Catharina James speaker
Catharina James speaker

Catharina James

Pioneering material scientist

Speaker Themes

  • Sustainability and the circular economy
  • Entrepreneurship & innovation
  • The fascinating science and applications of graphene
  • How graphene will revolutionise manufacturing
  • How graphene can create a more sustainable economy
  • Women in tech

Travels from

Cambridge, UK


Catharina James is a pioneering material scientist whose revolutionary work – particularly on graphene – has the potential to reshape the global manufacturing industry and create a more sustainable economy.

Two hundred times stronger than steel, thirty times more thermally conductive than copper, a super-conductor, ultra thin and lightweight, impermeable, stretch-able…it’s easy to see why graphene has been dubbed the wonder material of the 21st century.

From radiators and loudspeakers you can spray onto walls, to hyper-efficient batteries and detecting structural faults in buildings, the potential uses are huge and will permeate into all areas of our lives.

But it is notoriously difficult to create graphene in large quantities and at high quality. At least, it was until Catharina and her colleagues devised a stable, energy-efficient, single-step process to turn biogas into high quality graphene powder on an industrial scale. 

It’s an innovation that has come closer than any to making widespread use of graphene a reality. And, in making graphene by breaking down harmful greenhouse gases such as methane, it has potentially enormous positive consequences for the environment as well.

Catharina co-founded Cambridge Nanosystems in 2012 to implement her research. For 6 years she set the R&D strategy for the company as its Chief Scientist, and was involved in materials and reactor engineering, production standardisation and IP management, as well as overseeing a successful funding round.

She gained experience in the product development process to prototype stage in a variety of technology areas. Her experience in market research and business case development spans fields from coatings and composites to inks and plasma engineering, and led to partnerships in many industries such as automotive, construction and textiles.

Catharina’s work earned her the nickname of “The First Lady of Grapheneā€¯. She was named one of the eight business leaders to watch in 2015 by UK media.

In 2018, Catharina set up her own consultancy, facilitating innovation through collaboration between corporates and start-ups. Current client projects include the design of an innovative waste management plant in a developing market, and establishing circularity in the use of polymers in packaging.

She has a Ph.D. in Material Science from the University of Cambridge and was recently awarded a Fellowship at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in recognition of her work.


Catharina is at the forefront of advances in material science. Not only are her talks entertaining and fascinating, they are essential viewing for anyone looking to understand the future of manufacturing and how we might go about creating a sustainable, circular global economy.

Media links

“Five minutes with…Catharina James” – VBQ Speakers blog, September 2017

“Meet the first lady of graphene” – The Daily Telegraph 

Contact us about Catharina James