UK battery technology funding announced

Article by Neil Clark

BATTERY technology in the UK received a boost today, as the government announced £246m (US$321m) of investment as part of its industrial strategy for a low carbon economy.

Known as the “Faraday Challenge”, the four-year investment round was presented by UK business secretary Greg Clark, and hopes to boost research and development of expertise in the area. It intends to do so by delivering a coordinated programme of competitions, divided into three streams – research, innovation and scaleup.

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.”

The first phase of the investment is a £45m competition led by EPSRC. It aims to bring a consortium of universities together to create a virtual “Battery Institute”, which will then be responsible for advancing battery materials, technologies and manufacturing processes. The Institute’s most promising research will then be advanced through further R&D competitions, led by Innovate UK.

To further develop real-world applications in battery technology, the government has also opened a competition to identify the best proposition for a new open-access National Battery Manufacturing Development facility.

This morning’s announcement in Birmingham follows a review, commissioned as part of the Industrial Strategy green paper, which identified areas in battery technology where the UK had strengths, and could benefit from links through this challenge fund.

Clark said: “One of the strengths of an industrial strategy is to be able to bring together concerted effort on areas of opportunity that have previously been in different sectors, or which require joining forces between entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers, industries, and local and national government.

“The work that we do through the Faraday Challenge will – quite literally – power the automotive and energy revolution where, already, the UK is leading the world.”

An overarching Faraday Challenge Advisory Board will be established to ensure the coherence and impact of the initiative. Richard Parry-Jones, newly-appointed chair of the 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.”

Head of energy at Greenpeace UK, Hannah Martin, said: “Today’s announcement is a sign of the modern, smart and flexible energy system we are moving towards. Innovation in battery technology will support the electric vehicle revolution, tackling lethal air pollution, and complementing renewables and energy efficiency.

“To make the most of the potential for these cutting-edge technologies, the government should also increase its support for ever-cheaper wind and solar. Then we can maintain global leadership in clean energy technologies, whilst providing energy security, new jobs and lower bills.”

The UK government also today released its policy paper Upgrading our energy system: smart systems and flexibility plan. This outlines 29 actions that the government, Ofgem and industry will take to remove barriers to smart technologies, enable smart homes and businesses and improve access to energy markets for new technologies and business models. It estimates that this could help consumers save up to £40bn off their energy bills in the coming decades.

Article by Neil Clark

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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