According to The Times, the UK is set to launch an investigation relating to the NGI and BGT Materials. The inquiry will follow concerns that lucrative information could be passed to China through BGT, a British company majority-owned by a Taiwanese businessman. It was even claimed that academics refuse to work at the £61 million National Graphene Institute (NGI) due to these concerns.
The NGI and BGT refute these claims. The NGI stated that: "The University of Manchester has thoroughly investigated all of the claims and allegations put to it by the Sunday Times and has found no evidence whatsoever that BGT Materials or Bluestone has had access, outside of any confidentiality undertaking, to confidential research programmes or that there were insufficient safeguards to protect the University’s Intellectual Property.
The University also completely refutes the anonymous, unsubstantiated claim that academics are boycotting The National Graphene Institute (NGI). The NGI has around 40 industrial partners, of which BGT Materials (a company registered in England and Wales) is one. The University is committed to leading the way in the UK and internationally to commercialise graphene and two-dimensional material applications.
Our handling of Intellectual Property (IP) with research collaborators and our own independent patenting strategies are robust and comprehensive and specifically designed to optimise the commercial opportunities of our world-leading graphene research to the national benefit by being international in approach. We have expert external input to our IP strategy and approach. Patenting is a statement of commercial intent. According to independent 2015 figures, the University was the most active UK graphene patenting organisation. When filing we have in mind the right timing, quality and potential real world value of these and the platform they offer to create jobs, reputation and wealth for the UK. We would welcome an external enquiry on this issue.
Graphene is a revolutionary but relatively new material with limitless applications. Previous examples of new technologies, such as carbon nanotubes, silicon and carbon fibre, have shown that it usually takes decades for products and applications to become commercially viable. The NGI has been open for less than one year and we are already witnessing some promising projects coming to fruition."
Here is BGT's official statement: "BGT Materials is focused on commercializing graphene technologies. In just two years we have managed to take products out of the laboratory, through to funding and pilot manufacturing stage and we anticipate to reach the market shortly, through our spin off companies.
The claims made by The Sunday times are untrue and completely unsubstantiated. We maintain a good relationship with the University of Manchester where we are just one out of any partner companies, and we stand together against these unfounded allegations."