I’ve been working with scientists all my life, from installing surface science equipment for them, through managing projects at the European Space Agency to setting up nanotech and graphene businesses, and managing them is always tricky.
The aspect of the scientific mentality that most people fail to understand is that peer acceptance of their research wins over money every time. I have sat in some meetings where I have been kicking our scientific director’s shins under the table to prevent him revealing something that is yet to be patented to, and seen researchers recoil in horror as companies suggested that throwing money at them will speed things up.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned was not to let any of our scientists talk about business to anyone outside the company. But Nobel Prize winners aren’t so easy to control.
In an interview with Nature Andrei Geim spills the beans on a couple of planned IPO’S, believed to be BGT Materials aka Bluestone Global Technologies where he is a director, and the closely associated (and oddly named for a private company) Graphene Lighting plc which Mike Hatcher of Optics.org takes a more detailed look at here.
Geim is typical of many scientists in not caring too much for commercial applications, and will probably have his shins kicked for making rather downbeat remarks about the companies which are trying to float:
They are using graphene to gradually improve the quality of products — by 10–20%. It’s my investigative project for the moment. The basic knowledge comes from our lab. It is not about killer applications. I don’t want to name them, but we are trying to float two companies on the stock market, one by the end of this year. They have several millions of dollars in investment from venture capitalists. This is not what universities should be doing: our social mission is to deliver new knowledge. But in the absence of anyone else, at least in UK society, bridging the gap between academia and industry, we are forced by circumstance to do this.
I’m not sure that is fair to all the other companies who are commercialising academic research in graphene in the UK of which their are plenty.
Another allegedly planned IPO is Perpetuus whom FinnCap have been reported to have been touting around the City of London. The company wants to raise £4m to make up to 141 tonnes of graphene a year.
Overall it’s nothing to worry about and perfectly normal for this stage of a technology. I’m sure we’ll see plenty more graphene IPOs based on not much more than a vague promgise of future markets followed by plenty of failures and a few big wins. Schumpeter’s creative destruction played out on a field only one atom thick.