Applied Graphene Materials achieves solid progress in the year

Applied Graphene Materials plc (LON:AGM), the producer of specialty graphene materials and dispersions, has announced its full year results for the year ended 31 July 2021.

Operational and commercial highlights:

·      40 products available to distributors (2020: 27)

·      19 customer products launched (2020: 8)

·      181 projects in sales pipeline (2020: 109)

Coatings:

·      Approval for use of a new graphene-enhanced primer with Blocksil, to complement use of its AGM graphene-enhanced Top Coat MT product launched to consumers in January 2020.  This system is being used with Network Rail and RTE

·      Strong customer uptake expected from products being developed with Stanvac and a leading floor coatings manufacturer

·      New customer product launches:

o  Two new wax based car care product from EZ Car Care

o  Two new wax based car care product from Infinity Wax

o  Two new wax based car care products from Constellation Chemicals

o  Tru-Tension launched new detailing spray product

·      AGM product launches:

o  a ground-breaking new range of eco-friendly graphene nanoplatelet dispersions that will enable paints, coatings and composite materials customers to improve the sustainability of their product formulations in response to growing market pressures

o  Launch of Innovation Accelerator programme

·      Scale up validation testing is due to commence with the UK Environment Agency at sites in the UK whereby our formulated products will be tested on structure applications for environmental exposure. A longer-range environmental exposure plan has also been started with French environmental testing site, Institut de la Corrosion. 

·      Growth in total pipeline engagements to 200 (2020: 117) including 19 completed developments (2020: 8) and resulting revenue potential to £3.7 million (2020: £3.6 million)

Composites and functional materials:

·      Positive continuing progress with core composites customer

·      Potential for TP300 product for thermal adhesive and heat-dissipation applications

Distribution:

·      Further distributors added to enhance our regional presence in Turkey (Gobarr) and South Korea (ManHo Polymers) and growth of our customer-facing representation headcount to around 89 including AGM’s direct sales team

Strategic highlights:

·      Fundraise of £5.5 million (net) announced in January 2021 and successfully completed in February 2021, extending the Group’s cash runway beyond 31 January 2023

·      In partnership with the EU REACH Graphene Consortium, achieved ECHA accreditation for volume supply of graphene powder (up to 10 tonnes’ volume), addressing a significant barrier to deployment at scale. Central regulatory workstream with EPA for USA market

·      Green energy applications identified as a new area of opportunity for our platform dispersion and application technology with initial focus on hydrogen/battery applications

·      Branding refresh completed together with new website and improved communications platform

·      Continuing IP development

·      Cross-trading of shares in USA on OTCQX Best Market in USA from July 2021

 Post year end

·      Four new customer product launches were announced on 20 September 2021 – one of which was before 31 July 2021 and is included in the numbers above

·      Joined the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester as an associated Tier II Partner through the special conditions offered exclusively through The Graphene Council

 Adrian Potts, Chief Executive Officer, commented:

“AGM has achieved solid progress in the year. We have continued to announce important customer product launches and have further strengthened our leading technology platform, which will support accelerated commercial momentum. We have also launched a unique range of eco-friendly graphene products to meet growing demand for sustainable additives. Technology development is now addressing potential in the green energy sector using our graphene dispersion know-how. 

We have been pleased to see repeat orders and additional graphene-enhanced products launched by existing customers, and we have announced several new customers, including eight in the fast-moving car care sector.

We are working with regulators to remove barriers to large-scale supply of graphene in different jurisdictions in anticipation of future higher-volume market demand, and we continue work to protect our industry-leading IP.

While, to some extent, COVID-19 lockdowns have restrained the pace of graphene testing and adoption by some of our commercial partners, we expect this impact to lessen in 2022. Our commercial pipeline of engagements is strong and expanding, and AGM is in solid shape to accelerate growth to meet customer demand.”

Chairman’s statement

Introduction

I am pleased to present the Group’s full year results for the year ended 31 July 2021. The last year has been one of disruption and uncertainty but we have come through it strongly. The lockdown and restrictions due to COVID-19 lasted much longer than initially anticipated and our revenue was impacted as our customers were unable to sell their products.

The new distributors that we appointed in 2020 have added significantly to our sales opportunity pipeline and we now have 19 launched customer products and 181 applications in the sales pipeline. Car care applications in particular have grown substantially.

Financial performance

The Group recorded an EBITDA loss of £3.1 million for the year (2020: loss £3.1 million). Net cash was £6.3 million at 31 July 2021 (2020: £3.7 million). While the loss recorded is in line with the previous year, it continues to reflect the ongoing investment made in supporting our customer base as they incorporate graphene into their products and develop new applications.

In February 2021, we completed a fundraise totalling £5.5 million (net of costs) which extends our cash runway beyond 31 January 2023.

Highlights

The business has continued to gain further momentum in the year ended 31 July 2021, and since then, with highlights including:

·      Eleven new products launched by customers bringing the total to 19

·      Thirteen new products available through our distribution channels including the Innovation Accelerator Programme bringing the total to 40

·      181 active projects in the sales pipeline

·      Two new distributors added during the year

·      Achieved ECHA accreditation for volume supply of graphene powder (up to 10 tonnes’ volume)

·      Green energy applications identified as a new area of focus for our platform dispersion and application technology with initial focus on hydrogen/battery applications

·      Four new customer product launches were announced on 20 September 2021 – one of which was before 31 July 2021 and is included in the numbers above

Our culture

It is essential that we bring together our employees’ diverse expertise and work together to meet our customers’ expectations. This collaborative approach sits at the heart of our culture.

As such, we view our employees as critical stakeholders. We remain committed to ensuring employees receive the required development and training opportunities to enable them to be at the forefront of the graphene market.  We focused on safeguarding our employees during lockdown and have been able to safely continue our operations. We did not furlough any staff and we have encouraged flexible working in line with government guidance.

I am proud of the way that our employees have responded to the pandemic and I would like to thank them all for their efforts under such challenging conditions.

In every aspect of our business, we seek to operate in compliance with all laws and regulations and want our employees to work in a manner that is professional, ethical and open. Our employees are encouraged to report any activities in breach of these principles through the Group’s whistle blowing policy, which includes direct access to the Board’s Non-Executive Directors.

All of our stakeholders are very important to us and I would like to thank our suppliers and customers for their great support during this period. In particular I would like to thank our investors for their ongoing support and encouragement which was clearly demonstrated by the fundraise that we performed in early 2021.

Corporate governance

We continue to fully embrace the Quoted Companies Alliance Corporate Governance Code. Further details regarding our approach to corporate governance are detailed within the Governance report on page 44 of our Annual Report.

Sustainability

We take our responsibility to all stakeholders including employees, shareholders, distributors, customers, suppliers and the wider community extremely seriously. We recognise that a focused and balanced approach to sustainability will ultimately benefit all stakeholders and the Group alike.

This is evidenced by the continued work we have done this year on the ongoing EU REACH programme, where we provide technical input on the evaluation and assessment of the safe use of graphene in industrial applications. This long period of work resulted in ECHA granting approval for a volume threshold of 1 to 10 tonnes of powder usage per annum of graphene products supplied by individual members of the Graphene REACH registration consortium, of which AGM is a founding member. We continue our commitment to regulatory approvals in other territories.

During July 2021 we launched a ground-breaking new range of eco-friendly graphene nanoplatelet dispersions that will enable paints, coatings and composite materials customers to improve the sustainability of their product formulations in response to growing market pressures.

We have also developed an internal action plan to address certain aspects of ESG best practice over the next twelve months.

Board changes

Mike Townend resigned as a Non-Executive Director during the year. Mike has been a member of the Board since 2014 and the Board thanks him for his contribution to the business.

Strategy and outlook

Through sound technical data, we have demonstrated that we have real applications of graphene which satisfy customer needs in the marketplace.  We believe that we have positioned the Group so that it can commercially exploit the technology developed to date.

We have a very strong range of products and applications in the coatings sector as well as in adjacent markets where our platform technology can be applied. We are now at an inflection point as we can expand our research and development activities into other areas. We have identified hydrogen storage and battery applications as part of a green energy market with significant potential for graphene application and we already have projects underway. This is very exciting and I look forward to reporting on our progress in future years.

The Board remains confident that the Group is ideally placed to achieve long term commercial success against its stated strategy given its IP, know-how, and increasing customer momentum. Our belief that we are becoming a global graphene market leader is stronger than ever and the Board sees Applied Graphene Materials as well placed to meet its ambitions.

Bryan Dobson

Chairman

12 October 2021

CEO’s statement

2021 Overview

AGM has made clear progress this year with both increased levels of customer engagement and technology development, despite the ongoing challenges related to COVID-19. While managing these difficulties, we have launched new and exciting AGM products that offer customers in our core markets a sustainability advantage, and we have seen a promising number of new customer products coming to market. To realise the real benefits of graphene in a finished product, users have to utilise a well dispersed form of graphene. Therefore, our success is firmly based on our dispersion technology and application know-how.

In combination with our own direct sales approach, AGM’s distribution partners have increased their customer engagements. This has been supported by AGM’s ability to offer standard dispersed products. Two further distributors were added in the period, and we expect to engage further partners in new territories.

The expertise of our global network of distributors is aligned to our core market: The protective coatings sector is where much of our current activity is centered. New nanomaterials introduced to this sector need to demonstrate that they are safe, consistent and easy to integrate. We are therefore focused on proving that our dispersion technology works by backing it up with solid data. Our developed dispersion product offerings also read-across well to other sectors, where liquid-based dispersions are routinely used for the integration of additives.

We have seen particularly strong progress in the car care sub-sector of protective coatings with eight new products introduced to the market since our last annual report. This innovative, fast moving market represents a good long term revenue development opportunity and we anticipate further customer product launches, based on positive testing momentum. Progress within the more traditional Protective Paints and Coatings sector is positive, though the cycle to integrate, test, optimise and approve is inherently longer. Two new anti-corrosion primer products were brought to market by customers.

We have continued to develop our technology platform, focusing on the successful adoption of graphene dispersions in coatings, with good read across into other sectors such as composites, adhesives and inks. We are now well-equipped with a broad platform of dispersion products that incorporate both synthesised and exfoliated graphenes. We provide background guidance on their use and supporting data in exemplar formulations for a broad spectrum of applications, from mid to heavy corrosion environments, chemical resistance applications and beyond.

We continue our committed focus on developing regulatory approval for our products in parallel with development activity and integration of new distribution partners. We believe that by producing dispersions we help to manage the safe handling of nanomaterials, during both customer formulating and product manufacture through to management of disposal of product.

Efforts are continuing apace to add further to our IP portfolio. We are committed to further increasing our dispersion manufacturing capacity to meet anticipated demand resulting from successful sales of our customers’ products. We have put significant effort into the development of dispersions to extend our product scope to now include exfoliated graphene products.

Having become leaders in the dispersion of a broad range of graphene types, we are in a strong position to extrapolate our coatings and dispersions technology platform further. Key areas we are now focused on further developing are thermal conductive materials for battery technologies and dispersions for use in batteries, to support demand from the growing EV industry, along with addressing a number of potential applications for graphene in hydrogen power.

Sustainability is emphasised with our external product offerings, in particular addressing alternative dispersion media to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and graphene additives to potentially reduce toxic materials in a range of applications including coatings, composites and car care consumer products. We launched a new and exciting eco-friendly product range in the year which will build upon our water-based dispersions offering. The addition of graphene also offers the opportunity to enhance product life cycles, which is attractive for customers looking to improve the long term sustainability of their products.

Commercial progress

General

AGM’s sector-leading innovation in both graphene nanoplatelet dispersion and application know-how enable us to drive forward our commercial engagement. Our expertise has substantially expanded to include exfoliated graphene products. AGM offers the missing pieces of the end-to-end challenge often found when seeking to use graphene nanoplatelets, namely:

o  Know-how on the challenge of correctly dispersing graphene nanoplatelets

o  Practical, innovative additive solutions

o  Application know-how – proven performance gains in real exemplar systems backed with practical data and use advice

o  Working with both synthesised and exfoliated products

o  Ability to walk with the customer through their integration using a range of work packages as appropriate to need. Paid-for Innovation Accelerator packages are also available to customers to fast-track development

Our approach enables a greater potential for successful outcomes and avoids the disappointment around the great possibilities with graphene not being fully realised due to poor execution, lack of know-how, or Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) concerns.  Standardising our dispersed product range has been a key focus to afford end-users a reliable, repeatable product range. 74% of product shipped in the year was from our standard product range. Where customers have more challenging formulating applications to resolve, our dispersion know-how to determine the most appropriate graphene and dispersion formulation for a particular end-use is outstanding. As such, we also work with customers to provide customised dispersions to suit their needs.

For distributors, having a standard easy-and-safe to use product portfolio is important to enable them to develop solid traction in engagement with our products with confidence. The number of pipeline opportunities has grown accordingly, with distributors handling routine enquires about our products and deploying good levels of technical support.

Revenue for the year at £123,000 showed a positive upwards trend compared to the prior two years, though remained modest due to ongoing customer engagement delays due to COVID-19.

With activity with our customers constrained, we have focused on driving in-house technical developments through our technology group. Our expertise in dispersing our own synthesised graphenes has now been fully applied to other exfoliated products to enable a broader applicability of graphene nanoplatelets of various forms. As such, we are confidently able to offer a breadth of products using both synthesised and exfoliated graphenes to suit the end application and customer need.

Addressing the customer need for a more eco-friendly and sustainable approach to product formulating, we have also recently developed and launched a new product range which encompasses biobased, eco-friendly and zero VOC solvent systems. This range of materials is designed to help the formulator utilise the benefits of graphene materials, but within the context of using a platform of ecofriendly resins and solvents. With this new Genable 1700 product range to complement our established water-based dispersions products, these represent an excellent platform technology to enable formulator flexibility where demand for sustainable solutions is prevalent.

AGM’s core market continues to be the protective coatings sectors, where graphene nanoplatelet technology in the correct dispersions format has the potential to create higher performance products with higher added value for the customer. Long range testing in support of the protective coatings sector continues to be a core theme of our technology development activity, with good progress being made in exemplar applications testing for chemical resistance for flooring, chemical transport and storage applications through to harsh corrosion environments typified in offshore installations. The know-how which goes with this development activity is invaluable in guiding customer integration of our nanoplatelets dispersions to excellent effect.  We use this platform dispersion technology to good effect to read across to sectors such as composites and other liquid matrix products.

AGM’s future revenue prospects firmly sit with volume uptake of our customers’ products which contain our graphene dispersions. Once launched and established, we expect to achieve consistent repeat order volumes for dispersions for use in a growing number of launched products. Our route to sustained revenue growth is through continuous customer-facing development to enable new end-users to both realise the performance benefits of graphene dispersions in their products, and to do it in a safe and effective manner. As such, our efforts in regulatory approval for our graphene dispersions have become a central workstream, running in parallel with (rather than trailing) technology development programmes.

Revenues in the twelve months were generated from three key application areas: Protective coatings, Composites including Elastomers and Car Care. The impact of COVID-19 was, we believe, significant in terms of take-up rate and volumes, and the impact on development efforts in customer facilities. With a solid recovery in the coatings industry anticipated and improving projections for composites activity, we anticipate progressive revenue growth in our core sectors.

Pipeline overview

Increased customer activity is reflected in our pipeline of development opportunities. We have seen positive growth in the overall numbers of customers who have taken product to evaluate in the period from 109 to 181. As at 31 July 2021, this was as follows:

 Agreement on scope of sampling and engagementInitial testing and interpretation of resultsRepeat testing for consistency and review of resultsFinal product trials, formulation and specificationFinal commercial agreementLaunchedTotal
31/07/217970159819200
31/07/201957181238117
31/07/19124514138597

Positive progress has been made, particularly with our distribution partners who have proved effective in engaging with customer opportunities, offering AGM’s dispersed graphene product range. This has, of course, taken time to establish, but the results reflect positive momentum with this conduit to market – approximately 41% of engagements are now being handled by distributors. AGM’s distributors for the most part operate within the supply chain for coatings, and this represents good alignment with our strategic approach to maximise traction in this sector. As well as working closely with individual customers to introduce graphene dispersions, our distributor engagements are followed through with strong Technical Support to ensure the correct technical solution is achieved with those customers. This, in turn, is anticipated to lead to product launches by our collective customers and volume demand for our dispersed products.

Protective Coatings continues to be the primary area for customer engagement, with some 65% of activity in this sector. Typical engagement is broad ranging from industrial coatings, flooring and heavier corrosion and chemical resistant applications.

 Agreement on scope of sampling and engagementInitial testing and interpretation of resultsRepeat testing for consistency and review of resultsFinal product trials, formulation and specificationFinal commercial agreementLaunchedTotal
Coatings515111426125
Composites52111313
Functional materials9121215
Car care1416144847
Total7970159819200

As is normal with the introduction of new technology, lead time for product evaluation, testing, optimisation and the final path to product launch can be extended. This is especially true in the protective coating sector where the time to complete even accelerated testing can be significant. By contrast, a subsector of the Protective Coatings market where we have seen particularly strong traction in the period is with Car Care products. The benefit in this sector is that new customers tend to have a relatively short formulation and test cycle, resulting in quicker-to-market opportunities. Within the pipeline, some 40 further product engagements were from the car care sector as at the end of July 2021.

Although the number of pipeline engagements increased in the period, factored valuation of the current pipeline remained static at a total of £3.7m including launched products reflecting a more conservative approach applied to distributor engagements in their earlier stages, given the extra steps involved in the route to a successful product launch with a customer through a distributor.

Distribution

AGM announced the following Distributor appointments in the 12 month period ended 31 July 2021:

–       Gobarr (Turkey)

–       ManHo Polymer (Sth Korea)

These additions give AGM improved regional coverage. Our next target areas for representation development are in South America and India, with announcements anticipated in due course. We believe that we have the correct strategy to work through technically capable distributors with a range of well supported innovative standard dispersion products. Objectives for what has been the first year for many of these partners have been broadly met and we look forward to acceleration of engagement in the future.  

Protective Coatings Sector

Our core focus has been the combination of developing robust dispersion products which will enable liquid system-based end-users to deploy our products easily, consistently, and safely to good effect. The protective coatings sector is our strategic focus whereby:

–       We have developed a broad dispersion technology suitable for the industry with good read across to liquid-formulation adjacencies such as composites, inks, elastomers etc

–       We have demonstrated the practical utility of graphene nanoplatelets in starting point formulations to excellent effect

–       We have developed compelling data to demonstrate the performance advantages that graphene can achieve in a well-formulated coatings system to demonstrate that graphene works

–       We have generated solid, practical guidance for customers to help them integrate our dispersion additives into their coatings formulations

–       We actively use the coatings sector experience to read across to other potentials.

Key performance gains have been demonstrated for barrier and anti-corrosion performance in coatings through the introduction of graphene nanoplatelet materials via a dispersed product format. AGM goes the extra mile to use exemplar starting formulations to test and demonstrate the utility of graphene used in practical coatings solutions. Through the past twelve months, we have completed work to further demonstrate graphene’s potential in increasingly harsh coatings application areas. 

Highlights of key customer engagements within the Protective Coatings sector with a focus on anti-corrosion benefits are as follows:

·      The introduction of a new primer product by Blocksil to complement their Top Coat MT product. This system is being used to good effect on refurbishment of UK Network Rail trackside enclosures. Expectation is for this product to significantly increase in volume, along with their Top Coat MT with post-COVID-19 business volume recovery with Blocksil. Activity with RTE antennae has begun with coatings applications completed on three structures.

·      Development of Teal & Mackrill’s graphene enhanced primer is progressing, focus has now turned to completing the external certification for this product.

·      JBL – dispersion volume run rate has been steady to supply their range of aerosol-based graphene coatings, including white-label products. The development of further product applications is anticipated to yield a broader set of products in the aerosol coatings space.  

·      Stanvac is a new customer win with the development of a coatings application combining electrical conductivity with barrier protection. This Indian customer is in the final stages of customer field trials with their product and it is anticipated that volume demand for graphene dispersions will ensue upon finalisation of their customer approvals.

·      Positive progress with a leading floor coatings manufacturer in the field of protective barrier floor coatings for concrete using the well-defined barrier performance attributes of graphene nanoplatelets. We anticipate strong uptake of this product once launched to market.

·      The successful development of an aluminium anti-corrosion coating system at a coatings customer.

·      The launch of AGM’s innovative Genable 1700 eco-friendly product range to service sustainability objectives with our customers.  

·      We also anticipate launch of an exemplar finished epoxy primer formulation for use with customers who wish to fast-track potential of a graphene enhanced product. Work is completed in this area and product is available as an option as part of the customer engagement process.

Car Care

Customer engagements continue apace in this sector with a strong focus on water-based and specific solvent-based dispersions to suit typical detailing and wax product formats. AGM has a strong product portfolio suited to this sector. In car care products, graphene offers performance benefits such as UV protection, corrosion protection and changes to water shedding, leading to longer lasting aesthetics.

Six customer products containing our graphene dispersions have been announced as launched in this sector in the period, including Infinity Wax QDX detailing and car wax products, Halo Autocare wheel wax product, two car care products from Constellation Chemicals and a bike detailer from Tru-Tension. Four product launches have also been announced post-period, with three products from one customer and one product from another client which was launched before 31 July 2021. Pipeline engagements in this sector are strong and we anticipate several further customer product launches soon with a number of customers in the final stages of product testing. 

Composite Materials

Positive progress has been made with materials supply to Infinite Composites Technologies for their manufacturing and development of innovative Type V linerless pressure vessels for launch vehicle and satellite applications, fulfilling various funded project requirements. It is very pleasing to also note that ICT has increased demand for pressure tanks for a number of new projects in the areas of racecar applications and additional projects for hypersonic and hydrogen-powered aircraft. This represents an important diversification into new areas for hydrogen technologies and propulsion applications. With the emerging opportunity in hydrogen technology and pressure vessels forming an integral part of this, we see solid opportunities in the area of graphene-enhanced composites pressure vessels in tandem with ICT’s innovative technologies. 

Modest sales of graphene dispersions were made to SHD Composites to feed their prepreg manufacturing demand for their MTC9810 product. As reported last year, output from the NEAT project has progressed, although much slower than anticipated due to limited resources to complete the work at the customer. We await feedback from the customer in due course. We continue to develop data to support customer development through a test programme with The Graphene Council. through the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Centre. Composite materials evaluation is also progressing with other composites customers using our graphene dispersions.

We anticipate continuing supply to an unnamed elastomer-based customer where our water-based graphene dispersions are used to good effect for enhanced product performance.

Functional Products

Thermal paste adhesive activity has been progressing with a customer for aerospace applications. The product is reported to fulfill the requirements of low-density and high thermal conductivity in an adhesive format and is reported to be close to completion of approval for use. 

Ink products containing graphene nanoplatelets have been used previously to focus on a specific mechanical application in composites. We have broadened the platform for such inks and are now focused on formats we have developed for printable conductives as a new potential revenue stream.     

Technology, regulatory and manufacturing status

Technology

To further enhance customer service capabilities and technology development activities, we are in the process of integrating coatings spray booth capabilities on site. A grant to support this effort was secured from Tees Valley, for which AGM is highly appreciative.

Progress with our protective coatings platform technology workstream has been extensive. Our development cycle has successfully enabled us to increase our support for customers seeking to engage with graphene in their product innovation. We have excellent solutions to meet the need for solvent based coatings formulations requiring enhanced corrosion and barrier performance across a broad spectrum of applications. This includes general industrial applications in the C3 category through to heavy corrosion applications under C4, C5 and even CX ratings. The in-house work to not just develop dispersions suitable for such formulations but to demonstrate these with practical testing and data generation sets AGM apart in this field.

Chemical resistance testing has resulted in exciting potential for graphenes in an expanded portfolio of protective coatings applications including floor coatings, chemical transport applications and storage application coatings. We look forward to further customer engagement in this field following the generation of supportive test data for a range of applications.

Effort to tackle the challenges of dispersing 2D high aspect ratio materials into water-based additives have been addressed and we have products to meet sustainability objectives. We have further extended this with our eco-friendly product launch. Further work has successfully continued to develop improvements in the area of coatings adhesion when using water-based systems with graphene additions.

Work continues to benchmark a range of graphene nanoplatelets against other commonly used additives in the coatings industry. A high % use of conventional additives such as glass flake can be effectively replaced with very low % loadings of graphene, leading to formulator flexibility and in some cases, coating cost reduction.  Investigative efforts also continue in the use of hybrid blends of graphenes to optimise performance in coatings applications. It is testament to our formulating capabilities that we are now able to offer combinations of products in custom dispersions to suit a broad spectrum of end-use opportunities. We anticipate several further product launches around these various subjects with a view to maximising the revenue opportunity with each customer’s potential in the sector.

To further back up the data we generate from accelerated testing, we are now committed to proof of effectiveness in real world testing in several applications. Scale up testing is due to commence with the UK Environment Agency at sites in the Northeast of UK whereby our formulated products will be tested on structures for longer term environmental exposure. A longer-range environment test plan has also been started with French environmental site, Institut de la Corrosion.  We also have primers being actively tested in a freshwater environment on the steel hull of a narrowboat. All of this combined activity is foundational to prove that our technology solutions provide real, sustainable opportunities for AGM’s graphene products to be confidently adopted.

Good progress has been made in the formulating and printing demonstration of conductive inks. These materials have a range of application from textiles to composites and beyond. Useful levels of electrical conductivity have been achieved on a consistent basis and I am pleased with progress in this area. I look forward to further exploitation of this potential.

A program of work is ongoing with experts at Grafine Ltd, based at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester, to develop textile coating applications using graphene for a range of end-uses. Harnessing the properties of graphene for coating barrier performance is anticipated as the major gain in this area, although other properties such as abrasion resistance (durability), thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity are also attractive attributes of graphene which may contribute to future textile performance.

Regarding dissemination of data, our ability to attend technical conferences has been badly impacted in the twelve month period due to event cancellations. Technical presentations on our innovative coatings technologies were made to the American Coatings Association conference 2021 covering Innovative water-based solutions for coatings and to the European Coatings Show conference 2021 with a presentation on the enhanced performance of CX high corrosion environment coatings.

Regulatory

As reported in January 2021, Regulatory approval was granted for up to 10 tonnes of graphene powder for each of the REACH Consortium partners. This represented a major step forward for the regulatory adoption of graphene as a material in the EU. Effort continues to progress the UK equivalent post-Brexit.

Considerable effort has been and continues to be spent to pursue securing regulatory approval in the USA through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our initial objective has been the regulatory approval of our AGNP-35 product, using a low volume exemption approach.  Work continues in this area with ongoing dialogue with the EPA with the aim of securing a volume commercial position to service our customers keen to work with our synthesised graphene. In the meantime, we are progressing US engagements with accepted products. Approvals in other regions are being approached as we expand our distributor base.

AGM also announced through the year that we had joined the NanoTechnology Industries Association (NIA) to further assist in regulatory matter related to the volume adoption of nanomaterials technologies. We also continue with supporting dialogue through The Graphene Council who are strongly supporting positive progress in the area of regulatory acceptance of graphene nanoplatelets for commercial volume activity.

IP

Our efforts continue in this area to add IP value to the business. Patent activity in the period has included good progress on a number of our patent applications and dealing with examiner questions and comments. Trademark approval for the Genable brand was granted in Canada, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Turkey.

Manufacturing

Our volume capacity programme has been fully focused on the development of dispersion methodologies, to both expand scale and accommodate the integration of exfoliated graphene materials into our dispersion products range.

With the clear appreciation that “graphene nanoplatelets” are not a single material and have diverse characteristics, each type of material demands significant and separate attention to detail in integrating it into useful media. Considerable time has been spent developing stabilised, repeatable quality dispersions with A-GNP45 exfoliated product. We have been particularly successful in this area, as recognised with our Genable 1400 product range, and latterly the development of our Genable 1700 ecofriendly product family. The latter product set incorporates both A-GNP35 synthesised graphene and A-GNP45 exfoliated product, to provide maximum flexibility and broad reach for customer selection. It is a testament to our technology team that both types of manufactured graphenes are now offered as standard product dispersions through our sales conduit.  Further work continues to bring other suppliers into the mix.

Further planned phased development of the dispersions capacity is currently ongoing to enable meeting the anticipated future needs of our customers for the next 24 months. This step by step approach enables us to maximise potential revenue whilst managing cash resources effectively.    

Technology roadmap

As technology leaders in the development and application of graphene nanoplatelet dispersions, our roadmap for further innovation with graphene is anticipated to develop in a number of areas as follows:

–       Continued development of our strategically central protective coatings technology platform in key identified areas of opportunity. This will continue the theme of appropriately formatting graphene nanoplatelets in fit-for-purpose dispersions which are able to serve the needs of emerging opportunities as well as enabling read-across to other adjacencies

–       Completion of work in elastomeric coating technology followed by direct product offerings

–       Sustainability project evaluating graphene in erosion coatings with focus on wind energy applications in collaboration with Northumbria University

–       A focus on battery technology in key areas:

o  Extrapolation of development of our excellent thermally conductive products to meet the specific needs of heat dissipation with lithium-ion batteries and beyond

o  Working with Universities, development of graphene based battery solutions (in the area of Lithium Titanate and Silicon Lithium solutions)

o  Activity at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) on dielectric materials

–       Development of graphene materials applications for hydrogen fuel cell technology to meet the anticipated growth in this technology as it matures.

–       Extrapolation of use of graphene in composite pressure tank applications for storage of liquid-phase hydrogen. Anticipated need for pressure vessels is high and we see good opportunity in this area to develop composites integrating graphene.

Engagement with the GEIC

Following our recent announcement, it is clear that AGM has enabling technology and capability to offer graphene end-users who are keen to understand the practical mechanisms for successfully deploying graphene nanoplatelets in protective coatings, car care products, composite matrix systems, elastomers, inks and other matrices. We now believe that having spent time aggressively developing our technology platform to a suitable technology readiness level, the time is right to join the substantive activity with the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC) in Manchester, UK. 

AGM has joined the GEIC at the University of Manchester as an associated Tier II Partner through the special conditions offered exclusively through The Graphene Council (TGC), and we look forward to further accelerated engagement and to the positive benefits of being part of the larger graphene community in UK.

Sustainability

The review of the positive benefits that graphene addition can bring to product life cycle benefits remains central to our efforts in pursuing sustainable technology offerings for the protective coatings industry. The use of graphene to enhance barrier performance, achieve improved anti-corrosion capabilities, extend the life of coatings and reduce the asset maintenance schedule and use of replacement coatings is, we believe, a powerful sustainability offering. We believe this will be realised by the protective coatings industry as pace gathers for the increase in water-based technology, the reduction of VOCs and the push for more sustainable materials technologies on a global basis. Demonstration of graphene as a material that really works in this space through progressive customer product launches is also a key metric for our success and promotion of graphene as a positive solution in the industry. 

Water-based dispersions using a range of graphene types are available to meet the needs of the sustainability objectives of a number of customers and potential future engagements. Our recently launched eco-friendly dispersions range further enhances the opportunity to introduce sustainable products into formulating efforts in the form of bio-based resins, solvent free resins, low VOC solvents and VOC exempt materials.

Our review of our ESG standards and approach to sustainability continues both with our product development and in-house operations.

A key area of focus for us is in servicing our customers with the best quality of service possible as well as meeting the sustainability expectations that they have of their supply chain. The in-housing of packing and dispatch functions will also enable better control of process and also affords the opportunity to employ full use of recycled product packaging. We anticipate this change will be completed in the next six months.

Further initiatives are planned to limit our carbon footprint, as we measure and determine the best opportunities for progress to be made. This is anticipated to include our suppliers as well as in-house activity. We have a continued push to update our employment policies and train our staff in developing awareness.

Update on COVID-19 impact

Throughout the fiscal year, we have maintained best working practices within the AGM facility to ensure all staff continue to be kept as safe as possible. In line with the impact on the chemicals industry and the coatings industry, we have seen markedly slower than desirable activity levels with customers. This has been seen in two key areas; firstly a reduction in overall development activity within customer organisations which has inevitably delayed progress on evaluation of our products and secondly continuing limited access to assets for coating application. This has, in turn, led to a slower development of customer products containing our graphene materials and slower commercialisation of customer products already launched. With a slow but progressive recovery in the industry, we anticipate growing pace in the use of our products going forwards – both in testing them and in using them.

I would like to record my thanks to all our staff for their diligence in working through the more restricted working practices than anyone would normally like and for dealing respectfully with colleagues on site to minimise the COVID-19 risk to our business.

Cash position

Cash used in operations during the year totaled £3,019,000 and was £446,000 lower than the prior year. We received a further R&D tax credit in the year of £461,000 (2020: £1,316,000). In February 2021 AGM successfully completed a further fundraise of £5.5 million net of costs to further support ongoing working capital requirements in pursuit of commercial development of the business.

The Board would like to note its thanks to all investors in our business for their outstanding level of continuing support. As covered in the Financial review, our non-discretionary cash requirements indicate that the Group currently has sufficient cash resources for the next twelve months and beyond 31 January 2023. This includes consideration of the uncertainties related to revenue development delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Outlook

AGM is in solid shape as we look to accelerate revenue growth arising from developing demand for customer products which contain our graphene dispersions. The effort that has gone in to establishing our solid technology foundation is exemplary and our Genable product range has been expanded accordingly. The number of customer product launches following evaluation and integration of our products has increased in the year as a result.  We have further expanded the scope for customers to have a choice when they look at graphene as a potential materials solution by using traditional dispersion media or innovative, sustainable product offerings. We are expanding our dispersion manufacturing capacity to meet the ongoing expected volumes from our customer engagements. I am particularly pleased with the effort to integrate exfoliated graphene materials into our product range to provide broader scope in materials selection for customers to consider.

We continue the important work to achieve regulatory approval for this class of nanomaterials and see this commitment as essential to customer volume increases in the medium and long term.

Our distributor platform is doing well, representing AGM and our product range, and we have seen a positive increase in activity. We anticipate solid growth in the coming year whilst supporting our partners well with high levels of technical advice and guidance on product use.

We are very excited about the opportunities in hydrogen and battery applications as both these emerging markets could be very large and we see strong potential for the application of our graphene products in these areas.

The commercial pipeline of engagements is strong and growing, representing many customers evaluating our products at various stages of development. This gives the Board confidence that AGM is well positioned with a combination of technical excellence, product portfolio, cash position and commercial approach to meet our ambitions of successful revenue growth and enterprise value in the coming year. 

Adrian Potts                                                                        

Chief Executive Officer, Applied Graphene Materials     

12 October 2021

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