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Graphene Flagship – early growth and the promise of a productive future

<p>​By Francis Sedgemore, 20 November 2014.
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Sixty-six new partners have been welcomed into the Graphene Flagship, almost doubling the size of the world’s premier research and innovation initiative devoted to graphene and related two-dimensional materials.
​In September of this year, we announced that the Graphene Flagship – an international, European Commission-funded consortium devoted to the scientific and technological development of graphene and other two-dimensional materials – would effectively double in size. This radical expansion of the flagship has now taken place, with a welcome into the community of 66 new partners, during the General Assembly held in Munich on 24 October 2014. More than a third of the new partners are commercial companies.

Europe takes the initiative in developing graphene technologies

Academia and industry have come together to form the Graphene Flagship: the product of a European Commission communication begun in 2009, which stressed the need for Europe to address the big scientific and technological challenges through long-term, multidisciplinary R&D efforts. The first of Europe’s Future and Emerging Technology flagships, the Graphene Flagship began life in October 2013, with 76 partners in 17 countries.

The Graphene Flagship has been implemented initially as a Seventh Framework Programme under the auspices of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect). In the longer term, the consortium will fall under FP7′s successor research and innovation framework, Horizon 2020.

Our coordinated efforts in the Graphene Flagship are bearing fruit, with a wealth of peer-reviewed literature produced by flagship partners, patent applications, and a growing number of collaborations between researchers and commercial companies. All of this is facilitated by the flagship.

Expansion of the Graphene Flagship

The 2014 General Assembly of the Graphene Flagship was held in Munich on Friday 24 October. In addition to the usual constitutional and other business conducted at such meetings, on this occasion the flagship had cause to celebrate its successes during the first year of operation, and the recent organisational growth.

We have set in place an open and efficient working structure for the Graphene Flagship, and can point to a number of science and engineering successes during that time. Commercial partners of the flagship such as Graphenea and Aixtron are already profitable selling graphene-based materials and technologies.

First year science and technology highlights include the development of a process for the mass production of graphene from solution, flexible displays with graphene in the pixel backplane, high-speed photodetectors based on wafer-scale graphene, and rechargeable batteries with graphene incorporated into the anode in the form of a spreadable ink.

The organisational expansion of the Graphene Flagship follows a €9m competitive call centred on the initial €54m ramp-up phase. The call attracted 218 proposals, representing 738 organisations in 37 countries. Evaluation of the proposals was based on their scientific and technological quality, together with their proposed implementation and potential impact. The evaluation exercise, carried out by an international panel of leading experts, resulted in 21 proposals being selected for funding, and from these successful proposals we have the 66 new partners.

Open innovation and value for money

In the first year we spent around 2% of the total €1bn allocation, which is 5% of the funding expected from the European Commission over the lifetime of the project. With 95% of the money left to spend, and so much achieved to date, we can confidently declare that the Graphene Flagship offers excellent value for money.

Reflecting on the work of the Graphene Flagship, Executive Board chairman Andrea Ferrari comments from the General Assembly: “Looking back at when the process to prepare the proposal for the Graphene Flagship started, with just nine initial partners and no guarantee of success, it is an emotional moment to have over 140 partners, from all over Europe, and tens of companies gathered here today to celebrate the first year of the Graphene Flagship.”

Professor Ferrari also points to the open innovation model, hundreds of high-profile scientific publications produced by flagship partners, several patent applications, tens of industrial partnerships fostered by the flagship, and a number of graphene-based products on the market.

Commercial interest in graphene growing

Of the 19 countries from which the 66 partners are drawn, six are new to the consortium: Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Israel. When it comes to the new partners themselves, 24 are commercial companies, among them giants of engineering industry such as BASF and Ericsson. A further four firms have joined the Graphene Flagship as its first Associated Members, and in time we envisage many more.

The 66 new full partners of the Graphene Flagship add greatly to our science and technology base, and the focus of the organisational growth is toward the commercial development of graphene and related materials.

Graphene Flagship – the next steps

The organisational expansion described here has taken place during the ramp-up phase of the Graphene Flagship. In April 2016, the flagship enters a steady-state phase, with an expected European Commission funding of €50m per year. We are currently consolidating our plans for this next stage of the flagship mission.

As part of the collaborative effort, the flagship’s work package leaders and other researchers have drawn up a science and technology roadmap for graphene and related two-dimensional nanomaterials. This document, to be published in the journal Nanoscale, outlines the main targets and research areas on which the partners of the Graphene Flagship will focus in the coming years.

“A year after its launch, the Graphene Flagship is establishing itself as the major driving force behind research and innovation on graphene and related materials,” says flagship director Professor Jari Kinaret. “Not only is the project growing and attracting many new industrial and academic partners, it is also catalysing the introduction of many national and transnational programmes in the same area. I am very much looking forward to working with the strengthened, larger consortium, and am convinced that together we will succeed in our overriding goal: to take graphene and related materials from academic laboratories into society.”

For further information on the Graphene Flagship, including details of flagship partners and specific activities, please visit our website – www.graphene-flagship.eu.

Photo: a map of Europe showing the geographical distribution of the expanded Graphene Flagship consortium.

For media enquiries relating to the research and development activities of the Graphene Flagship, please contact Dr Francis Sedgemore.



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Publishing date: 27 April 2016 13:00

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