The Global Graphene Expo, much like its predecessor event in 2017—the Graphene Innovation Summit—provided an environment, and many opportunities, for discussions to manifest about graphene and potential collaborations, as well as the chance to listen to expert insights on various industries and network with others in the industry. The Expo achieved this in a few key ways. The first was through general networking with the opportunity for the attendees to talk to each other during regular coffee breaks and the return of the popular “speed networking” session (like speed dating, only better). The other ways that attendees could discuss real challenges within the industry were through the roundtable events, where insights were provided to attendees in the form of expert panel discussions and dedicated Q&A sessions at the end of each panel discussion.
First, let’s look at the way that the Global Graphene Expo fostered discussions between the attendees. Before the conference officially started, there was a whole day of discussions and networking opportunities throughout the Stakeholder Sessions. This was very well attended and included many active leaders within the graphene space coming together to discuss various issues facing the industry.
On to the general conference. One of the great things about the NGA events is that while they attract a lot of people within the industry, including key players and those who are interested in the industry, the events are never too large—generally less than 200 people. This intimate atmosphere not only enables people to get to know each other really well—through continued and follow-up discussions—it also gives people the time to talk about business and collaboration options with other attendees.
One of my favorite parts of the first NGA event in 2017 was the speed networking event. However, last year was pretty funny in one respect, as it was a case of trying to herd cats when it came to the time to move people along (when the two-minutes timer was up)—i.e. the point when you’re meant to move along to the next person and introduce yourself. Nevertheless, it was a fun addition to the event and I was glad to see it return this year. This year was orchestrated much better, in part because more people were helping to move people along to the next person, and in part because the attendees were a bit more attentive when the bell rang than they were last year. I have been lucky on both accounts to be on the side that doesn’t have to move (and in turn I didn’t have to move my coffee along the table), and it was particularly welcomed this year due to me having a dodgy foot. The speed networking session is a great chance to get to know your fellow attendees and gives a good insight into whether there is any common ground, mutual interests, or any potential avenues for collaboration/working together—which can then be explored in more depth later on. Another improvement on the first speed networking event was its positioning. As it was a trial run last year, it occurred later on in the conference when many people had already been introduced to each other. This year, however, it was strategically placed on the first (official) day which allowed attendees to get to know each other much earlier on in the event.
On the areas of technical and graphene related topics, there were the roundtable discussions and the panel discussions. The roundtable events were a chance for the attendees to sit down and discuss certain topics led by subject matter experts on each topic. Compared to the panel discussions, which predominantly involves the speakers discussing certain topics on the stage with a moderator, the roundtables enable all attendees to have an input into the discussion and is a learning experience for many. This year, the topics of the roundtables touched on subjects ranging from industrial scale production of CVD graphene, to the safe use of graphene in industrial environments, to obtaining funding from the private sector and government, to how graphene will impact the semiconductor and composite industries, to graphene standards, to graphene and the retail industry and connecting the graphene supply chain. On the other hand, the keynote panels discussed the future of graphene in the semiconductor, medical device, telemedicine, and oil and gas industries, as well as a discussion featuring some of the key leaders in the graphene world, which was aptly titled “Global Leaders in Graphene”. So, on the whole, between the roundtables and the panel discussions, there was something of interest for everybody.
Overall, the two events which have been run by the NGA have provided an easy going, friendly and intimate environment, and this has enabled effective discussions to take place in many forms—from simple discussions about graphene and about what other attendees do in their jobs, to developing key ideas that can help the industry grow and animated discussions about tackling the challenges of graphene. The environment is one of the most welcoming I’ve had the pleasure to be in at a scientific event; it doesn’t seem to matter who is a CEO, who is a student, who is an academic, who is not actively in the industry, or why there is this British writer floating about the conference chatting to everyone—everyone talks together on a level field because everyone is there with the same interests, and, in my experience, career status (or the level that people are at in their careers) doesn’t seem to matter and there is no hierarchy. This is not always the case with scientific events, so the collaborative and intimate environment that the NGA has built at these events is perhaps one of the most successful things about the Expo(s)—again, this is my personal opinion and experience.
Written by NGA Board Member, Liam Critchley
About the National Graphene Association (NGA)
The National Graphene Association is the main organization and body in the U.S. advocating and promoting the commercialization of graphene. NGA is focused on addressing critical issues such as policy and standards development that will result in effective integration of graphene and graphene based materials globally. NGA brings together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies.