Yesterday’s announcement of a billion euro investment into graphene by the European Commission caused shock waves on news stations, and a surge of interest in investing in graphene. Financial Times was quick to write an investment report singling out several companies, but also citing words of caution of the Nobel prize-winning Professor Andre Geim – do not fall for the hype, Geim says, real world applications of graphene are decades away.
While this might be true for applications that involve high-end graphene like the one Professor Geim specializes in, some products are on the market already and are promising to bring returns to early investors. For example, anyone can go to the website of Vorbeck and order a can of graphene ink, used for printing transparent electronic circuits on anything ranging from ordinary paper to food packaging. Vorbeck’s investors are rubbing their hands together as the company keeps inventing new products and seems to be going towards being one of the key providers of graphene for the US Army, as the company’s president confirmed in a recent interview on BBC.
European businesses have been trailing a little behind Asian and American prodigies, however the EU injection promises to fully turn the tables around. So who’s on board and who will benefit the most from this recent development?
Here’s a list of companies labelled by the European Commission yesterday as chief partners in the FET Flagship, the bureaucratic name behind the billion euros: Nokia, Philips, Alcatel-Lucent, Thales, ST Microelectronics, Airbus, Aixtron and Oxford Instruments.
Nokia we’ve already know about and reported on Graphene Tracker on numerous occasions. The Finnish mobile phone company that everyone took for dead owns a few patents in which graphene is used mostly for photo-sensing, indicating that the company is moving towards integrating graphene cameras into their smartphones. Nokia has also partnered with scientific research groups to develop high-sensitivity photodetectors, supposedly also to be integrated into future smartphones. Exactly when the new generation of cameras will appear on the market and whether that will be soon enough to save the reputation and business of Nokia is a bit of a gamble. The company is also one of the sponsors of the new Cambridge Graphene Commercialization Centre, which is bound to speed things up a notch.
The participation of Philips in both the Flagship and the Cambridge Centre is a bit of a surprise to us, as we haven’t seen any patents or research coming from them at all. It means that research, if any exists, is at a very early level. That being said, Philips has a tradition of keeping up with high technology and an excellent research centre in Eindhoven, but it remains to be seen whether they will go for graphene in full force. We were also surprised by the presence of Alcatel-Lucent.
Thales is a Swiss group specializing in aerospace, space, defence, security, and transportation, all of which are bound to be impacted by graphene technology. Thales is known in the graphene spheres, as its representatives often show up on graphene conferences. The company also owns some graphene patents. Thales employs 67,000 employees and this depends on much more than graphene, however if you wish to make an investment you can do so on the stock market (NASDAQ ticker: THLEF).
ST Microelectronics is also seriously into graphene, but with an emphasis on microelectronics and sensing. Graphene chemical sensors are actually not that far off from being sold on the market, so this company is well-positioned to benefit from graphene.
It is good that Airbus is interested in graphene, as the material’s light weight and high strength are ideally suited for aircraft. We will keep reporting on the activity of Airbus in the field of graphene.
Aixtron is an obvious one, with a permeating presence on the graphene market. The company specializes in CVD equipment, and CVD is currently one of the most promising growth techniques for graphene. However, new techniques are evolving, and it’s likely that Aixtron will use the FET collaboration to keep up with those developments and commercialize them.
Finally, Oxford Instruments is an English company that provides high-end instruments for many industries, including the scientific research community. This is one we are sure will fit well into the collaboration, as it is anyways already close to academic researchers.
To draw a line and conclude, we think that yesterday’s news offers a whole new spectrum of companies to consider for investment when thinking of profiting from graphene. Two companies in particular seem to cling to graphene for their very survival. The fact that Nokia seems to be placing all their bets on graphene is risky, however it may just be the thing the company needs. With ever-growing customer dissatisfaction with the company’s current lineup of smartphone devices, they better act fast. Nokia is a high risk high gain (or high loss) investment right now, with the outcome to be known in a few years. Aixtron will also be fighting to remain its position in the graphene community, so expect some inventions from them in the next couple of years – or complete demise. The other companies listed here have a much wider customer base and for them graphene is going to be just another technology.