A new peak body – the Australian Graphene Industry Association (AGIA) – has been formed to assist and promote the graphene industry in Australia.
The AGIA will act as a point of contact and information for businesses interested in pursuing the use of graphene to improve their products.
The Victorian Government has provided the initial funding for the establishment of the new body.
Graphene is a transformative material. It is called a “super material” because of its incredible characteristics: stronger than steel, harder than diamond, impervious to all gases, and the most electrically conductive material known to man.
Not only is graphene a super material, its qualities can be transferred into other materials that it is compounded with.
Australia, and Victoria in particular, has become a hotbed of research into graphene, and the development of commercial applications using this material. Geelong is home to one of the first facilities in the world that can manufacture affordable graphene at scale.
“The AGIA has been formed to provide a focal point for everyone who has an interest in graphene – from industry to researchers, to government and the public,” says AGIA Chair Chris Gilbey.
“The AGIA will not only be an information source on every aspect of the commercial potential for graphene, it will also link companies to future employees, venture capital to start ups, and researchers to industry. The association will run an annual global conference and local information sessions relevant to the growing interest from advanced manufacturers into graphene.
“It will also facilitate the development of the industry by providing a jobs portal on the AGIA website, which will be operational before the end of the year.”
The inaugural board of directors comprises Chris Gilbey OAM (Chairman), Executive Chairman of Imagine Intelligent Materials Limited; Bronwyn Fox, Director Swinburne Manufacturing Futures Research Institute; Simon Savage, CEO, Ionic Industries; and Dennis Grech, Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Geofabrics Australasia.
Investment into graphene research
Unlike the EU, in Australia there has been no structure and directed governmental support focused on graphene commercialisation. Nevertheless, Australia is among the leading nations in investment into graphene research.
Since 2009, almost $30 million has been awarded to graphene research via grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC), with 49.5% of the ARC graphene grants going to Victorian universities.
“The Victorian Government has recognised the importance of graphene to the state’s economy, and as a result has provided the initial seed funding for the AGIA,” Gilbey said. “It also understands that new businesses will be spun out from universities in the field of advanced materials and that the CRC grants are likely to be a predictor of new business formation in Victoria.”
According to a report published by Universities Australia:
- Universities are the primary place that give birth to start-up companies
- Startups contributed $164 billion to the Australian economy between 2004 and 2011
- They contributed 40% of the value added to the economy in those years
“Graphene is a material that is not easy to manufacture, nor is it easy to work with,” Director, Swinburne Manufacturing Futures Research Institute, Bronwyn Fox said.
“It requires wet labs, and expensive testing equipment. Start-up companies interested in commercialising graphene will need access to labs and equipment in order to develop products.
“Therefore, it is logical to expect that entrepreneurial graduates will emerge from universities that have been successful in researching the material, and that when they form new companies, they will remain reliant upon access to the facilities offered by universities.”