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Posted on March 7, 2013 by  & 

Creating a healthy graphene industry

Graphene Technologies (GT) is a Silicon Valley-based early commercial stage company that has patented and developed a synthesis technology for production of high quality bulk graphene.
 
The GT Process utilizes Carbon Dioxide, a low-cost-to-free industrial gas, to form graphene atom-by-atom in a highly efficient, scalable and controllable reaction and well-understood post-reaction processes. The Company is in dialog with leading companies around the world and has established two partnerships with global companies, each of which is #1 in their respective markets.
 
While GT and our cohort of partners and investors are optimistic about the future of graphene applications, we have a number of concerns about the developing graphene industry. We appreciate the opportunity to engage our industry in a healthy dialog that can further our common interest. We hope that recognition of our common interests can lead to the formation of an industry association and standards body, both of which we believe will be important to our collective success.
 
 
Nano-materials and graphene are so new and graphene is such a robust material that there are discoveries made virtually every day. Our collective understanding of graphene is evolving at a great pace but there is now a legacy of patents granted by well meaning patent offices that may have the unintended consequence of limiting the development of the graphene market to well below its potential. While patents can be helpful in securing a commercial opportunity, the sheer number of patents and their many overlapping claims is already resulting in confusion. Corporations we speak with are quite concerned about potential difficulties in identifying and managing patent infringement risks. An industry association could provide a great service to the market by reducing this emerging confusion, not only in the patent landscape but in other critical areas as well.
 
 
Most of us are well aware of the enormous, coordinated European Union initiative to fund graphene development in the EU. Billions of Euros in funding have been announced since the beginning of this year. By contrast, the U.S. is relying on a laissez faire approach to supporting technology development in general and of the U.S. graphene market in particular. The U.S. is funding graphene research via small solicitations and grants from a variety of agencies and departments with no coordination at all. Most of these grants go to university researchers, not to businesses. There is less focus on product development and even less on commercialization. Is it any wonder why the U.S. is the leading creator of new technologies but concerned that too many of these are developed elsewhere? Our industry needs a voice, especially in Washington D.C. We need to challenge our government to coordinate its efforts with respect to a material that could become the leading material innovation of the 21st Century, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process. Continued U.S. laissez fairism with its predominant support of university research, too little of which is translated to a business proposition, will result in underachievement, particularly by the U.S. graphene industry.
 
Another confusion affecting the marketplace stems from a lack of standards defining what graphene is. Is a thirty-layer graphite nanoplatelet graphene? Is a five or less layer platelet or film also graphene? Are these identical materials? How should these materials be described and valued in the marketplace? While each manufacturer quite naturally sees it as in their best interest to promote their material as a broad and definitive solution, the impact of unfettered self-promotion on the market is less than optimal. There is significant confusion in the corporate marketplace about the characterization, regulatory and handling requirements and, of course, performance and application opportunities of the various materials offered in the marketplace as graphene. This confusion negatively impacts the commitment of many companies to explore and develop applications and solutions with graphene. Reducing this confusion would accelerate growth of our graphene industry. An industry association and standards body could be very effective not only in enhancing the credibility of each member but also reducing the confusion about graphene products in the market.
 
 
Graphene is a ʻhotʼ topic with a lot of hype in the media. Stock promoters and other unsavory characters may seek to take advantage of the hype. We, and, I am sure, all manufacturers, get calls and e-mails every week from relatively unsophisticated people wishing to buy stock. An industry association would be an effective vehicle in mitigating the risks that the industry could be sullied by a fraudulent event.
 
To date, the future prospects of the graphene industry are defined by well-meaning industry analysts. While these people perform a valuable role as independent arbiters who can sift through the hype and render objective opinions, we believe an industry association can provide a very useful and, quite possibly, different perspective to our commercial market and investment public.
 
As we know, government regulation of industry can provide a great benefit to society but it also can be extremely damaging to an industry if the regulation is ill conceived or implemented. To date, graphene regulations have not been established. We have only to look at the damage done to the carbon nano-tube industry to appreciate the risks. An effective industry association might have spared the carbon nano-tube industry some of the pain it has suffered. Certainly the lack of an industry advocate is undesirable given the history we all know too well.
 
In this article, we have articulated a number of important issues that an industry association and standards body can address to the benefit of all participants. We at GT support efforts for form an industry association and standards body as soon as possible. We believe the whole is greater than the parts. We have much to gain by cooperation. Let us seek ways to work together to bring this remarkable material, graphene, into full fruition as a valuable commercial material.
 
 
Jon Myers, the author, welcomes all graphene industry participants to contact him at association@graphenetechnologies.com to continue a dialog on this subject.
 
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