Hyped as a wonder material, graphene is a sheet of carbon, only one atom thick but extending potentially indefinitely in two dimensions. First isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004, graphene has better electrical and thermal conductivity, mechanical strength and optical purity than any other material. Its applications range from transistors to batteries and solar cells, flexible displays to aircraft wings and tissue engineering.
Although the material was discovered at a British university there were concerns at the beginning of 2013 in the UK and Europe that the US and Asia would win the race to develop products that use the material. The concerns stemmed from patent analysis. At the end of 2012, CambridgeIP, a UK-based technology strategy company, found that there had been 2,204 graphene patent pubications from China, 1,754 from the US, 1,160 from South Korea and only 54 from the UK. However, the EU announced at the end of January that graphene would be supported by the European Commission's Future and Emerging Technologies programme and receive at least €500m over 10 years, to be matched by other public and corporate sources.