Graphenea has won a project worth €2.5 million from the EU Horizon 2020 program ‘SME Instrument’. The funding will be used for the construction, installation and commissioning of a new production plant that will multiply production capacity by 200 times and consolidate the firm’s global leadership in the sector. The project was selected among 614 submitted proposals. In addition to construction of the production plant, the project will result in the opening of twenty highly skilled labor jobs.
“It is a very important boost that will accelerate our business plan. It will allow us to grow faster and consolidate our position as the global leader in our industry”, said Jesus de la Fuente, Founder and CEO of Graphenea after receiving the news. “We want to be the best in the world.”
The guarantee: Results and Customers
With this award, the European Commission has recognized Graphenea’s results both in research and production of graphene. The process developed and patented by Graphenea is highly efficient and environmentally friendly.
Graphene is a material under development, with new applications discovered every day, and current uses in advance polymers, battery electrodes and sensors. The world market in 2014 was estimated at about $12 million.
Graphenea currently employs 13 professionals, mostly PhD in Chemistry, and has closed 2014 with more than 400 customers in 50 countries and a turnover of around $1.2 million (~10% of the world market share). Graphenea holds leading international firms like Intel, Nokia, IBM, Philips, Repsol, BASF and Sigma-Aldrich in its customer portfolio.
Operating plant in 24 months
The ‘SME Instrument’ will contribute €1.8 million to the construction, installation and optimization of a pilot production plant of high-quality graphene for industrial applications. This is a relevant milestone in the development of Graphenea in an emerging market that recognizes the high quality of the materials produced by the company.
The construction of the new plant will take 24 months, including installation of equipment. If all goes as planned, the new facility could open in late 2017.
De la Fuente states that “in the first year of implementation of the pilot plant, it will allow us to increase our revenues and address the emerging global market for graphene”. He also said that “if the phase pilot plant is successful, Graphenea will move to an industrial phase that will require a larger investment.”
In a first stage, the pilot plant will be limited to an annual production of 1 ton per year imposed by the European regulation of new chemical products. Graphene is a new material that has not yet passed the registration process required by the European regulations for new substances, so its production or import is limited. Graphenea has begun the process of registration and certification of their materials to overcome this regulatory limitation. Thus, the firm will become the first producer of graphene approved for industrial use in Europe.
Presence and investment in USA
The main graphene demand comes from the United States, with large activity concentrated in the Boston area. According to the firm, this geographical area holds the biggest potential for development in the coming years. For that reason, and in parallel to the pilot plant project, Graphenea opened an Applications Laboratory at MIT campus. “We must be close to the market,” concluded Jesus de la Fuente.