George Osborne

Graphene research and high-performance computing get Government boost

The UK Government is investing £195 million in graphene research and high-performance computing.

A £50 million global research and technology hub in the UK will explore how to commercialise the Nobel Prize-winning material graphene, discovered by scientists at the University of Manchester, Chancellor George Osborne announced. And £145 million will go into infrastructure for high-performance computing, with the potential to boost GDP by £25 billion and create 500,000 or more highly skilled jobs within 10 years.

Graphene - a flat layer of carbon atoms in a honeycomb arrangement - is the strongest material known to science and conducts electricity better than any other known substance. Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for their work on it at Manchester.

“…We will fund a national research programme that will take this Nobel-prize winning discovery from the British laboratory to the British factory floor…We’re going to get Britain making things again,” Osborne said in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

The Graphene Global Research and Technology Hub will aim to ensure that Britain reaps the benefit of the breakthrough in jobs and prosperity, by acting as a catalyst for the creation of new businesses and attracting global companies to invest in the UK. It will develop the technology to allow the manufacture of graphene on a scale that would open up commercial opportunities, especially in the field of computing. The location of the hub is yet to be decided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The £145 million HPC investment is intended to "make the UK a world leader in supercomputing ... driving growth and giving businesses confidence to invest in the UK," said a Conservative source. The money will go towards driving growth and innovation in sectors ranging from manufacturing and engineering to design and science.

The Government set up a review led by Dominic Tildesley of Unilever in July this year to produce a UK HPC and e-infrastructure Strategy and Roadmap to co-ordinate work on supercomputing.

The funding follows the £7.5 million for computational science and engineering at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus announced in the 2011 Budget.

An independent report for the European Commission found that successful exploitation of computer hardware could boost Britain's GDP by three per cent or more within 10 years, the equivalent of £25 billion and more than half a million jobs.

Further information:

E&T interview with Konstantin Novoselov

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