A TECHNOLOGY firm behind a wonder science material is tripling its North-East workforce as it aims to become an industry world leader, The Northern Echo can reveal.
Applied Graphene Materials (AGM), near Redcar, is targeting global domination in the £800m graphene market after an £11m flotation bolstered its international presence.
The company, which employs ten workers, wants 30 staff by the end of the year, including a business development team covering mainland Europe.
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Bosses say it has also agreed six new deals with firms wanting to use the revolutionary carbon material in products such as paints, coatings and lubricants.
Graphene can conduct electricity a million times better than copper, despite being as thin as human hair, and is 200 times stronger than steel.
Experts have even predicted a graphene sheet as thin as clingfilm could support an elephant.
The company's plans were revealed after it released its financial results for the six months to January 31, which showed increased pre-tax losses of £1.2m from £398,887 last year.
However, Jon Mabbitt, AGM chief executive, said the costs were the result of significant investment to raise the company's staffing levels and reputation.
He said: “Our results are where we expected and come from our investments for the future.
“It is about people, and by next Monday we will have 15 workers with us, which includes a senior process engineer, two senior scientists and a production technician.
“We also have further job offers out there, so we are actively getting people in, and are taking on business development workers to promote what graphene is.
“We expect to have about 20 people by July and 30 by the end of 2014.
“Our intention is to become a world leader in supplying graphene formatted for specific customer needs.”
The North-East's position in the graphene market was boosted last month when the Centre for Process Innovation, in Sedgefield, County Durham, won a £14m development to work on the material.
Family-owned chemical company Thomas Swan and Co, in Consett, has this week introduced two graphene products to the market at Berlin's Printed Electronics Europe exhibition.
Mr Mabbitt said the moves were a major boost for the region and would help increase awareness of graphene and AGM's work.
He revealed the company has secured agreements with companies keen to assess the benefits of using graphene in polymers, paints and coatings and lubricants and oils.
It already works with renowned vacuum cleaner maker Dyson, which is looking at ways to toughen plastic in machines and reduce static electricity to increase suction.
He said: “At the moment the question customers are asking is what is the art of the product?
“People are experimenting on what it can offer and we are working in the three sector areas of composites, paints and oils to see the potential applications.
“The range of uses for graphene is ever expanding, and while it's exciting to talk about elephants standing on sheets of it, it's not about that, it's about developing consumer goods.
“We have substantially raised our profile and remainder of the year will see high levels of activity to lift global customer awareness.”
The company has also revealed Sean Christie, 56, a group finance director at chemical maker Croda International will become a non-executive director later this month.
Mr Mabbitt added: “Sean's will add of lot of strength to the business.”
AGM was founded by Professor Karl Coleman in 2010 and spun out of Durham University.
Graphene was first isolated by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at Manchester University in 2004.