Two new developments and announcements related to graphene research indicate that the European region is more than ever committed to major R&D work with the extraordinary material.
The first development came in a formal announcement from the UK’s University of Cambridge, which announced that on Feb. 1, 2013, the school would begin work on a new graphene research center that it hopes to dedicate by the end of the year. The Cambridge Graphene Center will be launched with £12 million from the government’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, plus an estimated additional £13 million from private-sector partners that include Nokia, Dyson, Plastic Logic, Philips and BAE Systems. According to the university’s announcement, the center “will target the manufacture of graphene on an industrial scale, and applications in the areas of flexible electronics, energy, connectivity, and optoelectronics.”
The second development came in the form of news leaks about a huge new graphene consortium that is a frontrunner in a unique and nicely endowed scientific-technical competition organized by the European Commission. The AAAS has described the EU’s Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship Initiative (FET) as “the biggest funding contest the European Union has ever hosted,” with over €100 million to be given to the winner(s) in the first few years and the possibility of even more in outlying years.” The winner(s) of the competition are to be officially announced Monday (Jan. 28), but the word on the street is that a project called the Graphene Flagship is one of two FET winners (the other project be enormous supercomputer-based neuroscience effort called the Human Brain Project).
If true—and there has been no EU denial—the two projects will share €107 million for the first two-and-a-half years, and then €50 million each per year after that. The Graphene Flagship, an enormous entity that according to its website encompasses 74 legal partners, 136 principal investigators, 120 research groups, and four Nobel laureates, also could benefit from £70 million in outside funding. The details of the GF proposal are a little sketchy, and a public roadmap is supposed to be forthcoming.
All of this is on top of the Graphene Global Research and Technology Hub, announced in late 2011, centered at the UK’s University of Manchester.
It is hard to imagine that all three projects won’t cooperate both formally and informally. Indeed, the university announced that the Cambridge initiative would receive an additional £11 million of European Research Council funding to support activities with the Manchester effort. Further, the video below was produced by Cambridge University on behalf of the Graphene Flagship, so it would appear that a cooperative R&D community focused on graphene is already underway in Europe.
It’s also hard to imagine that a focus of this scale on this two-dimensional material won’t yield in multidimensional strategic payoff that will elevate Europe’s scientific prestige in the world.