China is one of the world’s most dynamic innovators in the research and application of graphene technology, contributing more than half of the global patent applications in the sector, according to a report recently unveiled by the China Innovation Alliance of the Graphene Industry.
According to the Global Graphene Industry Report 2017, 58 percent of the world’s graphene patent applications are from China. There are also 76 applicants that have at least 60 applications each in the sector, and 49 of them are from China.
With unique electronic, optical and thermal properties, graphene was listed as a new material with great importance for industrial development in the national science and technology innovation program for the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), which was issued by the State Council in July 2016.
Beijing-based Tunghsu Group, for example, has developed a graphene-based LED light that saves 80 percent in electricity usage and increases luminous efficiency by 20 percent compared with traditional sodium lamps.
The report said that China’s graphene market value was worth more than 4 billion yuan ($610.8 million) in 2016, and it was expected to exceed 10 billion yuan in 2017. It estimated the global graphene market value will reach 100 billion yuan by 2020.
By the end of last year, about 4,800 companies in China were involved in graphene-related businesses.
Li Yichun, secretary-general of the industrial alliance, said although China has a huge number of patents, most of them are domestic patents with a low quality on average, and few are core and fundamental patents. Besides, many companies have publicized their patents too early before forming a strategic plan.
Liu Zhaoping, a researcher at the Ningbo Institute of Industrial Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, agreed. He said the fast development of the graphene industry in China is promoted by investment and government planning, but the industry lacks systematic research.
He also said the applications mainly focus on the lower end, and the innovators are mostly small companies. The universities and research institutions, however, have a low rate of patent commercialization.
Of the 49 Chinese organizations with more than 60 graphene patent applications, only five are companies.
“Chinese organizations have been improving their international patent activities over recent years, but still lack an overall plan,” Liu said. “Some advanced countries, such as the United States, Japan and South Korea, already started patenting high-end applications.”
He suggested domestic companies, universities and research institutions form alliances to protect patents in the entire industry chain. He also called for more financial support from the government to encourage high-end research projects into core technologies.
The International Graphene Products Certification Center was founded in mid-January in Beijing, co-funded by the Chinese graphene industry alliance and a number of international institutions.
As the world’s first third-party certification institution in the graphene industry, the center aims to foster healthy development of the industry and establish international standards.