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Europe’s Graphene Flagship lays out a science and technology road map, targeting research areas designed to take graphene and related 2d materials from academic laboratories into society.

In October 2013, academia and industry came together to form the Graphene Flagship. Now with 142 partners in 23 countries, and a growing number of associate members, the Graphene Flagship was established following a call from the European Commission to address big science and technology challenges of the day through long-term, multidisciplinary R&D efforts.

In an open-access paper published today in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Nanoscale, more than 60 academics and industrialists lay out a science and technology roadmap for graphene, related two-dimensional crystals, other 2d materials, and hybrid systems based on a combination of different 2d crystals and other nanomaterials. The roadmap covers the next 10 years and beyond, and its objective is to guide the research community and industry toward the development of products based on graphene and related materials.

“We are very proud of the joint effort of the many authors who have produced this roadmap,” says Jari Kinaret, director of the Graphene Flagship. “The roadmap forms a solid foundation for the graphene community in Europe to plan its activities for the coming years. It is not a static document, but will evolve to reflect progress in the field, and new applications identified and pursued by industry.”

Graphene and related materials are expected to revolutionise the fields in which they are applied, and they have the potential to become the materials of the 21st century. They will supplement and at times replace existing substances in a range of applications. Two-dimensional materials shall in some cases be integrated into existing platforms in order to enhance them. For example, graphene could be integrated into silicon photonics, exploiting established technology for constructing integrated circuits.

The roadmap highlights three broad areas of activity. The first task is to identify new layered materials, assess their potential, and develop reliable, reproducible and safe means of producing them on an industrial scale. Identification of new device concepts enabled by 2d materials is also called for, along with the development of component technologies. Our ultimate goal is to integrate components and structures based on 2d materials into systems capable of providing new functionalities and application areas.

Eleven science and technology themes are identified in the roadmap. These are: fundamental science, health and environment, production, electronic devices, spintronics, photonics and optoelectronics, sensors, flexible electronics, energy conversion and storage, composite materials, and biomedical devices. The roadmap addresses each of these areas in turn, with timelines.

Research areas outlined in the roadmap correspond broadly with current flagship work packages, with the addition of a work package devoted to the growing area of biomedical applications, to be included in the next phase of the flagship. We are learning here from experience, and also feedback from expert reviews of our work. A recent independent assessment has confirmed that the Graphene Flagship is firmly on course. With hundreds of research papers, numerous patents and marketable products to its name, the flagship is providing excellent value for money.

Roadmap timelines predict that, before the end of the 10-year period of the flagship, products will be close to market in the areas of flexible electronics, composites, and energy. We also hope to see advanced prototypes of silicon-integrated photonic devices, sensors, high-speed electronics, and biomedical devices.

“This publication concludes a four-year effort to collect and coordinate state-of-the-art science and technology of graphene and related materials,” says Andrea Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, and chairman of the Executive Board of the Graphene Flagship, who with Italian Institute of Technology physicist Francesco Bonaccorso led the roadmap effort.

Professor Ferrari adds: “We hope that this open-access roadmap will serve as the starting point for academia and industry in their efforts to take layered materials and composites from laboratory to market.”

Professor Jonathan Coleman, one of the world’s leading nanoscientists, at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre in Trinity College Dublin and Deputy Leader of a Graphene Flagship work package, said “I welcome the Commission’s roadmap which clearly sets out its timelines and its work themes. Graphene is one of the most exciting materials of our lifetime. Technology, energy and aviation companies worldwide are racing to discover the full potential of graphene. Our research here in AMBER is and will continue to be an important element in helping to realise that potential.”

Professor Coleman and the research team within AMBER led on a number of world-first graphene innovations over the last two years. The AMBER team discovered a new method of producing industrial quantities of high quality graphene. The discovery will change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured.

In addition, Professor Coleman and his team discovered a method of creating wearable sensors by adding graphene to shop-bought rubber bands which could be used in medicine, automotive and aeronautical industries, or as early warning system for cot death and sleep apnoea. This simple and innovative science will lead to cheap, mass-produced sensors for health monitoring and other applications.

These are some of the many examples of how the Graphene Flagship is taking this novel nanomaterial from the lab to the factory floor.

Prof Valeria Nicolosi and Prof Fergal O’Brien awarded €300,000 in funding to grow potential spin-out companies

Prof. Nicolosi has won top-up funding for her project entitled ‘Ink-Jet printed supercapacitors based on 2D nanomaterials’. This is the third grant that Prof. Nicolosi has received from the ERC to date. Prof. Nicolosi’s nanotechnology project will hone in on enabling new 2D-based nanomaterials to one day potentially pioneer ultra-thin, flexible supercapacitors manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industry. Prof. O’Brien’s funding will help to establish the innovation potential of his original idea for which he already received €2 million in ERC funding in 2009. His project, entitled ‘miRNA-activated Scaffold Technologies for Cartilage Regeneration’, is focused on developing an advanced therapeutic for cartilage repair. Damage to the cartilage on joints can result in osteoarthritis which affects millions of people worldwide.

Prof. Valeria Nicolosi, Professor at the School of Physics and the School of Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin and Principal Investigator at AMBER, said “At the moment there is huge societal need to move towards sustainable and renewable energy resources. As a result, we are seeing an increase in renewable energy production from sun and wind, as well as the development of electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles. Energy storage systems like batteries and super capacitors are starting to play a larger part in our lives. Unfortunately, accidents can occur due to the high corrosion, toxicity and flammability of the electrolytes used, coupled with the high instability of lithium under normal conditions. We expect the development of high performing, ultra-thin, ultra-light, non-hazardous and chemically stable energy storage devices will have huge societal and economic impact in all these sectors.

“The aim of this project is to determine the economic and technical feasibility of using readily scalable technologies for the development of inexpensive and high performance ultra-thin, flexible films of two dimensional nanosheets for supercapacitors manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industry. Through this funding, our hope is to be able to license this technology or to open a spin-out very soon. We are exploring both possibilities at present, as a direct result of the ERC funding.”

Prof. Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Director of AMBER and Deputy Director of Research and Head of Tissue Engineering Research Group in the Royal College of Surgeons, said, “I am delighted to be awarded the “Proof of Concept” grant. This project is focused on developing an advanced therapeutic for cartilage repair. We proposed to combine a biomaterial from my lab designed specifically to support cartilage cells with a form of gene therapy, called micro-ribonucleic acids (microRNA), which can enhance the genes associated with healthy tissue, while blocking the ones associated with disease.

“Adult articular cartilage has a limited capacity for repair so when damaged it can lead to joint degeneration and ultimately osteoarthritis. The idea of using miRNAs as therapeutics is extremely appealing as we can potentially switch on the genes associated with cartilage repair while switching off those associated with degeneration. Depending on the further results of this project we hope to bring this to market with industry partners.”

Prof. Stefano Sanvito, Acting Director of AMBER, commented on the announcement, saying “Since its launch, AMBER has grown significantly, this European funding will allow us to bring these projects to the next level, from fundamental to more applied horizons. I’d like to congratulate Professor Nicolosi and Professor O’Brien on successfully securing ERC awards. The awards demonstrates both the excellence and also the quality of the research team that has been built in AMBER.”

EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Carlos Moedas said: “Europe has plenty of world-class research, but not enough of it reaches the marketable product stage as commercialised, pioneering goods and services. The Proof of Concept grants will enable some of our top research to compete with the best innovations out there. This will help improve our ability to bring innovations to market, boost competitiveness and create the jobs and growth needed in Europe.”

The purpose of the “Proof of Concept” grant is to assist researchers, who have already been awarded an ERC grant, with costs relating to activities such as establishing intellectual property rights, investigating commercial and business opportunities (e.g. setting up a start-up) or technical validation (e.g. carrying out clinical tests).

At our Industry Day to celebrate our first year in operation, AMBER unveils new technology that helps injured racehorse return to winning ways

AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded materials science centre, hosted in Trinity College Dublin, has today unveiled a new bone repair technology, which has led to an injured racehorse returning to winning ways after successful jaw reconstruction. The announcement was made at AMBER’s Industry Day, held to mark its first anniversary, which was officially opened by Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English T.D. and which brought together a number of AMBER’s industry partners.

The patented bone repair technology was developed by a team of AMBER Researchers within the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) led by Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Director of AMBER. It consists of collagen and hydroxyapatite, components native to bone, formed into a 3D porous ‘scaffold’ which acts as a bone graft substitute. Bone cells and blood vessels ‘cling’ to the scaffold, allowing for new tissue regeneration.

This *bone repair technology (known as HydroxyColl) will be brought to market by RCSI spin out company, SurgaColl Technologies. Regulatory approval for human use is forecast in the coming months and implantation in patients suffering from large bone defects planned this year.

Speaking at the event, Damien English T.D., Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation said, “It has been a very successful first year for AMBER, this exciting technology is another example that shows that Irish research is at the leading edge of material science worldwide. Material science underpins a wide range of market opportunities that have the greatest potential to deliver economic return through enterprise development and employment growth in Ireland. I congratulate Professor O’Brien, his team and collaborators at AMBER for this breakthrough solution that could have real application in the veterinary sector and which could ultimately improve the lives of thousands of people also.”

The first clinical use of the HydroxyColl was on a 2 year old thoroughbred filly that had a large swelling in her jaw caused by a complex aneurysmal cyst. As a result of the cyst, the bone in the filly’s jaw was at risk of fracture and she was unable to chew adequately. The outcome is generally poor for aneurysmal cysts and euthanasia of the animal often necessary.

The procedure was carried out by Dr. Florent David at University College Dublin’s Veterinary Hospital who removed the cyst and implanted sheets of the scaffold. The procedure has enabled repair of the bone tissue followed by restoration of normal bone shape and function. Since surgery, the horse (Annagh Haven) has returned to racing and has won or been placed in 6 of her races to date.

AMBER Centre celebrates a successful year:

AMBER is one of the key drivers of Ireland’s growing international research reputation. Ireland has been ranked 3rd in the world for nanoscience and 6th in the world for the quality of materials science research. Since its launch in late 2013, researchers at AMBER have announced four world first discoveries in the areas of materials science which have been internationally recognised. Materials science is one of the fastest growing sectors globally, impacting electronics, medical technologies, and pharmaceuticals. Ireland exports approximately €80 billion worth of these products annually.

Prof. Stefano Sanvito, Acting Director of AMBER, said, “Since launch, AMBER has grown significantly, the Centre now works with 21 industry partners, working on 31 targeted projects. We have won €10.5 million of non-Exchequer funding and published over 300 papers. Our researchers are delivering world first discoveries; in fact we had four world first discoveries since launch which shows that Irish research is at the leading edge of material science worldwide.”

“Today’s announcement on the new scaffold technology demonstrates our track record of pushing the boundaries of science to discover real solutions for people and we will continue to carry out excellent research that has clear societal impact.”

At the event, AMBER was also joined by some of its many partners including Thomas Swan & Co. Ltd. Harry Swan, MD of Thomas Swan said, “Thomas Swan has collaborated with AMBER since its foundation, in the field of materials science, and it has been a very productive relationship. Our partnership has delivered significant mutual benefit and we look forward to working with AMBER researchers in the future which we would expect to deliver further leading edge research and technology innovation. Throughout this collaboration AMBER’s researchers have been a valuable asset to our business.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The SFI Research Centres Programme funds twelve centres of research excellence in Ireland and AMBER, through its materials science leadership has an important role in this Programme. Ireland has a significant opportunity to capitalise on the growth of the nanotechnology and materials science sectors globally and AMBER is key to this. In just over a year since it has been established, AMBER has delivered consistently on the targets which we, at SFI, have set and continues to demonstrate return on the investment made, by Government through SFI and by industry. I look forward to a successful year ahead for AMBER, in terms of new industry partnerships and new discoveries. The research carried out at AMBER is the type of impactful science which SFI aims to support, delivering solutions that can benefit both Irish society and the economy.”

Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast, said, “Trinity is committed to research excellence and translating this excellence to achieve economic and societal impact. A year on, AMBER’s leading researchers drawn from all of its collaborating institutions have demonstrated this in a series of successes, including today’s breakthrough. Marking its first year, it is important to acknowledge the commitment of SFI, Government and industry in this collaboration and establishment of AMBER headquartered at Trinity that will position Ireland as a leader in materials science creating high quality employment opportunities.”

Some of the key milestones including world first discoveries from AMBER and its leading research team since its launch include:

> World-first graphene innovation, research team led by Professor Jonathan Coleman discovered new research method to produce large volumes of high quality graphene. A licence agreement was signed with Thomas Swan Ltd. The discovery will change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured;

> World-first graphene-rubber sensors: Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team discovered a method of creating wearable sensors by adding graphene to shop-bought rubber bands which could be used in medicine, automotive and aeronautical industries, or as early warning system for cot death and sleep apnoea;

> Researchers discovered world-first new material which could revolutionise IT. Professor Michael Coey and his team created a completely new alloy of manganese, ruthenium and gallium, known as MRG, world first new material which could transform the way data is stored;

> First researchers in the world to measure Poisson’s Ratio on the nanoscale, this breakthrough led by Professor John Boland and his team will have significant impact on development of flexible electronics;

> First clinical use of a 3D porous scaffold resulting in regeneration of jaw tissue. The racehorse operated on with this novel implant has returned to successful racing and the research group led by Prof Fergal O’Brien are planning human trials soon.

> Novel ‘in-theatre’ cell based approaches to cartilage regeneration: Prof Daniel Kelly’s lab have demonstrated that it is possible to use cells rapidly isolated from fatty tissue found in the knee to ‘engineer’ cartilage grafts for joint regeneration.

> Professor Valeria Nicolosi’s research on 2D materials has resulted in the first ink-jet printed supercapacitor device for energy storage. The prototype device appears flexible, transparent and shows excellent storage behavior. Ink-jet printed energy storage devices produced by this method could be used in food packaging, electronics

> AMBER researchers develop multilevel memory for consumer electronics, the discovery opens up a host of possibilities for the consumer - leading to smaller, cheaper and faster electronics;

> AMBER spin-out, Adama Innovations Ltd, secured €750,000 in seed-funding to scale up their production of the nanoscale probe fabricated from diamond, which will provide a greater understanding of materials;

> Active public engagement programme with over 9000 primary and secondary school students reached through programmes like NanoWoW, schools competitions and researchers nights.

*The bone repair technology case study has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine, a leading specialist journal in the field.

Trinity College Dublin has been successful in winning milestone pan-European consortia that will boost innovation and tackle health and raw materials, two of the key societal challenges facing Europe. The European Institute for Innovation and Technology yesterday announced the winning consortia for two new Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs) − large scale partnerships made up academic institutions and innovation stakeholders. The winners of the EIT’s 2014 Call for Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) proposals are the pan-European consortia RawMatTERS (EIT Raw Materials) and InnoLife (EIT Health), bringing together more than 150 partners from 20 EU Member States.

In RawMatTERS, Trinity is joined by the University of Limerick and companies Aughinish Alumina Ltd and Boliden Tara Mines. The winning consortium has a broad coverage across the materials chain and is considered the strongest partnership that has ever been assembled in the raw materials sector. It aims at strengthening innovation in the sector by introducing new solutions, products and services for sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution. It brings together more than 100 partners from 20 EU Member States, including the KGHM Polish Copper S.A. from Poland, the RISE Research Institute of Sweden and the University of Milano-Bicocca from Italy. The consortium will contribute approximately €430M to the members over 7 years. Prof Lyons will drive 10 projects and is expected to bring approx. €25m to AMBER and Trinity College Dublin over the 7 years.

Commenting on its significance, Trinity Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said: “This is a milestone for Ireland securing core participation in both EU multi-million euro strategic partnerships that will grow Ireland’s health and mining/ refining industries. Trinity College is acutely aware of the impact its research and innovation has for the benefit of Ireland, Dublin and society in general. Its participation in the EIT consortia is crucial for creating jobs in Ireland and will contribute to positioning the country on the global stage for high quality innovation and education. It will attract foreign direct investment, sustaining and growing Ireland’s health and raw materials Industries.”

Professor Michael Lyons, at the School of Chemistry and AMBER in Trinity College Dublin, who lead the Irish bid for Raw MatTERS, through the Irish raw materials platform IFOSTER, said: “KIC membership presents an unparalleled opportunity to fully participate in a pan-European world class partnership which will transform the important raw materials sector internationally. This membership will also give AMBER the opportunity to foster new, and develop existing, industry partnerships in the area of raw materials.”

He added: “This KIC will provide access to an additional key funding source, and generate a significant number of new high value jobs for professional graduates with a mindset for innovation and business in sustainable Mining, Recycling and Substitution of Raw Materials. We believe that this membership will allow us the opportunity for future collaborative applications for funding from significant sources such as Horizon 2020.”

It is anticipated that at full implementation the KIC can benefit from EIT with an opportunity of €90m new funding for which Ireland can compete. It is, by far, the biggest funding programme there is in Europe. EIT has a total fund of €2.7 billion.

Ireland’s effort to secure participation in these two consortia was Government supported through the Departments of Education and Skills, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Geological Survey of Ireland. The initiatives were spearheaded by Trinity College Dublin, which has worked on both KIC bids over the last two years.

Dean and Vice President of Research at Trinity College Dublin, Professor Vinny Cahill, commented: “We are delighted to see this positive outcome in the two bids. Trinity looks forward to working with our national and international partners in these consortia, which also have the potential to contribute significantly to achieving the national target of €1.25 billion in European funding from the Horizon 2020 programme. Both proposals are directly in line with the commitment to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the College’s recently launched Strategic Plan by promoting the creation of knowledge-based businesses; as well as its commitment to addressing current societal challenges, such as those posed by ageing and sustainability.”

Trinity College Dublin joins exceptional players from industry, higher education and research institutions of Europe including the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, K.U. Leuven, and Imperial College among others.

Trinity is the first Irish university or academic institution ever to be part of a KIC.