A £60 million world-class centre dedicated to researching graphene was opened by His Royal Highness The Duke of York on 10 December, after receiving funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester will accelerate the commercial impact of the new material and help realise its potential to revolutionise many sectors.
The centre received £15 million funding through UKRI’s Research England UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) in 2014, and £5 million from UKRI’s Innovate UK.
Research England’s Executive Chair, David Sweeney, said: “The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre exemplifies our objectives for UKRPIF. Thanks to commitment from other private and public partners, the facility will help the university develop its capacity to undertake world-leading graphene research, build on its already impressive range of real-world applications, strengthen ties with industrial and academic partner organisations, and help leverage considerable investment in UK research and development. The UKRPIF is a key contributor to the government’s commitment to see research and innovation investment rise to 2.4% of GDP, and the centre is an excellent example of international partnership and investment that UKRPIF supports and leverages.”
Other partners include Masdar, a renewable energy company; the European Union; and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
As well as academic and technical staff, the GEIC aims to engage with a large number of engineers and innovative SMEs, and has already announced new partners for the initiative.
The GEIC complements the National Graphene Institute’s (NGI) international research focus by concentrating on multi-faceted industry-led applications development. The key areas within the new building include; pilot productions, characterisation and material development.
During the visit The Duke took in an exhibition of the latest graphene products and prototypes including; pioneering graphene-oxide membranes for water filtration, graphene composite battery panels, an innovative unmanned aerial vehicle made with graphene-enhanced carbon fibre, and a modified BAC Mono sports car with graphene-enhanced composite bodywork.
Speaking at the opening ceremony HRH The Duke of York said said: "It is a great pleasure to be back at The University of Manchester and to come and see the next stage in the development of graphene.
"The question I've been asking is, 'how do people who are in manufacturing or other businesses know what graphene can do for them?' or more accurately, 'what can the new 2D materials do for them?'
"This is an excellent place for businesses who may suddenly find that graphene or a 2D material is in their interest, and just from my short visit today, the ideas seem to be limitless in how you can apply them. This is going to be a huge industrial transformation which could benefit both humankind and industry and it starts here. I wish you all every success."
The University of Manchester is also home to the National Graphene Institute, which opened in 2015 and is a 7,825 square metre research facility funded by a £38m grant from UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and £23m grant from the European Regional Development Fund.
Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov discovered graphene at the University of Manchester in 2004 by isolating and extracting 2-D crystal graphene from graphite using adhesive tape. The pair were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics.
Established in 2012, the UKRPIF has provided over £680m of capital funding to 43 research projects across the UK in its first five rounds, attracting more than £1.7bn in double-match funding from non-public sources. Round six of UKRPIF competition is currently underway, with £220m of capital funding available until 2021, taking the total government investment in the fund to £900m.
Read more on Research England’s website.