University of Warwick in £65 million battery research initiative

WMG researchers, at the University of Warwick, will be a significant part of a new £65 million national battery research initiative. The Faraday Institution, a new multi-million pound research institute, was announced on Monday 2 October 2017, by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It will drive and accelerate fundamental research in developing battery technologies, and its translation.

The Faraday Institution (FI) will be the UK’s independent, national institute for energy storage research. Funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), the Faraday Institution is part of the coordinated activity between UKRI partners Innovate UK and EPSRC with the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to meet the Faraday Battery Challenge, announced by the government in July, of delivering an integrated programme of research, innovation and the scale-up of novel battery technologies.

The UK’s leading battery researchers in academia worked closely with UK industry to assess the challenges and opportunities, and the seven university founders (Cambridge, Imperial, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton, UCL and the University of Warwick) proposed to charter an independent national Institution as the best way forward. The ambition of the Faraday Institution is to make the UK the go-to place for the research, development, manufacture and production of new electrical storage technologies for both the automotive and the wider relevant sectors.

The Institution will bring together expertise from universities and industry to set out a research strategy for battery technologies and support collaborative research and training programmes across the UK responding directly to this strategy. The FI will operate through a light HQ, to be located in the vicinity of the Harwell Campus, with a satellite office at the APC based at the International Institute of Product and Service Innovation, University of Warwick. The Institution will be managed as a non-profit organisation with an independent board of trustees.

Over the last decade WMG, at the University of Warwick, has been working and investing in battery technologies and is now home to the National Battery Scale-Up Facility and the APC spoke in Electrical Energy Storage. WMG Professor Dave Greenwood, a founding board member of the Faraday Institution, and WMG research teams work in collaboration with industry researching energy and batteries in areas including; electrochemistry, cell manufacturing, pack design and control, and recycling of materials. WMG has an education pathway focusing on skills from young people in the WMG Academy for Young Engineers, through industrial upskilling on degree apprenticeships, and up to executive postgraduate level.

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, Chairman of WMG and Regius Professor of Manufacturing said:

“I’m delighted that the Government have announced the plans for the Faraday Institution which will further establish the UK as a leader in energy and battery R&D. Not only will this support the Industrial Strategy, it will lead the change in this industry sector. We at WMG have a long track record of working jointly with industry to innovate, and as leaders in battery development. We are driving forward battery innovation and helping to create growth and employment in the UK.

Professor Pam Thomas, is a founding board member and trustee of The Faraday Institution and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, she comments:

“This is an exciting opportunity for the UK’s research community. This step change in energy storage research will be crucial for the UK’s transportation infrastructure as policy makers and manufacturers plan for a rapid increase in our use of batteries.”

The Institution will have a budget of £65 million over four years. This will be used to set up the Institution, to establish a battery technology training programme, and to fund a series of research challenge projects carried out in the academic sector under the Faraday Institution’s direction.

The first four projects the Institution will invest in will look at: mitigating degradation processes to extend battery life; designing better battery systems through multi-scale modelling; inventing the solid-state batteries industry desires to permit longer driving range; ensuring a sustainable industry through recycling and second life.

The Institution will build a comprehensive training programme to provide skills across the battery technology space from PhD training to industrially-focused professional development programmes, upskilling apprentices and entrepreneurship training and fellowship opportunities.

The founding executive chair for the Faraday Institution will be Peter Littlewood, Professor of Physics at the University of Chicago, former Director of the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, and former Head of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge England. He said:

“Michael Faraday founded battery science and electrical engines in the 19th Century, and the UK led the invention of Li-ion batteries for mobile electronics in the 20th. In the 21st it should lead in the transition to electrification of vehicles, and then in the convergence of the digital and electrified economy. This is the goal of the Faraday Institution.”

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