The University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute (NGI) has been chosen as the first European base for pioneering US graphene startup Bluestone Global Research, it has been announced.

Worth around £5 million as a joint partnership, Bluestone’s decision to locate itself at the Institute is important. The NGI already has two startups on site, Graphene Industries and 2D-Tech, but the US firm is the first external partner to take the bait of tens of millions of funding being sunk into the promising technology by the UK Government, the European Regional Development Fund and the University itself.

By 2015, Manchester’s nascent graphene technology hotspot will have its own purpose-built £61 million ($93 million), 7,600 square metre centre.

Longer term, Bluestone will use the centre as a pre-production facility to build commercial opportunities before setting up its full European HQ and ‘pilot production plant’ there, the University said.

“It’s clear that their decision is based on the wealth of knowledge we have at the University, with more than 100 scientists and engineers working on graphene and 2D materials,” said Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Professor Colin Bailey.

“This partnership will help in the commercialisation of graphene creating further jobs in Manchester which will be of benefit to the UK economy.”

Bluestone’s CEO, Dr. Chung Ping Lai, was similarly positive.

“With our long term commitment and cooperation with The University of Manchester, BGT will have access to a critical mass of world-class research talent, facilities and resources and we are very excited to be located at the home of graphene,” he said.

His company will gains access to a range of research projects at Manchester University, including Professor Alexander Grigorenko’s work on plasmonics, Professor Rob Dryfe’s research into supercapacitors, and Dr Rahul Nair’s on graphene oxide membranes.

Manchester isn’t the only University investing in the critically-important technologies around graphene, a material first isolated by two of its scientists in 2004, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, whose work led in 2010 to a shared Nobel Prize for Physics.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which handed out Government cash for Manchester’s NGI has also given Cambridge University £12 million to do much the same under its own roof.

Globally, despite being at the forefront of the physics of graphene, the UK has been criticised for lagging in the investment needed to turn the fundamental science that surrounds it into commercial reality.