Wonder-material graphene will get its own £50m research hub as part of the government’s IT investment package
Along with the government’s £150 million investment into improving mobile phone coverage in ‘not-spots’ around the UK, Chancellor George Osborne has also announced investments into high-tech areas such as the commercialisation of graphene and research into high-performance computing (HPC).
Osborne announced the moves at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday.
Global research hub
The government will invest £50 million into the creation of a Graphene Global Research and Technology Hub intended to commercialise graphene, a wonder-material discovered by University of Manchester scientists in 2004 that is expected by some to replace silicon as the primary material in electronic devices.
In April a team of researchers at Illinois University in the US claimed that graphene may be a self-cooling material that could result in the production of more efficient and energy-saving devices.
If the Illinois study is correct, the problem that has brought the reduction in silicon chip sizes to a halt could be overcome by graphene. As chip circuitry is reduced in scale, heat production becomes a problem that threatens to fry the chip before it can be tested. This has resulted in Intel, AMD and others looking at multicore processors as a way to increase chip speeds while reducing heat production and efficiency.
In August a study showed that graphene could also be an accelerator allowing faster Internet speeds in the future. It can also be used to build more responsive touch-screens, among other uses.
“We will fund a national research programme that will take this Nobel prize-winning discovery from the British laboratory to the British factory floor,” Osborne said. “We’re going to get Britain making things again.”
A business case for graphene’s commercialisation is being developed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).
The University of Manchester is a possible location for the new hub but universities and other institutions will be able to bid for the funding over the coming months.
The hub should stimulate the economy and create new jobs, according to Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester.
“Graphene is one of the most important scientific advancements in recent times,” she stated. “We are proud of the world-class research carried out here and to have that recognised by the government is a real vindication of the work we do.”
The government also announced a £145 million investment designed to help the UK become a world leader in high-performance computing.
The investments will create a stronger economic climate for the future, Osborne argued.
“We do all this for a better Britain and a stronger economy,” he said. “I don’t pretend to you that these are not difficult days … but together we will move into the calmer, brighter seas beyond.”
Also on Monday Osborne announced investment into new mobile phone masts intended to improve coverage for “up to six million people”, and achieve 99 percent signal coverage across Great Britain.