Europe risks losing out on commercialising graphene

Graphene may have been first discovered in a European university, but it looks like it will be America or Asia that actually benefits most from it.

Following Andrej Geim and Konstantin Novoselov’s work at the University of Manchester, there has been a clamour to find useful applications for TechEye. Barely a week goes by without a new eye-catching use for graphene.

The discovery led to Nobel prizes and knighthoods, and with both the UK and the EU investing in development, it is hoped that it could lead to some lucrative uses down the line.

However, according to Professor Jari Kinaret, Head of the Nanoscience Area of Advance at Chalmers University, Europe is running the risk of leaving the glory to other regions more suited to full development.

Kinaret is part of of an initiative called the Graphene Coordinated Action, which is attempting to get some of the €1 billion funding that is being offered by the EU in the form of two ‘flagship projects’.

He believes that Europe is not able to compete in “integrating the whole chain, from basic research to product” – as Europe is not particularly skilled “compared with the Asians or the Americans”.

The number of patents being produced in each area is like comparing “Jupiter, Saturn and Mars”.  

Samsung is one of the many companies involved in commercialising graphene, and has been steadily amassing its own patents.

“Something is wrong here and we’re going to fix it,” Kinaret said.

Kinaret’s initiative is one of six shortlisted for the funding. If his is picked, he claims it will drive further investment in developing graphene research which will, in turn, lead to further funding.

“If we are selected, it would mean a substantial increase in grants for European graphene research – up to 50 percent more than at present,” Kinaret said.