January 14, 2013 (Source: Manchester Evening News) — The Nobel Prize-winning scientist behind super-material graphene believes it could kick-start a high-tech boom in Manchester.
Prof Kostya Novoselov says a new superlab to research the acclaimed substance could turn the city into a global hub for new technology.
The £61m National Graphene Institute at Manchester University aims to build new devices and inventions using the atom-thin material derived from ordinary graphite.
It will see scientists work alongside developers from the world’s top electronic companies to pioneer new discoveries.
Prof Novoselov, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 with colleague Andre Geim, spoke to the M.E.N as a new artist’s impression of the institute was released.
The 7,600sq m building in Booth Street East will house state-of-the-art facilities, including two ‘cleanrooms’ where scientists can experiment without contamination.
The physicist said that more than 150 firms had been in talks about sending their staff to work with the Nobel Prizewinners and their team. He said: “People are asking what we can do next with graphene. And scientists are good at researching of new properties of matter, but not necessarily at applying that new knowledge in real devices.
“Private industry is best suited for taking ideas and turning them into commercial applications. That’s why we want engineers from these different firms to come and work with us and stimulate our students to innovate and apply their ideas in creation of new companies.”
Potential applications include smart phone screens, powerful new computer chips and detection equipment, and even rollable e-paper – which scientists believe could be a reality by 2015.
The new institute, backed by £38m investment from the government, is expected to create up to 100 new jobs.
But the Nobel Laureate said he was confident a significant number of spin-off firms would be launched – producing a magnet for investment in the city.
He said: “We need to have manufacturing in the country if you really want to generate jobs from the graphene research we are doing. Already we have a few spin-outs which are creating graphene and other materials to be used in our academic research.”
Prof Colin Bailey, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, echoed the prospect of a massive jobs boom for Manchester.
He added: “The potential for its impact on the city and the North West is huge, and will be one of the most exciting centres of cutting edge research in the UK.”