First Graphene Limited (ASX:FGR) Non–Executive Chairman, Warwick Grigor discusses joining the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester and the benefits, including access to the most advanced equipment and personnel on a collaborative basis.
Jessica Amir: Hello Jessica Amir here for the Finance News Network. Joining me over the phone from First Graphene Limited (ASX:FGR) is Non-Executive Chairman Warwick Grigor. Hi Warwick, welcome back.
Warwick Grigor: Thank you Jessica.
Jessica Amir: So first up, can we start with the announcement today?
Warwick Grigor: We just announced today that we’re joining the GEIC facility with Manchester University. And GEIC stands for Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre. That is a new facility, £60 million facility, being set up by Manchester University with the express objective of joining the academic skills with industry skills, to accelerate the commercialisation of graphene and getting it into real industry.
Jessica Amir: Why is it so critical to join a research centre such as this?
Warwick Grigor: Graphene was first made in Manchester. It’s got the best collection of scientists anywhere in the world. It’s the mecca of graphene. And to be invited in to work closely with the scientists and the team there, is a credit to FGR. It’s an acknowledgment by the leadersin the academic field that we are, the world’s most advanced proponents of electrochemically-exfoliated graphene.
That means that over the last three years, we’ve elevated our position to world leadership. And the University of Manchester wants to work with us and use us, as the key supplier of that style of graphene. And at the same time, they want to let their scientists have an open door to working with that type of graphene, to accelerate the commercialisation of it.
Jessica Amir: Congratulations, it is a really big win and a tribute to you and the team. But just tell us more about the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, or GEIC as you’ve called it?
Warwick Grigor: If you look at the technology advancement already in this curve, the ideas and the innovations come from the academic staff. What they did at Manchester to take that to the next step was set up the National Graphene Institute, which attracted a lot of money and further research. Now it’s always a challenge to get technology out of the laboratories and into industry. And so what they’ve done is they set up GEIC as the next critical step, to get towards industry.
They’re bringing operators, manufacturing experts, advanced material experts, to work with those scientists to avoid the normal delays, to accelerate the path to commercialisation. So it’s a really strong initiative, which will bring graphene enhanced products to the market, much sooner than otherwise just leaving it with academics.
Jessica Amir: FGR has a number of collaborations in place now with GEIC, Manchester University, the University of Adelaide and Swinburne University. How long before graphene really becomes a part of manufacturing and materials that we use?
Warwick Grigor: It’s already in golf balls; it’s in bicycle tyres. There’re a number of products that are making it to the market now. We’ve got a rising tide, the more products that we see, the more ubiquitous it will be in peoples’ minds and in industry. The big benefit for us in accelerating all that, is that for a small company like FGR having access to the machinery, the equipment and the personnel, is going to be much better.
Manufacturing in Australia is very limited. In Europe, where we can work with the UK industry, with European industry much more closely, that’s all going to lead to a faster adoption of our graphene in products. So I would expect to see regular sales coming through, before the end of this year and just be growing continually, for many years thereafter.
Jessica Amir: Just pausing now for a second on the Sri Lankan mining operations, going into care and maintenance. What can you tell us?
Warwick Grigor: The material in Sri Lanka is important, it gives us a great cost advantage and it’s an essential ingredient. But we’re at the stage now, where we’ve got four years stockpiled graphite supplies, rather than just keep on mining and mining, and chewing up money there. By putting it on care and maintenance, we can redirect some of our management focus and our finances, to developing our graphene markets and accelerating that sales curve.
At any point, we can go back and restart those mines at a few weeks' notice, so it’s no big issue. But it’s an allocation of capital. It’s recognition that we’re in a very healthy position with stockpiles. And it’s something we can call on later, as we accelerate our graphene sales.
Jessica Amir: Last question now Warwick. What can investors look out for in the second half of this calendar year?
Warwick Grigor: Firstly continuing good news flow, updates on technology, addition of high quality personnel and most importantly, our initial sales.
Jessica Amir: Warwick Grigor, thank you so much for the update and congratulations again on joining GEIC.
Warwick Grigor: Thanks Jessica.