Dato’ Sri Idris (centre right) launching the National Graphene Action Plan in the company of International Trade and Industry Minister Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed (to his left). Also present were (from left to right) NanoMalaysia Bhd CEO Dr Rezal Khairi Ahmad, AIM CEO Mark Rozario, Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Muhamad Diah and PEMANDU Director of Palm Oil & Rubber NKEA (ETP Investment & Innovation) Ku Kok Peng.
By K.T. Tamby
Malaysia recently launched the National Graphene Action Plan to explore the material’s downstream economic potential which, amongst others, is expected to generate RM9 billion worth of revenue and create 9,000 jobs by 2020.
The action plan and the Graphene Task Force are being jointly developed by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) and NanoMalaysia Berhad (NMB).
Launched earlier this month by PEMANDU’s Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, this action plan will initially focus on the adoption of graphene in lithium-ion batteries, battery anodes and ultracapacitors, rubber additives, nanofluids (drilling fluid and lubricants), conductive inks and plastic additives.
Graphene – a single-atom thick layer of graphite first isolated in 2004 – is described as the strongest (200 times stronger than steel) , thinnest and most stretchable crystal as well as the best electrical conductor known to man. It holds great promise in replacing conventional semiconductor materials such as silicon.
Currently, intense commercialisation of graphene-based technology is taking place in developed countries. In Malaysia, graphene nanomaterials could benefit the electronics and electrical, oil, gas and energy, as well as palm oil and rubber industries.
Dato’ Sri Idris, who is also the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said the graphene venture is part of Malaysia’s drive towards becoming an innovation-based economy.
“For Malaysia to maximise graphene’s potential, key success factors include having a focused strategy that leverages on existing resources and funding, and adopting a portfolio approach to innovation by capitalising on specific downstream application in areas where the country has strength in.
“At this point, Malaysia has the opportunity to become one of the early leaders in adopting graphene,” he said at the launch of the National Graphene Action Plan.
Dato’ Sri Idris added that the graphene action plan is also among the numerous efforts under the National Transformation Programme to push Malaysian companies to expand their market beyond local shores through innovation.
The National Graphene Action Plan is based on an in-depth analysis of the economic potential for Malaysia through innovation with graphene and the steps required to capture its value, said AIM’s chief executive officer Mark Rozario at the launch.
“This strategic alliance between PEMANDU, AIM and NanoMalaysia has undoubtedly created dynamic synergies to exploit newly emerging technologies, strengthen our industries and establish ourselves as a global player in technology driven areas of economic importance,” said Rozario.
He added that the action plan covers the whole stage of the innovation spectrum from the development of new ideas, testing and prototyping new ventures to their eventual commercialisation.
“AIM will be assisting companies to achieve their fullest potential in adopting graphene technology.”
The graphene taskforce will be spearheaded by NMB, the lead agency that will execute the action plan. NMB will be the central agency facilitating access to Graphene suppliers, domain experts and prototyping facilities. It will also assist companies navigate the IP landscape as well as provide access to funding support.
To exploit graphene’s upstream potential, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad is already in the process of building a graphene manufacturing plant in Cambridge, the United Kingdom.
In October last year, Felda signed a deal with Cambridge Nanosystems Ltd (CNS) under which it provides the raw material (by-products from crude palm oil) while CNS provides the proprietary technology to produce carbon nanotubes and graphene.
According to Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, production is expected to begin at the end of this year or early 2015.
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