Manchester deal puts graphene on road to commercial market
A company quoted on London’s AIM stock market company has bought major stake in a spin-out company developing graphene semiconductor products based on technology pioneered at the University of Manchester.
This is a big step in the commercialisation of the university’s Nobel Prize-winning grapheme research.
Versarien has acquired a controlled 85% equity stake in 2-DTech, which is a graphene company wholly owned by the University of Manchester, where graphene was first isolated by Nobel Prize winners Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov.
Gloucestershire-based Versarien will also collaborate with the university on fundamental graphene intellectual property (IP) and research in manufacturing the very high speed semiconductor material technology.
The UK’s National Graphene Institute will open in Manchester later this year incorporating 150 researchers working on grapheme technology at the University.
2-DTech is producing graphene by using either a chemical vapour deposition process; in suspension or dispersions; or a milling process, which is in development.
“The acquisition of 2-DTech coupled with the planned collaboration agreements with The University of Manchester, the established home of graphene, marks a significant opportunity for Versarien to progress its product range with highly complementary technologies,” said Neill Ricketts, CEO of Versarien.
Versarien, which has pioneered highly thermally conductive materials for use in electronics, is itself manufacturing over 37 tonnes per year of complex powder, in a facility it acquired when it bought tungsten carbide manufacturer Total Carbide last year.
“Combining this know-how with 2-DTech’s expertise, research facilities, and rights to intellectual property makes the early commercialisation of graphene related products far more likely in the near term on an industrial scale,” said Ricketts.
Elektra 2013 award winner Versarian is paying £440,000 for the stake in 2-DTech.
It will also invest £300,000 in research projects at the university and have an proprietary interest in a research project developing an environmentally-friendly method of producing high quality graphene sheets, which is a collaboration between the Manchester University , 2-DTech and Ulster University and is currently being scaled up.
“Versarien brings real-life experience in process scale-up and manufacturing to complement 2-DTech’s understanding of the nature and quality threshold requirements for various applications of graphene, which is a rare skill set,” said Branson Belle, chief technology officer of 2-DTech.
According to Clive Rowland, CEO of the University of Manchester’s Innovation Group, the intention was to involve industrial participants as soon as the university had developed a business proposition and gained some market recognition.
“This takes 2-DTech to a new level and allows the University to share in the future success of the business by remaining a shareholder and also receiving a royalty on sales,” said Rowland.