Oxford Road set to be 'Silicon Valley of graphene' as latest phase of super-material revolution goes to planners
The latest £60m phase of Manchester’s graphene revolution could get the green light next week.
Manchester University plans to open a cutting-edge global research centre at its Sackville Street campus, exploring how the new wonder-material can be best used in the future.
The Nobel Prize-winnning substance was discovered in Manchester 2004 and is already being used to manufacture hi-tech new materials.
Last March, a £61m National Graphene Institute opened on Booth Street East and plans for a £235m site researching new materials are already under way.
And a proposed third centre - called the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre - could cement the Oxford Road corridor as a Silicon Valley of further discoveries.
The proposed new site would be created in a purpose-built three-storey laboratory block tacked onto the university’s existing Faraday Building.
It is designed to become the world’s ‘leading test-bed’ for the atom-thick material, bridging the gap between academic research and manufacturing by developing and trying out new products.
It has been designed by leading architect Rafael Viñoly and - if approved - could open as soon as next year.
Unlike previous developments along similar lines nearer to the main university centre and city hospitals, university chiefs want to invest in the Sackville Street campus, round the corner from planned new tech companies on Oxford Road’s former BBC site.
Council planners approve of the location, noting the area has seen far less investment than sites further south. They believe the development would help regenerate an ‘underused’ site on the edge of the city centre.
Part of the funding is coming from government research grants, but a significant proportion is being paid for by Abu Dhabi-based Masdar, owned by the firm Mubadala - which is also ploughing cash into rebuilding Owen’s park student campus in Fallowfield.
Councillors will discuss the planning application on Thursday.
The new graphene centre will not be the first to open in Manchester since scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov discovered the super-thin material in 2004.
Last summer the National Graphene Institute opened at the university’s main campus - while the Chancellor announced in 2014 that the £235m Henry Royce Institute for Materials Research and Innovation would be joining it.
University researchers have been investigating possible uses for graphene for some time, including bendy phones and tablets.