Faraday Institution commits a further £22.6m to battery research to deliver commercial impact

The Faraday Institution has announced a £22.6m commitment to build on its momentum in four key research challenges: extending battery life, battery modelling, recycling and reuse and solid-state batteries.

In doing so, and by strengthening the Harwell, Oxfordshire-based organisation’s commercialisation team and strategy, it is further focusing on those areas of battery research that offer the most potential to deliver commercial impact for the UK. 

Recognising its importance in the Faraday Institution’s research agenda, a focused research project on battery safety has been assembled, integrating research previously carried out in several different projects. 

The Faraday Battery Challenge is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, overseen by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is designed to ensure that research and innovation take centre stage in the government’s Industrial Strategy.

With investment into the Faraday Battery Challenge of £318 million between 2017 and 2022, the challenge aims to support a world-class scientific, technology development and manufacturing scale-up capability for batteries in the UK.

The challenge is focused on developing cost-effective, high-performance, durable, safe and recyclable batteries to capture a growing market.

Launched just three years ago, the Faraday Institution has convened a research community of over 450 researchers across 21 universities and a set of 50 industry partners to work on game-changing energy storage technologies that will transform the UK energy landscape from transportation to grid. 

Minister for Investment Gerry Grimstone said: “The Faraday Institution’s vital research into energy storage is pivotal for meeting our net-zero commitments, particularly as we shift to low-emissions transport on our roads and in our skies. I’m delighted that we’re continuing to support their valuable work as part of our commitment to strengthen the UK’s science and research sector, ensuring we build back greener from the pandemic.” 

“The Faraday Institution has been operating as a vibrant successful start-up organisation, growing rapidly and achieving a great deal,” commented Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution. “With our projects maturing and now delivering scientific discoveries we have bolstered our commercialisation team and capability and strengthened our commercialisation strategy. In doing so we are directing even more effort towards those areas of battery research that offer the maximum potential of delivering commercial, societal and environment impact for the UK.”

The Faraday Institution is the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research, skills development, market analysis and early-stage commercialisation. It drives early stage, industry-inspired research with a clear mission: make significant scientific breakthroughs in battery research and put them on a path to commercialisation in the global race to electrification for the benefit of the UK. 

Commercialisation strategy

The Faraday Institution’s commercialisation team, under the leadership of the soon to be announced Head of Commercialisation, will work with research leaders to identify and target market opportunities that the UK is in a strong position to capitalise upon. The team will also: convene and formalise industrial collaborations as a route to commercialise breakthrough science emerging from research programmes, seeding the UK battery supply chain where appropriate; develop and deliver technology roadmaps; source resources, facilities, personnel and funding; and strengthen intellectual portfolio planning.

Project funding

The £22.6m announced today will fund refocused research projects, including targeting market opportunities and early-stage commercial development, in the following areas:
•    extending battery life, led by Prof Clare Grey, University of Cambridge, with researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Warwick, Imperial College London and UCL. 
•    battery modelling, led by Dr Gregory Offer, Imperial College London, with researchers from the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Lancaster, Oxford, Portsmouth, Southampton, Warwick and UCL.
•    recycling and reuse (ReLiB), led by Dr Paul Anderson, University of Birmingham, with researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Leicester, Newcastle and UCL.
•    solid-state batteries (SOLBAT), led by Prof Peter Bruce, University of Oxford, with researchers from the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield, Warwick and UCL.
•    battery safety (SafeBatt), led by Prof Paul Shearing of UCL, with researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Newcastle, Sheffield, Warwick, Imperial College London and UCL.

Research in these five areas will progress over the next two years to 31 March 2023, subject to funding renewal of the Faraday Institution itself beyond March 2022.

Battery safety project

Safety control and countermeasures are built into the design of today’s Li-ion battery systems, but this adds complexity, cost and weight. As the use of Li-ion batteries expands into automotive, stationary storage, aerospace and other sectors there is a need to decrease the risks associated with battery usage further, and to enable the simplification of safety systems.

The Faraday Institution’s SafeBatt project will advance these aims by taking an integrated approach to understanding the “science of battery safety” at multiple scales, from materials development and cell degradation to a battery systems level, integrating safety considerations through the lifetime of the battery.

The team will improve the fundamental understanding of the root causes of cell failure and the underlying physics governing failure propagation that can lead to fires. It will also investigate the environmental consequences of fires involving lithium-ion batteries, inform the further development of fire sensing and protection systems for warehouse storage and battery energy storage systems and help develop a consensus around the optimal method of fighting lithium-ion battery fires.

The reshaping of the projects was a complex process that involved senior researchers, industry experts, EPSRC, and a panel of internationally recognised independent experts. Focus was placed on how best to strengthen the UK’s position in electrochemical energy storage research and make UK industry more competitive, building on the foundations of the three years of investigation already performed.

The Faraday Institution research programme also encompasses large, coordinated research programmes on next generation cathode materials, electrode manufacturing, lithium-sulfur batteries and sodium ion batteries, as well as smaller projects on developing new methods for battery characterisation, batteries suitable for use in energy storage solutions in emerging economies, and industry and entrepreneurial fellowships. 

For more information on the Faraday Institution, visit www.faraday.ac.uk and follow @FaradayInst on twitter.

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