IP Group plc and the Finance for Business North East Technology Fund have led a £1.2m tranched seed- financing round into a new spin-out company from Durham University.
Durham Graphene Science Ltd (DGS), which was founded on research developed by Dr Karl Coleman who won the 2011 Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year, is developing production technology for graphene which could enable it to be mass-produced for a wide variety of uses across multiple sectors, including the automotive, aerospace, electronics and clean tech industries.
Graphene has exceptional and unsurpassed properties but has been difficult and extremely costly to produce commercially to date.
IP Group and the Finance for Business North East Technology Fund have each committed £500,000 alongside £200,000 from the Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures. The financing has been committed in two equal tranches, with the second contingent on certain milestones being met.
Alan Aubrey, chief executive officer of IP Group, said: “This is a great example of IP Group leveraging its core model through its managed funds. When we won the mandate to manage The Finance for Business North East Technology Fund in 2010, our vision was that the Group would co-invest alongside the fund in appropriate opportunities.
“We are delighted that this has led to us making our first investment into a spin-out company from Durham University.”
DGS has developed a unique and patent application protected process for synthesising the material that creates graphene from carbon using sustainable and readily available cheap feed stocks. This ‘bottom-up’ chemical vapour deposition process offers the opportunity for a highly scalable, cost-efficient and cleaner manufacturing process in comparison with top-down rival methods based on graphite.
DGS will use the investment to scale up its production equipment and establish joint development agreements with partners to test the handling, dispersion and processing of the material across a wide variety of applications.
Dr Karl Coleman, founder of DGS, said: “Graphene is a breakthrough advanced material that could change hundreds of the products we use in everyday life if this technology can be applied, as we think it can, across pretty much every sector.
“Effectively the things we use will be stronger, lighter, more flexible, have increased performance and potentially be much cheaper to buy ... it’s that revolutionary.
“This is going to be a very competitive industry as interest in graphene has grown so we are working to a very aggressive timescale.
“The pilot production lines are already yielding some exciting results. From our very first discussion, the team at IP Group plc has been great to work with – genuinely interested in our work, they have strengthened our knowledge and supported us in the recruitment of a wider team.”
Nick Edgar, investment manager at IP Group plc, said: “DGS is a highly deserving investee company that has benefited in a variety of ways from using the IP Group business model. Our recruitment division is working with the team to strengthen the board and I am delighted that our colleague Dr Laura Bond has joined DGS as a non-executive director to help drive the company through this exciting period of growth.
“We have also been able to offer business services in terms of accounting and finance support, amongst other things, all of which make a difference to a business pushing forward from R&D to full commercialisation in a very competitive field.
“We believe DGS has the capability to be a world leader and will continue to work alongside them as their trials move on apace.”
For more information on the Finance for Business North East Technology Fund, please visit: www.thenortheasttechnologyfund.com