Scottish Funding Council supports RD Graphene Ltd in development of ‘miracle material’ 

Since 2010, when its pioneers, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, won the Nobel Prize for Physics, graphene has been hailed as the next big thing in tech. 
It is, in essence, a thin flake of ordinary carbon, just one atom thick but part of its appeal to the public imagination is that it is the most conductive material known to science – and the strongest material ever measured. For these reasons it has been heralded as a miracle material for the 21st century.
It has myriad potential uses and researchers and entrepreneurs are currently engaged in a race to discover, test and commercialise graphene applications. 
Among them is Stirling-based company, RD Graphene Ltd which, in 2016, won the prestigious Scottish Higgs Edge Award for science, technology and engineering-focused businesses. 
As its name suggests, the company is involved in the production of graphene. Having received funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), RD Graphene has been able to extend an already productive relationship it has with the University of St Andrews and together they are now seeking to make advances that could “change the world”. They are trying to reduce the production time of a sheet of graphene from around 16 hours to a matter of seconds. The project is also fine tuning the electric properties of graphene through a process known as “doping”, which could create new supercapacitors enabling large amounts of electricity to be stored and released very quickly.
The work is being done at the Scottish Centre for Interdisciplinary Surface Spectroscopy, established in 2008 through a joint investment of £2.6 million by the University of St Andrews and SFC. 
The Centre has developed “clusters of excellence” in solid state physics, solid state chemistry and the characterisation of functional materials. 
Scotland’s universities consistently rank highly in the world and the country punches well above its weight in the quality and impact of its academic research. This presents economic opportunities but optimising this potential presents challenges for organisations such as Scotland’s enterprise agencies and SFC, part of whose job it is to harvest the rewards of bringing together academia and business.
Over the last decade one increasingly successful way of catalysing collaborations between researchers and entrepreneurs has been through SFC’s Innovation Voucher Scheme – from which RD Graphene Ltd benefitted. 
The programme is designed to bring about and sustain new work between Scotland’s universities, colleges and smaller businesses and is facilitated nationwide by specialist partnership broker, Interface. 
A standard innovation voucher provides up to £5,000 of funding but up to £20,000 is available to further develop promising projects and to support extended relationships.
According to RD Graphene Ltd, good collaborations with universities are vital to its plans for the future to provide a vital additional research capacity – beyond the scope of operations of a small to medium-sized company, to world-leading academics, and to provide access to expensive, specialist equipment. 
Close partnerships with universities also provide the skilled workers needed to sustain and grow new companies programmes. 
Partnerships such as the one between RD Graphene Ltd and the University of St Andrews are taking place across Scotland. They cover all major industry sectors from food and drink and tourism to energy and life sciences. 

Dr Stuart Fancey, director of research and innovation at the Scottish Funding Council, said: “The Innovation Voucher Scheme has been a huge success, linking hundreds of Scottish small businesses with universities’ and colleges’ expertise. 
“Entrepreneurs growing their businesses have been able to develop their products in ways they would have struggled to do by themselves.”


Dr Stuart Fancey
At the end of last year an additional £5 million of funding for the national Interface programme was confirmed from the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
 Announcing the funding, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said: “This additional £5 million will help nurture links between world-leading research and innovation, which provide a competitive edge for industry, and support valuable inward investment and exports.” 


Dr Siobhan Jordan

Interface connects small businesses with universities to make world-class advances

FIFTEEN years ago, the disconnect between small businesses and universities collaborating for Research & Development was obvious, however the solution on how to solve it was not. 
There was no tried and tested model to follow, so when Interface was established in 2005, by Dr Siobhán Jordan and a small team of “connectors” to bridge the gap, they began by talking to the academic community and the business world to find out what both needed. 
A well-defined challenging proposition, clear objectives and research and development projects to match strategic aims, capabilities and capacity was on the list from academia. Top requirements from businesses were expert knowledge to help solve issues in production, processes or services, options for funding, responsiveness through a clear time frame and peace of mind over intellectual property.   
Interface has bridged the gap with impressive results by addressing these wishes through its value proposition of impartial translation, passion for excellence and, above all, building relationships based on trust. 
Today the picture is of a thriving environment of business-academic collaborations which have resulted in some ground-breaking developments. 
Interface has translated over 4,500 company-led propositions (expertise search specifications) to challenge academic teams from all disciplines.
2,900 unique businesses have established informative discussions with academic partners leading to many productive partnerships. 
Companies supported by Interface add an estimated £64.2 million GVA into the economy each year through new services, processes, products, or efficiencies leading to cost savings. 
The Interface model, of a regionally-based team for Scottish universities and research institutes, has been held up internationally garnering interest from Australia, Poland, Denmark and other countries. 
Small and medium-sized enterprises play a crucial role in the economy – 95% of companies Interface supports have 50 or fewer employees but few have R&D departments.However even the smallest enterprises have the potential to make a big impact through innovation and collaboration.
Former medical student Chris McCann who is now making in-roads in the NHS and the US with Current, a wireless, wearable device for monitoring patients’ health in hospitals and communities was helped by Interface. 
After a referral from the Digital Health & Care Institute innovation centre (DHI), Interface sourced expertise in the University of the West of Scotland. Through advising on funding, a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher was awarded to help offset the cost of the project. 
The collaboration with the University generated proof of concept data around use of ultrasound to monitor patients’ hydration levels, which helped the development phase of the device.
Also receiving significant support from Interface was fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Malcolm Wood, whose “eureka” moment to stop waste starch clogging drains led to an innovative filtration system, Peel Tech. An introduction by Interface to academics at Abertay University helped develop the initial demonstrator model. Peel Tech has been commercialised and is now selling to fish and chip shops and other retailers, winning several awards for its innovation and environmental credentials.
As is often said in business, from small acorns grow mighty oaks and the impact of Interface connections are supporting pioneering Scottish companies and academics. 


Potential uses in a tech revolution
NO other material has the breadth of superlatives that graphene boasts, making it ideal for countless applications. It is many times times stronger than steel, yet incredibly lightweight and flexible.
It is electrically and thermally conductive but also transparent.
It is the world’s first 2D material and is one million times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair.
Transport, medicine, electronics, energy, defence, desalination; the range of industries where graphene research is making an impact is substantial.
And this is only the start. These are only the first steps. The potential of graphene is limited only by our imagination.
Graphene's unique properties allow for ground-breaking biomedical applications: targeted drug delivery; improved brain penetration; DIY health-testing kits and 'smart' implants.

Graphene is a material with a huge number of outstanding qualities; strength, flexibility, lightweight and highly conductive.

Graphene has the potential to create the next-generation of electronics currently limited to sci-fi. Think faster transistors; semiconductors; bendable phones and other gadgets and electronics.

Imagine fully charging a smartphone in seconds, or an electric car in minutes. That's the power of graphene.

Imagine clean drinking water for millions of people living in developing countries. The development of graphene-based membranes brings that possibility extremely close.

Ultra-sensitive sensors made from graphene could detect minute dangerous particles and help to protect in potentially dangerous environments.