Open Innovation Gives Graphene Startup a Major Boost

Published Oct-03-16

Breakthrough:
How open innovation has helped Graphenea become a major European producer of graphene in only a few, short years.

Company:
Graphenea, Spain

The Story:

Open Innovation Gives Graphene Startup a Major Boost Graphene doesn't exist in nature. As the name suggests, this new nanotechnology material is extracted from graphite, which is used in pencils. It is formed of a single layer of carbon atoms and is the world's first 2-D material. Graphene is also the thinnest material in the world and it has a range of extraordinary properties.

Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel, but six times lighter, is an efficient conductor of electricity (better than copper) and heat as well as having outstanding optical and mechanical properties. It is impermeable to gases, even hydrogen and helium and is almost transparent. What’s more, chemical components can be added to alter its properties.

Therefore, it is no small wonder that since its isolation in 2004, hundreds of science and industry laboratories across the world have been engaged in various aspects of graphene research.

A Startup is Born

One of those is Graphenea SA, a Spanish company founded in 2010 to bring the so-called miracle material to the market for both industrial and research uses. Today, Graphenea is one of the principle European producers of graphene, and it’s focused on three industry segments: semiconductors, batteries and advanced polymers. Materials produced by the company are used for the development of batteries and solar cells and as advanced composites to name but a few applications.

Engagement with Open Innovation

But it doesn't do its innovative work on its own. Open innovation is at the core of its research and development activities. For example, Graphenea is located amid a cluster of nanotechnology companies based at the CIC nanoGUNE research centre in Donostia – San Sebastian. This is allowing it to benefit from being a member of a strong, local innovation ecosystem.

Graphenea also participates in several Pan-European projects and is a member of the Graphene Flagship, which brings together academic and industrial researchers to look for new applications for graphene. In so doing, this massive enterprise hopes to create new jobs and opportunities and generate economic growth. With a budget of 1 billion euros (approx. USD $1.3 billion) this is Europe's biggest ever research project.

Another string to Graphenea's open innovation bow is the partnership it entered into with global energy company Repsol, which is providing strategic assistance as well as access to new industrial markets.

Furthermore, Graphenea works closely with its clients and partners to co-develop products as well customizing specific products for customer needs.

Graphenea also has its own small internal R&D team, which is focused on continually improving the properties of its graphene products and optimizing their integration into customers' processes.

A Major Industry Player

Graphenea is a startup with only a handful of employees, yet in a short space of time it has grown to become a major player. This is due in no small part to its open innovation business model and its willingness to cooperate with others.

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