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  • By: Graphene Flagship
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 19 June 2024
  • By: Graphene Flagship
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 19 June 2024

Europe in the Lead

In 2013, the European Commission (EC) started its largest research and innovation project to date: the Graphene Flagship, with a budget of €1 billion. This project ran for ten years and provided funding to a consortium of approximately 170 academic and industrial partners spanning 22 countries and collaborating on the development of marketable products containing graphene and related 2D materials. The project and investment have been largely successful, with collaboration and longevity pinpointed as being the biggest benefits of the project, which generated €5.9 billion in economic impact and helped to create 81,622 jobs. Considering the success of the Graphene Flagship and the European Union’s aim to strengthen science and technology within its borders, the initiative will continue under the Horizon Europe programme. 

Horizon Europe  

Horizon Europe is a continuation of what was previously called Horizon 2020 and is Europe’s leading research and innovation (R&I) initiative, also focusing on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is set to run from 2021-2027 with a budget of €95.5 billion.2 With the intention of keeping Europe at the forefront of global research and innovation, Horizon Europe plans to: maximise its impact and deliver on EU’s strategic priorities (i.e. digital and green transition); strengthen science and technology through increased investment; foster industrial competitiveness; and enhance access for researchers to participate and collaborate in a broader global dialogue.3   

“With Horizon Europe, the European research community, research organisations and our citizens can count on one of the world’s largest research and innovation Programmes. It is our main tool to strengthen our scientific and technological base, develop solutions for healthier living, drive digital transformation and fight climate change, for our collective resilience.”  

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

The Programme boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth by fostering collaboration and the dispersion of knowledge and technologies to address global challenges. Simultaneously by investing in European R&I the initiative bolsters the economy by creating jobs and promoting industrial competitiveness. New elements include, a European Innovation Council, a set of five measures to reach goals within a set timeframe, an open science policy and objective driven partnerships with industry. 


Leadership for advanced materials  

However, to maintain and further advance Europe as a leader in both the green and digital transition, the EC has proposed an encompassing strategy for the further development of advanced materials. The Communication about leadership for advanced materials, reached through dialogue with member states and stakeholders, “addresses not only R&I needs, but also efforts towards strengthening the production, use and uptake of advanced materials”4 and stands on five main pillars: 

  1. Develop research and innovation of advanced materials. 
  2. Fast-track these materials to market. 
  3. Increase capital investment and access to financing (Horizon Europe). 
  4. Support production and use of advanced materials. 
  5. Create a Technology Council. 

The Communication addresses the advanced materials ecosystem within the EU and proposes actions that “address the entire value creation, spanning from early-stage research to deployment and market uptake.”4 The intention is that together these actions will pave the way for a more “coordinated and responsive” ecosystem, one with “new economic opportunities” and larger “more rapid deployment” thus “reinforcing EU resilience and open strategic autonomy.”4 

Although the Graphene Flagship project was successful in taking investment and translating it into a wealth of knowledge, including thousands of peer-reviewed articles and hundreds of marketable products, the “graphene gold-rush” and the impact of the project’s investment will be hard to assess until approximately 15-years after its completion. Kari Hjelt, the Graphene Flagship’s head of innovation, says that is how long the path is from research to commercialisation.5 It has been noted that while the EU has funded R&I heavily, the commercial conversion has fallen behind, with shortcomings when it comes to venture capital and infrastructure support; some of which can be attributed to production challenges, funding gaps and competition from China and the United States.6 


Partnerships for the future  

Fortunately building partnerships and bridging gaps is an area that the Graphene Flagship and Horizon Europe initiatives excel in and have taken great strides in developing. International collaboration and information exchange between a broader community has been addressed through international workshops and partnerships forged under the Flagship umbrella and have the potential to lead to greater success in commercialisation in the future. 

The Graphene Flagship international outreach activities act as a support mechanism to bring the broader 2D material (2DM) community together for knowledge exchange and collaboration toward a joint vision. With the launch of the rearranged Graphene Flagship initiative, there are now 12 projects each with partners spread across Europe, working under the umbrella of the Coordination and Support Action (CSA) group/project. 

Although the focus is on EU member states, with the Horizon Europe grants call titled “Europe in the Lead”, the European Commission is eager to promote international collaborations, including with “associated” countries that stretch beyond EU borders. There are also opportunities for other interested public and private research organisations from around the world to partner with Horizon Europe members, but often at their own cost.7 

Taken together, the Graphene Flagship collaborations and contribution to the realm of advanced materials R&I and the revised European commitment and support for the production and use of advanced materials sets a course for a future where Europe continues to lead us towards the green and digital transition that we have all set our compasses for. 



  1. https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/a-decade-on-how-has-the-eus-1-billion-gamble-to-get-graphene-on-the-market-fared/4018554.article  
  2. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/horizon-europe/#:~:text=Horizon%20Europe%20is%20the%20European,the%20green%20and%20digital%20transitions 
  3. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, the EU research and innovation programme (2021-27) – For a green, healthy, digital and inclusive Europe, Publications Office of the European Union, 2021, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2777/052084 
  4. European Commission, Advanced Materials for Industrial Leadership, 2024, ps://research-and-innovation.ec.europa.eu/document/download/0fcf06ea-c242-44a6-b2cb-daed39584996_en  
  5. https://pubs.aip.org/physicstoday/article/74/8/20/837643 
  6. https://thenextweb.com/news/eu-big-bet-on-making-europe-graphene-powerhouse 
  7. https://sciencebusiness.net/sites/default/files/inline-files/SB%20Report%20Webcast_Horizon%20Europe%20-%20a%20guide%20for%20non-Europeans_FINAL_7.pdf 

Annual Report 2023

Explore our full annual report with a welcome address from the new director, feature articles, project bios and highlights, and an in depth dive into our 2D-EPL project complete with work packages, STO statement and more. 

Author bio

Graphene Flagship
Graphene Flagship

Bringing together 118 academic and industrial partners in 12 research and innovation projects and 1 coordination and support project, the Graphene Flagship initiative will continue to advance Europe’s strategic autonomy in technologies that rely on graphene and other 2D materials. The initiative, which builds on the previous 10-years of the Graphene Flagship, is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. The 2D-Experimental Pilot Line, addressing the challenges of upscaling 2D material production processes for the semiconductor industry, is another key component of the Graphene Flagship eco-system.