The concept of the Faraday Institution (FI) was proposed to Government in 2016 by Peter Bruce, University of Oxford, Stephen Heidari-Robinson, previously Special Advisor on energy to the Prime Minister and Ryan Bayliss, then a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. They put forward the idea that in the strategically important area of batteries, an institute was required that would drive larger, longer-term, mission-inspired and actively managed basic research, fostering collaboration between universities while also bringing universities and industry closer together. They cited the history of basic research leading to step-change in batteries, exemplified by the work of John Goodenough in the UK (that led to him sharing the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2019), as well as the UK’s previous failure to capitalise economically on this research prowess and the importance that advances in batteries would have for the future of the automotive sector, UK jobs and the economy.
A meeting of leading UK academics and companies working in this area was held at the Royal Society on 10th January 2017 to shape the initial research programme of the institution. Following the meeting, Sir Mark Walport, then the Government Chief Scientific Advisor and Neil O’Brien, then a No 10 advisor, took forward the case within Government. The Faraday Institution was announced by the Prime Minister on the BBC Andrew Marr show in January 2017. Later in the same year, a group of UK universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, Warwick, Newcastle and Southampton were brought together to progress plans for the Faraday Institution and Peter Littlewood, a University of Cambridge academic and former Director of US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, became the first Chair of the Faraday Institution Board. The consortium agreed from the beginning that the Faraday Institution should fund any UK research institution that could deliver the best results. Many people including the consortium members (too many to name) contributed to the success of launching the Faraday Institution and to them we express our sincere thanks.
The Faraday Institution was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and as a charity in September 2017 and within four months had already launched its first four research projects.
Then, as now the organisataion’s mission is to drive excellence in energy storage research to unleash innovation for the benefit of the UK.
As the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research, skills development, market analysis, and early-stage commercialisation, the Faraday Institution brings together research scientists and industry partners on projects with commercial potential that will reduce battery cost, weight, and volume; improve performance and reliability, and develop whole-life strategies including recycling and reuse.
Simultaneously with the initial discussions about the formation of the Faraday Institution, the UK’s Automotive Council was considering the need for investment in research, development and commercialisation of batteries for electrification of the sector. They recognised that the transition from fossil fuelled powered vehicles to battery powered vehicles was beyond the tipping point and therefore essential for the future health of the automotive sector. This was underlined by the emerging targets for the ban on internal combustion engines (then 2040, now 2030) and what is now expressed as the Net Zero target for 2050. The Faraday Institution became one part of this overall programme, which then became known as the Faraday Battery Challenge (FBC). The other two parts are the collaborative research and development (CR&D) programme led through Innovate UK and the industrialisation programme led through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) (which subsequently launched the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre). David Greenwood, of the University of Warwick and WMG, provided invaluable input in linking the Faraday Institution with industry plans. The full proposal for the FBC was presented to Government in 2017, signed by Peter Bruce on behalf of the UK academic community and Graham Hoare, Director of Global Operations Ford, on behalf of the Automotive Council.
Whilst the Faraday Institution has automotive as its primary focus, it has been the plan, from its inception that the Faraday Institution would also serve other sectors.