Accelerating Graphene Innovation in Madrid

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Fundación Ramón Areces in Madrid who are a great supporter of Spanish science. In 1997 they invited me to give a talk about micro- and nanotechnology which was one of my earliest public speaking engagements. It was also memorable for the sweeping gesture I gave to illustrate a point which also scattered my viewgraph slides across the front row of the audience. As a result, I became an enthusiastic embracer of video projectors.

Always on trend, the Fundación is hosting a two-day symposium next week exploring the limits of physics and engineering of 2D materials. This is an important subject in Spain as there is significant work on commercialisation going on at companies such as Graphenea, and a major world class research initiative led by Frank Koppens at the Institute of Photonic Science (ICFO) in Barcelona.

“Every few centuries a new set of materials is discovered that changes the world. It happened with metals, polymers and semiconductors. The last 10 years have witnessed the development of an extraordinary group of new materials that could have a similar impact. These are called two-dimensional materials due to the fact that they are only a few atoms in thickness. These materials, out of which graphene is the best known example, offer extreme and amazing properties. For example, graphene is more than 200 times stronger than steel and much lighter. At the same time, it conducts electricity better than the best metal, while it can be switched on-and- off at much higher frequencies than the best silicon-based transistors. In this workshop, leading experts from academia and industry will present their vision for how the unique properties of these materials will revolutionize computers, wireless communications, energy storage, health care and many other fields. During the workshop, a roadmap will also be developed to guide industry on the progress and adoption of these revolutionary materials.”

The challenge of course, will be pulling it in a commercial direction so I was pleased to see the involvement of MIT’ and the M+Vision consortium. As well as helping the M+Vision consortium with strategy and communications I also became an enthusiastic embracer of the IDEA3 methodology (as seen here) which the M+Vision consortium developed to stimulate biomedical innovation, with great success.

Developing the discipline of focussing on an unmet need rather than the technology, and not moving forward until you have sufficient evidence that you should is a powerful technique for avoiding many of the cognitive biases commonly found among scientists and entrepreneurs. It helps avoid technology push, which almost always fails, and accelerates the transition from an idea to an outcome.  I’ve used this approach in every business I have been involved with since, and it is highly effective.

If you are in Madrid next week go along, did I mention that it is free?

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