It’s no great surprise that in the race to commercialize graphene two companies (Samsung – 407 patents and IBM – 134) far outstrip the entire UK patent haul: 54. Samsung and IBM are hi-tech fabricators on an enormous scale. They have the industrial know-how and when a new material like graphene comes along they work out how it might be developed industrially. Contrast that with the typical UK situation in which, following a big discovery in a university lab, a spin-off company is funded on a very small scale with no big-industry expertise at all. The likely outcome is a no-brainer. Of course spin-offs and start-ups sometimes succeed but what is really needed is for existing medium to large engineering firms to be encouraged to take on board development of major new technologies. When Frank Whittle invented the jet engine, he founded a start-up. But it required Rolls Royce to turn it into a commercial hit. Britain doesn’t have a Samsung or IBM but there must be companies that could bring the right industrial nous to the graphene question.
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