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2022 Harari Graphene Enterprise Award winners announced

15 Jul 2022

The Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise Award, in association with Nobel Laureate Professor Sir Andre Geim, is awarded each year for commercially-viable business proposals utilising graphene and other 2D materials

2022 Graphene Enterprise Award winners

The finalists and guests heard from alumnus and founder of global flash-memory giant SanDisk, Dr Eli Harari, who joined the awards event as a guest speaker, live from the USA. He described the aim of the competition, since its inception in 2013, to encourage students, researchers and visionaries toward innovation and risk taking. He also highlighted Manchester’s development as the ‘Graphene City’ and how this was reminiscent of the early years and potential of Silicon Valley and concluded with advice for the competition finalists.

Eli Harari Graphene Enterprise Award winners

The award winners were announced and presentations made by chair of the judging panel Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy-President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

First prize of £50,000 was awarded to Dr Aled D Roberts, Research Fellow (School of Natural Sciences) and his team (Aoife Taylor, Helen Park and Sunny Vowles) at Deakin Bio-hybrid Materials. This venture is developing a green, bioinspired alternative to ceramic tiles that not only avoids energy-intensive firing, but also consists of captured carbon dioxide in the form of carbonate minerals.

Taking inspiration from natural materials such as pearl and seashells, then using natural chlorophyll resources to give colour, they have developed a bio-based composite (biocomposite) material that will incorporate graphene to meet strict performance requirements necessary for commercialisation - by improving flexural strength and hydrophobicity.

The Graphene Bio-tiles (GBT) stand out from the competition by having a far lower (and potentially negative) carbon footprint compared to conventional ceramic tiles.

Aled commented: “Our team was immensely humbled and honoured to have won the 2022 Harari Graphene Enterprise Award. We honestly weren’t expecting to win, given the strength of the competition this year. Now that its sunk in, we’re really excited for what we’ll be able to achieve with this transformational amount of funding. We plan to use the prize money to expand from my cellar and kitchen into some proper laboratory facilities – my wife isn’t too happy about the 50-tonne hydraulic press that currently occupies the living room, or when I accidentally made a poison gas in the microwave! We’re also looking forward to dedicating our full effort to developing our materials, rather than being limited to evenings and weekends. We’re also excited to obtain some high-quality characterisation of our materials at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in Manchester, as we have largely depended on favours from friends and free testing done at trade-shows to date.”

In second place and claiming the £20,000 prize was Joseph Neilson with G-Sense, using atomically thin monolayers of graphene as the strain sensing element in transparent, precise, stretchable, and wide-area strain sensing applications from aerospace to fitness tracking. This technology opens new opportunities for making air and road travel safer, reducing glass waste, and delivering unprecedented transparent sensing functionality for an increasingly interconnected world.

This year also saw the inclusion of an additional prize that celebrates our University's position on sustainable development. The first winners of the £10,000 Eli Harari Sustainability award were Omar Haroun and Gergana Ivanova from Nanograft. Nanograft aim to develop a neuroprosthetic device that allows amputees to feel the ground as they walk with their prosthetic leg. The device takes pressure input from an insole equipped with sensors and transmits this signal to the severed leg's nerves. By stimulating the nerves once again this technology could potentially help to alleviate phantom limb pain more effectively as well as improve the comfort and quality of life of the patient.

Omar commented: "The team at Nanograft are wholeheartedly delighted to receive the first ever Sustainability Award for the 2022 Harari Graphene Enterprise Awards at AMBS. As undergraduate Material Science and Engineering students, this award exists as a celebration of the academic excellence of our institution. Looking back at all those who have won this prestigious award, and where they are now, this strengthens our resolve to follow in their footsteps and push the boundaries of neuroprosthetics."

The awards are co-funded by the North American Foundation for The University of Manchester through the support of Dr Eli Harari and his wife, Britt. It recognises the role that high-level, flexible, early-stage financial support can play in the successful development of a business targeting the full commercialisation of a product or technology related to research in graphene and 2D materials.