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Government announces £246m investment in new battery technology

Joseph Flaig

(Credit: alengo/ iStock)
(Credit: alengo/ iStock)

The Government has announced a £246 million investment in battery technology to “establish the UK as world leader” in the sector.

The Faraday Challenge was announced today by business and energy secretary Greg Clark. The quarter-of-a-billion-pound investment will fund research, innovation and up-scaling of new battery technology “to ensure the UK builds on its strengths and leads the world in the design, development and manufacture”. Potential new technologies could include advances with lithium batteries, or approaches with new wonder-materials like graphene.

Ministers hope the challenge, including a virtual £45 million “Battery Institute” to make new technology cheaper and more accessible, will help the country meet emissions targets. The Government aims to cut 80% of carbon emissions by 2050, a key national target to help restrict a global temperature increase to only 2°C.

The advanced technologies will eventually power cars, aircraft, consumer electronics and will store electricity from the grid. “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,” said Clark.

The four-year challenge will involve a programme of competitions covering three areas: research, innovation and scale-up. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will lead the Battery Institute, supporting research into new materials, technologies and manufacturing processes. The most promising work will move closer to market through further collaborative research and development competitions, led by Innovate UK. The Advanced Propulsion Centre will then decide on the best proposition for a new national manufacturing facility.

Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at IMechE, welcomed today’s Government and Ofgem report on smart power. However, research must consider other storage methods alongside batteries, she said.

“The role of batteries in electricity storage is still emerging and it is important that research and development explore whether the materials used in batteries, from extraction to disposal, are sustainable and therefore the best solution for electricity storage,” she said. “It may be that other storage mediums such as gas, compressed air energy storage and water provide a more suitable and sustainable long-term solution.”

The Faraday Challenge will generate jobs and grow the UK’s low-carbon economy, said Innovate UK chief executive Ruth McKernan. “By any scale, the Faraday Challenge is a game changing investment in the UK and will make people around the globe take notice of what the UK is doing in terms of battery development for the automotive sector,” she said. “The competitions opening this week present huge opportunities for UK businesses.”

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