Government pledges £246m to boost innovation in battery technology

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Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark has announced the launch of the first phase of a £246 million government investment into battery technology to ensure the UK builds on its strengths and leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries. Known as the Faraday Challenge, the four-year investment round is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy. It will deliver a coordinated programme of competitions that will aim to boost both the research and development of expertise in battery technology.

An overarching Faraday Challenge Advisory Board will be established, to ensure the coherence and impact of the challenge, and the competitions will be divided into three key streams.

  • Research: To support world class research and training in battery materials, technologies and manufacturing processes, the government has opened a £45m competition, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to bring the best minds and facilities together to create a virtual Battery Institute. The successful consortium of universities will be responsible for undertaking research looking to address the key industrial challenges in this area.
  • Innovation: The most promising research completed by the Institute will be moved closer to the market through collaborative research and development competitions, led by Innovate UK. The initial competitions will build on the best of current world-leading science already happening in the UK and helping make the technology more accessible for UK businesses.
  • Scale-up: To further develop the real-world use and application of battery technology the government has opened a competition, led by the Advanced Propulsion Centre, to identify the best proposition for a new state-of-the-art open access National Battery Manufacturing Development facility.

The announcement follows a review, commissioned as part of the Industrial Strategy green paper, by Sir Mark Walport in which he identified areas where the UK had strengths in battery technology and could benefit from linkage through this challenge fund.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), said:

“Batteries will form a cornerstone of a low carbon economy, whether in cars, aircraft, consumer electronics, district or grid storage. To deliver the UK’s low carbon economy we must consolidate and grow our capabilities in novel battery technology. EPSRC’s previous research investments mean we are in a world-leading position.

“The Faraday Challenge is a new way of working. It will bring together the best minds in the field, draw on others from different disciplines, and link intimately with industry, innovators and other funders, such as InnovateUK, to ensure we maintain that our world leading position and keep the pipeline of fundamental science to innovation flowing.”

Richard Parry-Jones, newly appointed Chair of the Faraday Challenge Advisory Board said: “The power of the Faraday Challenge derives from the joining-up of all three stages of research from the brilliant research in the university base, through innovation in commercial applications to scaling up for production. It will focus our best minds on the critical industrial challenges that are needed to establish the UK as one of the world leaders in advanced battery technologies and associated manufacturing capability.”

Endeco Technologies’ CEO & co-founder, Michael Phelan welcomed the announcement and commented that allowing individuals and businesses to participate in the energy market, as well as large generators and suppliers, is ‘critical to the future of our electricity network’: “Generation, storage and use of power at the right time is essential, and incentivising these actions is a positive step, given the continued electrification of our lives, whether it’s cars, heating, air conditioning or entertainment systems.

“Energy prices are expected to rise by up to 40% by 2020, largely to support the changing electricity mix and upgrading of our infrastructure, meaning sharing the benefits of greater participation is a necessity, not a luxury. Batteries sit at the core of our future network, creating flexibility in when electricity is generated and where it is used – when previously this has not been possible.”

He added that, in conjunction with a high-end energy platform such as Endeco’s, batteries can also enhance a business’s ability to take part in demand side response schemes and take advantage of additional revenues, further bolstering their strategy to reduce net energy spend.

“With the right technology made accessible, we know that batteries will sustain and support carbon reductions through renewable integration, advance network and business resilience, and create an inclusive and cohesive energy economy for all,” he concluded.

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