Graphene can be applied in composites, printed electronics, energy, membranes and coatings and much more, and the opportunities for the future of aerospace, construction and medicine are numerous.”

Neill Rickets, Founder and CEO of Versarien, a pioneer of graphene application and Tier 1 partner at the GEIC talked through the ‘aircraft of the future’ and expressed how the learnings achieved by Versarien to date are down to the company’s researchers working hand in hand with scientists in the lab: “The GEIC provides the glue – a collaborative arrangement between the supply chain, the academics and the expert facilities.”

For more information about how your business can innovate through collaboration with graphene specialists in Manchester, contact David Hilton, Head of Business Development, Advanced Manufacturing at MIDAS. 

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  1. Andy Ush
    I saw the webinar and input from all parties was very informative.

    Graphene is going to have a huge future and Manchester are in the centre of it.

    Versarien seem to be doing all the right things to give themselves a head start and I saw 2 announcements this week that show they are working with the very best organisations and material

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