Helping Paragraf make miracles happen with next-generation graphene

Helping Paragraf make miracles happen with next-generation graphene

Recently named by Beauhurst as the UK’s top graphene company, Paragraf are materially transforming electronics. Founded in 2015, the singular Cambridge spin-out turned scale-up are making miracles happen in materials science with their next-generation graphene.

Graphene is a thin layer of graphite, only one-atom thick, and around 100 times stronger than steel. It’s flexible and conductive, as well as impermeable to most gases. That’s why it’s so revolutionary, as it can be applied in electronics like smartphones, used in sensors for biomedical research, and in semiconductors to speed up the flow of information.

Paragraf describe their purpose as ‘developing and delivering game-changing, commercial-quality, graphene-based electronic devices using contamination-free technology’. Now a team of 70, Paragraf was founded in 2015 and is scaling up fast. Having raised £21.9m to date, their partners include CERN, the Royal Academy for Engineering and Rolls-Royce.

Thanks to their unique production process, Paragraf’s materials experts can make large areas of high-quality graphene on-site in their Cambridgeshire HQ, which can be applied in a number of different markets, including electronics and green energy. Their proprietary technology facilitates the production of high-quality graphene on semiconductor wafers of up to 8in diameter. Paragraf has developed a graphene-based magnetic field sensor using the Hall effect, in which ‘a potential difference is formed in a conductor that is subject to a perpendicular magnetic field’. The Hall effect sensor won an Electra 2020 award for Excellence in Product Design.

Harper James has been Paragraf’s law firm of choice across a number of legal specialisms and our team of legal experts flex to support the game-changing company as they scale up. Paragraf joined us as an on-demand client in 2019, meaning they receive the highest level of legal support, whenever they need it.

Paragraf initially approached Harper James for urgent help with a terms and conditions review and that one matter soon developed into a substantive working relationship. Our experienced IP and commercial partner Rob Cobley, who specialises in supporting high-tech, high-growth companies, has worked as an extension of Paragraf’s team since the start. Rob first supported Paragraf’s CEO and Financial Director with an IP audit, then important partner and supplier agreements and a suite of NDAs followed, protecting the company’s assets along with a mixture of complex collaborations.

Rob says:

‘Paragraf is an inspiring example of how discoveries made in the university research lab can transform technology on an industry-wide scale. This fast-growing start-up is exactly the kind of knowledge-rich business that Harper James was founded to support.

I have been fortunate to work with Paragraf from the start, and have been part of their journey from three-person spin-out to 70-strong scale-up. By protecting their IP and assets with the right suite of agreements, NDAs and contracts in the first instance, it smoothed the path for their rapid growth, without them having to worry about the legals.

Accessing the on-demand plan is ideal for fast-growing ambitious scale-ups like Paragraf, as you know your legal team are available as and when you need fast, effective and expert advice. Paragraf have come a long way in the past few years, and they are set to go even further.’

As Paragraf worked more closely with Harper James, their legal needs diversified, as their business progressed through the different stages of the lifecycle. The start-up’s team has grown from three to 70, so our employment partner Simon Gilmour was called on to provide important employment law advice on contracts, consultancy agreements and employee incentive schemes. Our corporate solicitor team steered Paragraf through director appointments and share transfers. What this really outlines is Harper James’ ability to be by a client’s side as they journey from spin-out to start-up then scale-up.

Cathy Cranton, Financial Director of Paragraf had this to say:

‘Harper James has been the ideal law firm for Paragraf because of the flexibility that’s built into the on-demand subscription package. With HJ, I have all the legal expertise and answers I need at the end of an email. We have ambitious plans to fulfil, pushing our product lines overseas and bringing graphene electronics to the masses. There’s no better partner to help us get there than Harper James.’

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