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back to article Osborne stumps up £20m of your cash for wiggly wonder stuff graphene

The Chancellor will allocate up to £21.5m for research into the wonder material graphene, he confirmed today. The cash will be distributed to Cambridge scientists investigating wearable computers, and Imperial College researchers hoping to incorporate the super-strong, super-conductive, super-light material into aeroplanes. …

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Trollface

A winrar is you!

"Backing a winner", eh?

If it's such a clear winner, there should be private money rushing in, especially now with cash sloshing around more fiercely than kerosene in a Saturn V first stage.

So why some neo-liberal intervention?

"the UK had beaten off competition from Singapore and America to keep core graphene research and scientists in the UK since graphene was discovered in Manchester by two Russian scientists in 2005"

Oh, okay, making it difficult for research & investment in the first place, coupled with misplaced nationalism and mercantilism. And probably misperception and cargo-cultism about how a whole "industry" can arise via development of new production processes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A winrar is you!

It's amazing, on here people whinge about how patents should be banned and then wonder why so few people are willing to invest in new technology.

It will cost a lot of money to develop optimal products with graphene, production methods, safety testing and so on. These costs need to be recouped by the investors by ensuring that for a small while the people who developed it will be the only people able to produce it, until they have recouped their money and made some profit.

Without any such protection then nobody is going to invest in it.

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Facepalm

Re: A winrar is you!

> Without any such protection then nobody is going to invest in it.

I always wonder how humanity survived before Intellectual Property was invented back in the last Ice Age.

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Pint

Re: A winrar is you!

Sorry, but you make it sound too simple. Back in time and very back in our mind a patent is given to somebody who has INVENTED something new. Back then this inventor had to produce a working model of some sort and his invention was scrutinized. A inventor was allowed to monetize his invention for a number of years, and that was OK and fair.

Patents of to day (especially software patents) are granted without any scrutiny and without any test of "prior art" or anything, for anybody who is willing to pay the patent office.

The problem is that you have to prove, yourself, that you are innocent (Russian Law) if somebody accuses you of breaking his patent. To day only big companies have the money to play this game. For the small guy who was supposed to get some shelter behind his patent there are absolutely no chance for survival to day.

The patent system (even if needed) is totally broken. Efforts are seen to mend it, both in the USA and the EU, but it is a slow progress, still a shamble. One could think of patents to day (IT) as a group of four to five guys sitting around a table with their patent cards in their hands, playing a patent game, sometimes just bluffing, sometimes exchanging cards, sometimes trying together to bust somebody out of the table. But always, the main concern is to let nobody new enter the table.

Understandable, perhaps, but newer the original goal of patents.

And as always, speaking of patents, copyright is often forgotten, although, often a better solution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A winrar is you!

I'm not sure why the AC above started talking about patents but he makes a good point DAM. Patents aren't about survival but progress. Before the granting of short term monopolies investors were wary about funding research. Knowledge was even lost because of the need for secrecy surrounding new inventions. The patent system has been twisted in such a way that it no longer reflects the original intentions of those who introduced it. It should be reformed but throwing it away entirely would hamper progress.

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20 million

That will just about pay for the tea and biscuits, a tnt drop in a massive ocean and Osbourne thinks it will make great headlines.

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Re: A winrar is you!

One reason to publicly fund core research is to ensure that some private outfit *doesn't* get there first, patent that section of the universe, and hold the rest of society to ransom. Outside of the borked USPTO, prior art can still be used to knock down patents, and publishing in an academic journal counts as pretty solid prior art.

Another reason is that (as others have already pointed out) £20 million isn't much but is probably enough to keep the researchers in the UK, which makes it more likely that the resulting spin-off companies will be.

The third reason, of course, is that Georgie can announce a small amount of spending during a traditionally quiet news period and get maximum publicity.

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Re: A winrar is you!

Not that often...

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Mushroom

Re: A winrar is you!

I hope they patented it before Apple submit one for 'no corners' ...

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Meh

We're investing in it eh? Where do I get my share certificates?

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Mushroom

From the Post Office. They are called 'Premium Bonds'

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FAIL

The Wrong Place

The money is going to the wrong place. If The Chancellor had wanted some return on his "aerospace" investment, he should have directed the money on a well-run, pioneering effort, which is to say LOHAN.

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Anonymous Coward

Break even

Presumably by 'investing in it' he means that, should it actually show some signs of success and commercial viability, he'll immediately sell the investment on to a private company as soon as they offer £21.5 million to recoup the investment. At which point the private company will then go on to make billions in profit, without us. Such is the way of government 'investments' whenever they show an upside, which come to think of it, is pretty rare in itself.

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Stop

Re: Break even

Which is as it should be. Given the past history of most states in managing to monetise inventions and successfully build companies, I would rather it was sold on to become a successful company. This will then contribute to the economy, create jobs and add wealth. I wouldn't trust the state to do that as far as I could spit, as it were....

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Re: Break even

you forgot to add

"While accepting the non executive directorship position at the private company"

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Re: Break even

"....This will then contribute to the economy........."

Not after they've paid a Lichtenstein company for their logo they won't...........

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Facepalm

Re: Break even

Newsflash:

You contribute to the economy by NOT paying taxes.

Do you really want to feed Mr Paper Pusher next door instead of feeding Mr Engineer?

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Re: Break even

Where the UK has traditionally not done well is spinning off university discoveries in a sustainable manner All too often IP is sold off for a quick buck rather than the university continuing to benefit from the discovery either through a spin-off or a licensing agreement. Cambridge has done pretty damn well, but even that pales in comparison to the huge high tech developments you see in the US around places like Cambridge MA, Stanford and Raleigh-Durham NC.

And are we sure Osborne's largesse comes without strings? It's not uncommon for government funding to require matching money from other sources.

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Go

So is this the government doing what the rest of us have to?

And starting to generate a pension-equivalent investment fund to keep it in hair nets and cat food in its old age?

Or are they just spanking money on research? (which is a good thing!)

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jai
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i dunno

sounds like the guys at MIT have already got better stuff:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-wonder-material-replaces-graphene-for-future-electronic-devices

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Anonymous Coward

So, er, £12m of the 21.5m from the £50m he announced 18 months ago, and £10m being earmarked from the research funding already allocated to universities.

So, in reality, the chancellor's allocated about £500,000. He could've provided that much money for graphene research out of his personal wealth.

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We all know how this will pan out, it'll get to 98.7% completion, almost ready for prime time and then the yanks will come along, nudge nudge wink wink, offer to "share research" of which theirs is at 4%, we'll say "sure, lets do that" after pressure from the government, the yanks will take our research then when we say "now show us yours" they will say no, pressure our government into removing funding killing the process and the yanks will bring the completed project out (see super sonic flight for further details).

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Facepalm

Oh god history is littered with examples of that from 1945 onwards between the US and the UK.

We come up with world changing stuff and then sell it lock stock and patent to the US for pennies.

A very special relationship indeed.

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@David Webb

"see super sonic flight for further details"

Or LCD's, from which (as far as I can see) the UK makes not a penny in royalties, despite some very good claims to have invented the thing, and the blasted things being in almost every form of computing device now created.

And that's my beef with this (alleged) investment in graphene. We'll pay for the science, but the chances are that the UK will not reap the benefits. Even if and when it reaches production, it'll be in the Far East, and it won't create the important middle and lower layer jobs that this country really needs, and we won't make a return on the "investment".

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Paris Hilton

Well then

"for instance it can be folded without breaking."

I think I'll have my next wife made from the stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well then

"I think I'll have my next wife made from the stuff."

No, you just need to take an interest in more robust examples. Like Miranda Hart (assuming she doesn't accept my unsolicited marriage proposal first).

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WTF?

Errm...

What is this 'wearable computers' schtick? Am I missing something? Why would one want a wearable computer.

The aerospace angle yes, I get that...

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Re: Errm...

You're just thinking along the lines of computer=internet but there are many more applications

Climate controlled clothing to keep you comfortable

Intelligent clothing that could for example call the emergency services if something happens to you

Programmable clothing, 1 design any colour or pattern you want

That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure many others can be thought of.

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Re: Errm...

It's like a new cloak for an emperor...

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Re: Re: Errm...

Climate controlled clothing, programmable clothing, clothing that calls the emergency services? I'm sorry, this really sounds like an application in desperate need of a requirement.

Paramedic We could have saved him if somebody has called the emergency services.

Left sock That's Jacket's job.

Jacket No it isn't. Shirt and pants are both in a better position to report what's wrong with him.

Pants Last time I called the emergency services they wanted to know where I was. I said "I'm inside a pair of trousers" and they cut me off.

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Re: Errm...

' Why would one want a wearable computer.'

Flexible electronics has applications for implanted sensors, brain implants, pacemakers and the like.

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Anonymous Coward

We'll do the hard work, get the technology sorted then big US company will buy up the technology and make billions from it.

Nothing ever changes. Why do you think the UK has so little in the way of technology companies but has US companies with R&D here? simple, poor investment and the businessmen are more interested in selling the whole technology for a quick bundle of cash than actually building a decent business.

Autonomy is a great example of that, turned out well hasn't it?

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You don't work in high tech

I do and this is quite common.

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Oh dear the UK governemnt has backed another "winner"

TBF at this stage no UK company would bankroll this as it's so far from a product that their banksters advisers would not allow them to.

The UK government's skills in picking winners and turning them into cash generating new industries is legendary.

Legendarily bad that is. BL sold to BAe with £63m "sweetner" INMOS flogged to the French ASAP. BAe itself a series of Frankenstein like mergers to create a "national champion," which turns out to be more a national champion of American aerospace.

Note the quick sale to "recoup" investment which turns out to be ridiculously under valued and note how often the new owner either a)Flogs it on ASAP or b)shuts down most of the UK operation and loads up its own divisions with the cream.

As for the "new" money it does look like that's about £500k. Sounds like an old New Labor trick policy is being given a fresh airing.

BTW Graphene is nearly pure Carbon. Its "stability" will quickly degrade on exposure to warm air as it reverts to "designer coal" as jet engine blade developers called it in the 1980's.

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Alert

Re: Oh dear the UK governemnt has backed another "winner"

Hush! You will be downvoted!

Here are your pompoms.

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Re: Oh dear the UK governemnt has backed another "winner"

indeed, how can any of us forget to most famously unstable and degradable form of pure carbon, the diamond?

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Re: designer coal

I think jet engine blade developers have a different idea of "exposure to warm air" from the rest of us.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Boffin

Whoah, cool the commentardery.

First: No-one's quite sure where graphene research might go or if it might even go anywhere. If there was a glimmer of a route to market, you can bet VC cash would be all over it by now - meaning, these days, US or possibly Chinese money. This here is what's known as first-stage research, i.e. a complete punt, without any guarantee of return. Commerce won't touch it. It's exactly what the RC's are supposed to be doing, and aren't you glad at least someone is?

Second: In the grand scheme of things, 20mil is chump change. What we're paying for here is a few bright bods to remain here in the UK instead of buggering off to [US/China/Elbonia]. If this particular research fails, we still have the bright guys around.

Third: You get government investment in project such as this, you also sign up to a pretty heavy regulatory framework, which includes having someone parachuted onto your project board to make sure you're spending the taxpayer's money properly. I know this, I am one of those parachutees.

We do alright here in the UK for investing in unproven ideas. What we are admittedly shit at is profiting from the unproven ideas that make it.

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Unhappy

Re: Whoah, cool the commentardery.

"We do alright here in the UK for investing in unproven ideas. "

Which is I guess an improvement over being rubbish at doing that as well.

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Re: Whoah, cool the commentardery.

I thought we had deported all those non-eu foreigners over here stealing our jobs?

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Re: Whoah, cool the commentardery.

"It's exactly what the RC's are supposed to be doing, and aren't you glad at least someone is?"

Well, the RC's don't have a very good name in the fringes of the scientific community that I associate with. And for a bunch of rocket scientists, the RC seem to fail on the basics, like their bungled shared services programme. That failed because the executive leadership of the individual RC's failed to back the programme, Fujitsu (as usual) were associated with the failure, and they got 50% more than Osborne's alleged graphene investment before their contract was terminated, but that £30 odd million was a drop in the ocean of the failure to deliver almost £400m of hoped for savings.

So the RC's failure to organise their own administrative affairs will have cost UK science around £350m in foregone funding in the period 2006-2016. So I'd argue that we are also shit at investing efficiently in unproven ideas.

Can we have a "steaming turd" icon, please?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whoah, cool the commentardery.

I guess you dont support a football team that has visited Wembly lately then? It's like visiting a third world country...

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Anonymous Coward

I'd rather....

..the Government spent some money on improving my crap 765Kb/s broadband.

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Happy

Re: I'd rather....

They are, by investing in R&D.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'd rather....

Or you could move nearer to civilisation...

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