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Funding Battle Heats Up for World’s Strongest Material

  • Two British graphene companies unveil plans to raise millions
  • Applied Graphene, Haydale tap investors through share sales

The global race to exploit the potential of the strongest known material, a substance called graphene, just intensified as two British manufacturers unveiled competing plans to raise funds to bring their products to market.

Applied Graphene Materials Plc raised about 9 million pounds ($12 million) from a placement of shares with existing investors, while Haydale Graphene Industries Plc is looking for 6 million pounds, the U.K.-based companies said Tuesday in separate statements.

Graphene, a material said to be 200 times stronger than steel and yet flexible, has gradually captured the imagination of investors since its isolation in 2004 at the University of Manchester. Initial hype about its potential uses in areas as diverse as spinal implants, smartphones and aerospace parts was damped by the challenges of increasing production at a viable cost. More recently, graphene development hot-spots have emerged in China, Japan, Korea and the U.S., where startups have applied for patents.

Applied Graphene said it will use the funds it raises to work with customers interested in a product called Structural Ink, which can be used to reinforce parts of aircraft wings made from composite materials. Haydale plans to channel money into sales opportunities and bolstering its product portfolio, according to its statement.

Momentum Building

“Our revenue is starting to come through but it’s not substantial enough yet to offset the costs in the business,” Applied Graphene Chief Executive Officer Jon Mabbitt said in a phone interview, adding that its number of graphene-related projects has quadrupled to about 100 during the past year. “The momentum is building and the U.K. is doing pretty well."

Applied Graphene has little competition in its specialty of using the material in coatings and composites, according to the CEO. The company is working with about 50 manufacturers including Sherwin-Williams Co. on displacing traditional additives like chromates, phosphates and glass flakes used by coatings industry.

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