The University of Manchester has entered a partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa University of Science and Technology, with the aim to deliver a funding boost to graphene innovation. Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President & Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, and Professor Sir John O’Reilly, President of Khalifa University officially signed a contract between the two institutions during a VIP visit by a Manchester delegation to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This international partnership will further accelerate Manchester and Abu Dhabi’s research and innovation into graphene and other 2D materials. The Research & Innovation Center for Graphene and 2D Materials (RIC-2D), based in Khalifa University, is part of a strategic investment program supported by the Government of Abu Dhabi, UAE. This partnership will expedite the development of the RIC-2D at Khalifa University as well as help building capability in graphene and 2D materials in collaboration with Graphene@Manchester, a community that includes the academic–led National Graphene Institute (NGI) and the commercially-focused Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), a pioneering facility already backed by the Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar.
The agreement will bring together the vision of the two universities to tackle some of the globe’s biggest challenges, such as providing clean drinking water for millions of people and supporting a circular ‘green economy’ in all parts of the world. The focus of the Khalifa–Manchester partnership will be on key themes, with a priority to meet the most immediate of global challenges, including climate change and the energy crisis.
These flagship areas are:
- Water filtration and desalination – graphene and 2D materials are being applied to next generation filtration technologies to significantly boost their effectiveness and efficiency to help safeguard the world’s precious supply of drinking water
- Construction – graphene is helping to develop building materials that are much more sustainable and when applied at scale can expect to slash global CO2 emissions
- Energy storage – applications are being developed across the energy storage sector to produce more efficient batteries, with greater capacity and higher performance, and other energy storage systems vital to a circular ‘green economy’
- Lightweighting of materials – the use of graphene and 2D materials to take weight out of vehicles, as well as large structures and infrastructure, will also be a key to building a more sustainable future.
The investment is expected to be allocated towards joint projects. The full scope and budgets for projects under this new framework agreement remain to be determined in the following months. The proposal will see dedicated space for the Khalifa University’s RIC-2D within the GEIC, which is based in the Masdar Building at The University of Manchester, to deliver rapid R&D and breakthrough technologies. Researchers from Khalifa University will have dedicated lab space in the GEIC where they can work alongside Manchester’s applications experts and access in-house facilities and equipment.
In addition to the research and innovation activity, the RIC-2D program will support the development of people, including early-career researchers who will benefit from the real-world experience of working on the joint R&D program. Also, there will be opportunities for post-graduate students, including the exchange of PhD students and researchers.
The joint R&D program between The University of Manchester and Khalifa University will provide a pipeline of projects from the near to long-term to ensure that RIC-2D development activities remain world-leading and are based upon a strong scientific foundation. Part of the R&D program will focus on Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-3 – i.e. early stage research and development - beyond which the research teams will collaborate with applications experts at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in a bid to transfer the technology for commercialization.
The shared R&D platforms are designed to support existing flagship projects, including those involved with water filtration, construction, energy storage and composites – but there will be an expectation to develop new streams. Finally, the R&D program will produce high quality academic publications that will add to the prestige and international reputation of RIC-2D.
The joint program will be a combination of virtual and in-person collaborations, through the exchange of PhD students and researchers and having Khalifa University sponsored labs based within the GEIC.