Professor James Baker of Graphene@Manchester

Driving Innovation In Support Of Sustainability

Leadership which keeps Manchester at the forefront in the commercial development of wonder material graphene
September 11, 2023

The founding father in pioneering the commercial use of graphene across the globe, has been made a professor at the University of Manchester.

James Baker, the boss of Graphene@Manchester has been conferred the title of Professor of Practice, in recognition of his leadership and contributions to graphene and 2D materials. 

Under his leadership, Baker has realised the ambition of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) creating something that is not replicated anywhere in UK academia.  

Opened in 2019, a year into his tenure in charge, the GEIC accelerates laboratory to market development, seeding a fast-growing graphene economy. 

In just five years it has supported more than 50 spin out businesses and launched many new technologies, products and applications with industrial partners – including a graphene-enhanced concrete, which emits up to 30 per cent CO2, a revolutionary hydrogel for farming, and a process to extract lithium from water for use in the battery-making industry. 

Its cutting edge technology has also created a significant impact on the local economy including new jobs, businesses and in gross added value to the Manchester region.    

Baker has also overseen the consolidation of the highest-density graphene research and innovation community in the world, comprised of more than 350 experts spanning various disciplines, including physics, materials science, chemistry, neuroscience. 

This community includes academics, engineers and application experts, who bridge the gap between academia and the real-world needs of businesses, and innovation leaders, investment experts, IP advisors, plus operational and specialist technical staff.  

This community, which is celebrated for fast tracking technology readiness, centres around two bespoke buildings: the GEIC, and the £62m academic-led National Graphene Institute (NGI). 

The NGI is the epicentre for pioneering 2D discovery, and hosts class 100 and 1000 cleanrooms, creating the world’s largest academic space of its kind. It is home to Nobel Prize-winning Professor Sir Andre Geim, who first isolated graphene in 2004 along with Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov, who continues to support a world-leading community of fundamental science researchers. 

By driving the huge graphene development forward Baker has enhanced the reputation for commercialisation and has ensured Manchester has maintained its push to remain at the forefront of the global materials research revolution. 

This reputation has resulted in ambitious collaboration, including a partnership with Khalifa University, to tackle the global challenges of water filtration and desalination, construction, energy storage, and the lightweighting of materials. 

Manchester's Professor Luke Georghiou, deputy president and deputy vice-chancellor said: “The isolation of graphene at the University in 2004 created the opportunity to transform a wide range of sectors through its application. 

"James has played a key role in establishing the pathway to commercialisation and social benefit and anchoring that in the home of graphene.

“As a result of his leadership, our university is firmly at the heart of the graphene lab-to-market success story and is the UK’s lead knowledge partner in the commercialisation of 2D materials.” 

Professor Baker said: “I am honoured and humbled to receive this title, not least because the success of graphene has been built on the backs and brains for a university-wide community of innovators and pioneers. I am lucky to be counted among them. 

“While it's nice to reflect, it’s now is the time to embark on the next chapter. We have proven graphene can deliver prosperity and progress.

"We have to accelerate its adoption now to tackle the greatest challenge of our time - climate change. We have to show that graphene and 2D material innovation doesn’t have to come at a premium but can play its part by delivering sustainability without compromise."

He added: "Our focus is on driving innovation in support of sustainability and working in partnerships with governments, small businesses and large industry partners, including at COP28.”