Graphene, an exciting opportunity for Project Managers

A blog about graphene and 2D materials is not necessarily a topic you would expect to come across very often. However, following a talk held at the APM Manchester conference on the 7th December 2017, James Baker convinced us that it is actually an important area of research that is crying out for project management expertise. The acceleration of any development for graphene requires collaboration between academia and industries, with the business knowledge and acumen to help the process move forward. Here, we discuss the importance of graphene in the upcoming 4th Industrial Revolution and how we, as project managers, can get involved with the journey.

For those of you not familiar with Graphene it is created by crushing graphite (or pencil lead as we may call it) several times with Sellotape until forming a single layer of carbon atoms. Clever hey? A few fun facts about graphene for you, it is roughly 200x stronger than steel, a flexible conductor and is transparent – an exciting material in the ever-changing digital era.

Currently, graphene is seen to serve many purposes, to name but a few, to make bendable phones, wear-resistant bike tyres and stiffer composite aeroplane wings. Many industrial applications can benefit from the use of graphene, due to its strength but low relative weight meaning that less material can be used. Other important uses for the graphene structure include isotope separation and membrane-replicas; simply put, it has been looked at to remove impurities from water to make it drinkable and other medicinal uses. This opens up huge potential all over the world, as a simple solution to give people access to clean drinking water by using sea or well water.

While the applications are difficult to argue with, the issue at hand is the requirement to reduce the readiness to market time. Academic groups need the collaboration with business experts, such as lawyers and project managers, to allow the development of the graphene as a product. A difficulty arises with the difference in motives between academic and industry leaders. Academia is based on knowledge sharing and publications, whilst industry is a slave to confidentially and patent agreements. As project managers, we are required to bridge the gap between the various inputs to define logical and non-biased decisions for the research.

The market is desperate for the introduction of graphene on a large scale, as it could be a solution to many industrial and economic problems. As project managers, there is an opportunity for us to get involved in an exciting movement; by providing a logical and organised approach, and bridging a gap to form graphene-strong collaborations.


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