The commercial development of a graphene-enhanced admixture for concrete has been given a boost by investment in the start-up company behind it.

Concretene has been developed by Nationwide Engineering Research & Development (NERD) in partnership with the University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC).

NERD has now secured backing from consulting engineer Arup and graphene supplier Black Swan Graphene. The deal with Arup – through Ove Arup Ventures Ltd – provides 4.2% equity in NERD in exchange for collaboration and expertise towards global roll-out of the technology.

Black Swan and NERD have swapped 5% equity with each other. Black Swan produces graphene powders, derived from graphite, tailored for the concrete industry. Based in Canada, was spun out of the UK construction chemicals group Thomas Swan & Co in 2021.

Rob Hibberd, chief executive of Nationwide Engineering Research & Development, said: “We see Concretene as the first product of many that this partnership will develop, with progress in paints, polymers and asphalt already in advanced stages as well.”

Arup director Matt Lovell said: “Continued innovation in the production of concrete can drive the construction industry’s journey towards net zero carbon emissions. Supporting that transformative change with our NERD partnership furthers Arup’s goal of shaping a better, more sustainable world.

“We look forward to using our commercial know-how and deep expertise in the built environment to help NERD’s innovators realise the full potential of Concretene.”

Black Swan president Simon Marcotte said: “The partnerships announced today are poised to have far-reaching implications for the global concrete industry. By leveraging the exceptional performance of the NERD process and Arup’s expertise, reach and leadership, this integrated supply chain can provide a turnkey solution and revolutionize the concrete industry on a global scale.

“Considering that concrete is the second-most-utilised material on earth, surpassed only by water, it is difficult to imagine a more exciting opportunity. I am very optimistic about the impact of this collaboration and its potential to catalyse sustainable and innovative practices in the industry.”

NERD envisages a three-year journey to full commercial roll-out of Concretene to the construction industry. The sales pitch for Concretene is primarily environmental: with Concretene added, the cement content of concrete can be reduced by 50% and less steel reinforcement is required.

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