On 1 July 2020, Versarien plc (LON:VRS), the advanced materials engineering group, announced that the UK Government, via Innovate UK, had agreed a £5 million loan to the Company, for a project named G-SCALE, an acronym for Graphene, Seat, Concrete, Arch, Leisure, Elastomer. The award, which followed a rigorous process of assessment, was to facilitate the production of sufficient quantities of graphene to enable commercialisation of graphene-enhanced products in these five priority application areas.
IUK has continued to monitor the progress of the G-SCALE project during the drawdown and development stage, which has been completed despite the macro-economic challenges the Company has faced. In recognition of the potential benefits of Versarien’s graphene technology, IUK offered to vary the terms of the Loan by deferring commencement of the capital repayments by one year, to be paid in ten equal quarterly repayments, commencing in August 2025. A deed of variation to the Loan has been signed by the Company accepting the offer. Interest will continue to be charged at a rate of 7.4% per annum, of which, 50% of the payments will be deferred until February 2025. The deferred interest will be paid in equal instalments when the capital repayments commence.
Versarien is pleased to provide a summary of G-SCALE progress under each of the headings:
● “Graphene” – The Company has now commissioned the first of four “Graphene-Tech” reactors acquired as part of the project which in total could provide up to an additional 100 tonnes of powder capacity for use in multiple sectors including energy storage. The Graphink processing machines also purchased as part of the project are fully operational and can provide up to 12,000 kg of Cementene (Versarien’s graphene enhanced concrete admixture) or 120,000 kg of Graphene-Wear formulation per annum.
● “Seat” – Versarien has installed large scale dispersion systems to produce graphene-enhanced thermoset resins for incorporation into fibre-reinforced polymer composites. In parallel, the Company has completed its Technology Developer Accelerator Programme with Lotus Cars funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (“APC”). In addition, the Company has completed its Graphene-Loaded Polymer Composite project with the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (“DSTL”) and continues talks with potential customers for graphene enhanced bio-resins as well as sustainable fibre reinforced thermoset polymers.
● “Concrete” – Almost 1,000 tonnes of concrete have been poured containing Cementene. The Company is in discussions with major UK and European construction companies to assess product viability following the successful completion of testing by a United Kingdom Accredited Service (“UKAS”) laboratory. Consequently, Versarien plans to continue investment in Graphink processing equipment to support its focus on the construction sector and the potential environmental benefits that can be obtained. The Company has also commissioned its 3d concrete printer and successfully completed several projects. Versarien intends to co-fund research fellowships as part of the Digital Roads of the Future project led by National Highways, housed at the University of Cambridge and the Company is a founding member of the Roads Research Alliance.
● “Arch” – This application concentrates on commodity, speciality and engineering thermoplastics including adding graphene to recycled and bio-based feedstocks. Using graphene enhanced polymers manufactured by Versarien, Inspecs Group has produced prototype eyewear and is in the process of demonstrating these products to potential customers. The Company’s academic collaborations with WMG at the University of Warwick continue and the first co-funded PhD student has now joined Versarien’s Cambridge R&D team bringing additional expertise in graphene/thermoplastic processing.
● “Leisure” – Versarien continues to progress its relationships with clothing brands Superdry, Umbro, BiaBrazil and Go To Gym. Some customer photoshoots have been completed for the Graphene-Wear product launches anticipated in Spring/Summer 2023, and designs have been completed for Autumn/Winter 2023 and Spring/Summer 2024. The Company is also in dialogue with other global sportswear brands with the aim to launch a number of new products.
● “Elastomers” – Following the product launch with Flux Footwear LLC, the Company continues to take enquiries from global brands for Graphene-Wear rubber compounds and masterbatches. As part of this project, Versarien has completed a number of rounds of testing with Enso Tyres.
Neill Ricketts, Chief Executive Officer of Versarien, said: “The continuing support of various government agencies including Innovate UK, is an endorsement of the importance of graphene technology to the UK. Our core objective remains to leverage this exciting technology, especially in the construction and textile sectors, which we believe offer the fastest route to commercialisation.”
Scott O’Brien, Director, Innovation Finance, Innovate UK & Director, Innovate UK Loans Limited, said: “We have continued to work with Versarien and to monitor this loan and the G-SCALE project it supports. Importantly, our loan was also predicated on the scale and breadth of commercial opportunities that could flow from G-SCALE.
“We recognise the progress being made but we are also aware of the challenges we so often see for highly innovative businesses bringing ground-breaking technologies to market. In recognition of this and our continuing support for Versarien, we have offered additional flexibility around our loan: the planned start of capital repayments will be deferred for 12-months, extending the overall term of the loan. We hope this will assist in getting this ground-breaking material to market.”