Setting the Tone of the Global Graphene Expo
The Stakeholder Sessions and advisory board meeting at the Graphene Innovation Summit in 2017 set the tone for the conference. The same can be said for the Global Graphene Expo this year, and many topics that were discussed throughout the conference—such as the way that graphene is now defined in terms of “graphenes”, to standards, and how the industry can now progress forward—were first discussed on the day before the conference and set the scene for the discussion throughout rest of the Expo. It was also the first time that an investor pitch session ran in parallel to the stakeholder sessions, and this gave start-up companies the chance to pitch to a room of potential investors.
The day consisted of three main sessions followed by the advisory board meeting. The first session was on “NGA highlights, Industry Council and Need for Interdisciplinary Collaboration” and featured a video call from Denis Kolstov (BREC Solutions) who talked about ISO standards. This was followed up with a session titled “Standardization and Current Status” and included an enthusiastic talk by Angie Walker (NIST) on physical and measurements standards. In fact, it must be said this was the most enthusiastic and energetic talk on standards I will likely ever come across. After a short networking and coffee break, the final Stakeholder Session on “Graphene Commercialization and Where is Graphene Headed?” featured a roundtable discussion by leading figures in the graphene industry, and this was followed by the advisory board meeting and a drinks reception.
Many of the discussions throughout the Stakeholders Sessions focused on standards, graphene production, building inter-country collaborations, graphene safety and the future of the industry. There was a whole day’s worth of discussion that went on within these sessions, making it very difficult to pick out everything that was said, but there was a lot of discussions, different perspectives, and a lot of back and forth between key players as to the challenges and solutions facing the graphene industry. There were also some discussions around how the sudden boom of graphene products in the market is helping to increase the market confidence of graphene and increase its credibility as a usable material.
On a different note, there were some comments in the Stakeholders Sessions that were farfetched, and there were comments which were more akin to scaremongering than the actual reality of the current graphene climate. However, despite their obvious questionability to many in the room, these comments did provide a good exchange of ideas and competing dialogues that is absolutely necessary in a new (and growing) industry. Getting used to questions coming from way out of left field is something that many of the leaders in the industry need to get used to, as they are going to come more and more from mainstream media outlets as the use of graphene increases. As there are already questions being asked about graphene, people will start to question the likes of quality or safety as it used in more end-user products, so the sessions gave many people a trial run at effectively debunking some of the potential outlandish comments that could manifest in the near future.
The Advisory Board Meeting
While there weren’t as many members of the advisory board present this year, the atmosphere was intimate, and this allowed for an effective discussion to be had about how the association should proceed forward in helping (and working with) the graphene industry. There were six main action points to come out of the meeting, and a special thank you goes out to Adrian Nixon for not only summarizing the points at the end of the meeting, but for taking physical notes for me to use as I forgot to record the meeting myself!
The six action points discussed in the advisory board meeting were centered around the NGA’s future mission, educating industry, measurement standards, validating graphene suppliers, market forecasts and the targeting of markets in the US. The focus around each of these topics was how could the advisory board members do more to help the NGA in these areas and how can the NGA add value to the industry across these areas.
When looking towards the NGA’s future missions, the thought is that the NGA missions need a bit more articulation going forward, and whilst the international collaborative aspect of the NGA is great, it needs to keep its national identity as a leading association for graphene. On the subject of educating industry, it was discussed that many end-user and consumer industries need educating about the benefits of graphene and a more active approach should be done to ensure this happens.
The board members also agreed that an industry-led task force should be set up to help develop measurement and physical standards for graphene, and that the NGA should work with the board members to develop a code of conduct that graphene producers should follow—with the eventual aim of validating and accrediting companies who follow defined protocols and standards. The final two action points relate to market forecasts and U.S markets to target. Many within the board thought the NGA, and the graphene industry in general, should target markets that are popular with funding initiatives and industries where graphene could add value quickly as an additive—such as the Defense and Aerospace industries. Everyone also debated and decided that most market forecasts from independent market research companies are bogus, and should not be trusted, and offered the idea of the industry getting together and developing a forecast report that is accurate and factual.
So, while there is still work to do for both the NGA and its advisory board, there is hope going forward that collaborations, mutual workings, and the coming together of the board will occur more than once a year, and this could help the NGA to accelerate many of the above action points forward. As for the Stakeholder Sessions, they enabled in-depth conversations to take place about many challenges facing the industry and was an integral part of setting the scene and tone of the whole conference.
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.