Faraday Institution to lead UK Government’s Ayrton Challenge on Energy Storage

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UK international development funding for new energy storage research and development will support clean energy delivery in emerging economies


HARWELL, UK (15 August 2023) The Faraday Institution has been appointed to lead the Ayrton Challenge on Energy Storage (ACES) under the UK Government’s £1 billion Ayrton Fund.

ACES will leverage the UK funding, as well as the expertise and partnerships of British scientists and innovators, to deliver the latest cutting-edge energy storage technology for developing countries. Currently, 675 million people globally lack access to electricity and many more suffer from unreliable supplies. Energy storage is key to enhance reliability of energy supply, as well as to reduce emissions and meet global climate change targets.

As part of ACES, the Faraday Institution will lead a research and development programme to March 2027, focused on expanding energy access, facilitating emissions reductions, and supporting energy transitions in developing countries. The programme will lead on development of improved and lower cost battery energy storage systems. This will help maximise power availability from low-carbon, renewable energy sources, supporting the displacement of expensive and polluting fossil fuel-based back up generation, reducing carbon emissions, air pollution and negative health impacts.

The £5 million R&D programme is part of a wider co-ordinated ACES package of at least £25m across a range of partners for skills development, technology accelerators, and venture and market building activities. Innovations will reduce the cost and improve the performance of energy storage systems for static off- and weak-grid, and e-mobility solutions in target countries.

Professor Charlotte Watts, the FCDO Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of Research said:

“Energy storage is absolutely central to tackling global climate change and expanding access to clean and reliable energy for all. Our International Development Strategy and Integrated Review Refresh are clear about the importance of climate innovation.

“We are scaling-up UK research and innovation support internationally via the Ayrton Challenge on Energy Storage. Expanded research partnerships to develop new battery options to meet the needs of developing countries and use readily available resources, will help minimise costs and environmental impacts, and be essential to delivering sustainable and affordable clean energy.”

The Ayrton Fund aims to accelerate the clean energy transition in developing countries, by creating innovative clean energy technologies and business models, supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, and especially progress on Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG7) and Climate Action (SDG13).

The energy storage elements of the Zero Emission Generators (ZE-Gen) initiative form part of ACES, which was first launched by the UK at COP27, and which aims to advance renewable energy-based alternatives to fossil-fuelled generators.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) jointly manage the Ayrton Fund through ongoing, new, and scaled-up clean energy platforms and programmes.

As the UK’s expert institution on energy storage R&D, the Faraday Institution will coordinate with partners including Shell Foundation, Acumen, the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), UCL and Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst, as well as a range of academic and industry leaders. ACES builds on the UK’s existing partnership with the wider global movement for energy access, through the extensive networks of the FCDO’s Transforming Energy Access (TEA) platform.

The Faraday Institution will directly lead the following activities as part of ACES:

  1. Support the development of battery energy storage systems (BESS) solutions through strategic research partnerships. Working with, for example, the World Bank, the Global Battery Alliance, and organisations in the target regions, research will be commissioned to provide insights into the environmental, political, financial and social contexts for any BESS technological interventions. This will support their applicability and inform activities and partnerships across the Ayrton Fund portfolio and beyond.
  2. Deliver a research programme to improve performance and lower cost for BESS. The significantly higher capital cost of current BESS solutions compared to widely used fossil fuel generators represents a significant barrier to their adoption. This programme will deliver research into battery technologies, such as sodium ion, zinc air and flow batteries, to drive down the capital cost of BESS solutions and improve safety, sustainability and performance. It will actively seek to encourage partnerships and collaborations with researchers from the global south.

The R&D programme will include:

a. Seed studies. Short research projects to rapidly screen out less promising research directions and funnel more promising research at low technology readiness levels in to other initiatives described below. A call for proposals will be issued in September 2023 to select the first round of seed projects.

b. Collaborative industry / university research projects. Up to five larger research projects will be initiated to deliver technologies to a level where they can be deployed in the field in partnership with, for example, ZE-Gen. This will include funding for part of the NEXGENNA research project on sodium-ion batteries, leveraging Faraday Institution’s core funding. Further projects will be awarded after an open call in Q2 2025/26.

c. Industry sprints. Up to four short projects to solve a well-defined research challenge relevant to an industry partner that could accelerate technological breakthroughs and commercialisation.

  1. Facilitate the deployment of BESS solutions. ZE-Gen, convened by the Carbon Trust and Innovate UK and including partners like the Shell Foundation and Cross Boundary’s Innovation Lab, may provide an important pathway to impact through deploying in target communities at least two proof-of-concept demonstrators of promising technologies identified in the research programme.
  2. Capability building. To enable knowledge transfer, enhance education and skills, and support successful technology deployment, capability building initiatives will be delivered across target regions. This is expected to include the creation of an online community of African battery professionals, and Masters to PhD enrichment activities, in collaboration with the TEA Learning Partnership.
  3. Provide BESS domain expertise and lead the ACES Strategic Leadership Group (SLG). Supported by the Carbon Trust, the Faraday Institution will convene partners engaged across the Ayrton Fund portfolio whose work is aligned with and directly contributing towards researching, developing and using energy storage technology solutions. The forum will facilitate coordination and collaboration, with initiatives likely to include the joint commissioning of studies and research, and organisation of joint dissemination events. The SLG will initially include members from: Aceleron Energy, University of Oxford, World Bank, Shell Foundation, Acumen, InnovateUK, Carbon Trust, and the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero.

These plans build on work already delivered by the Faraday Institution and its research partners since 2019 and as part of the Ayrton Fund over the last two years. For example:

“Selecting the Faraday Institution as the lead for the Ayrton Challenge on Energy Storage will leverage the strength of our research community, and our policy and skills expertise, to deliver, at pace, a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary effort,” comments Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution.

“The Faraday Institution is well positioned to effect global change. Decarbonising electricity provision in communities in the global south with low or no connectivity is a multi-faceted challenge. Working collaboratively with multiple partners, ACES will move the dial, bringing reliable access to clean energy sources to communities, changing lives and livelihoods.”

Logos for UKaid for the British people and Transforming Energy Access


Notes to Editors

About the Faraday Institution

The Faraday Institution is the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research, skills development, market analysis, and early-stage commercialisation. Bringing together expertise from universities and industry, the Faraday Institution endeavours to make the UK the go-to place for the research and development of new electrical storage technologies for both the automotive and wider relevant sectors. Headquartered at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, the Faraday Institution is a registered charity with an independent board of trustees, and a delivery partner for the Faraday Battery Challenge.

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

About the Ayrton Fund

The Ayrton Fund is a commitment by the UK Government to spend up to £1 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) on the research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of clean energy technologies and business models for developing countries over five years (2021-2026). This includes the partnerships and associated skills needed to deliver Sustainable Development Goals 7 and 13. The Ayrton Fund is managed and delivered jointly between the FCDO, DESNZ and DSIT, via a portfolio on ongoing, new, and scaled-up clean energy innovation programmes

About FCDO Research and Development

The UK is committed to being a global science and tech leader and partner. Science, tech, research and data have a vital role to play in helping deliver against our mutual development priorities and contribute to resilience by tackling global challenges, from climate change to health threats. The FCDO’s global research, science and technology partnerships harness UK science excellence to accelerate progress on global challenges and deliver diplomatic impact. FCDO invests in mission-driven R&D, which includes ODA and non-ODA investments, to enhance FCDO development and diplomatic impact, delivering development benefits to millions. It generates and uses research analysis and evidence and deploys scientific and technical expertise to drive effective FCDO delivery.

About the Transforming Energy Access platform
Transforming Energy Access (TEA) is the flagship FCDO research and innovation programme supporting early-stage testing and scale-up of innovative technologies and business models that accelerate access to affordable, clean energy for poor households, enterprises, and social institutions in developing countries across sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Indo-Pacific. This includes support to innovations across the three Ayrton Fund themes of clean supply, super-efficient demand and smart delivery, as well as integration of solutions across the three. In late 2021, a £126m scale-up of the platform was announced at COP26, further advancing TEA into a major delivery platform for the Ayrton Fund focused on delivering innovations enabling a Just Transition for the 733 million people who still lack access to electricity, the 2.4 billion people who cook using fuels detrimental to their health and the environment. Ayrton funding to the Faraday Institution, and Zero-Emissions Generators (ZE-Gen), is delivered via TEA.


About ZE-Gen

Zero Emission Generators (ZE-Gen) aims to advance renewable energy-based alternatives in countries that currently depend on fossil-fuelled generators. ZE-Gen was first launched at COP27 in November 2022.

Reliance on fossil fuel generators comes at a huge financial, environmental and social cost. Viable alternatives do exist but, despite the benefits these offer, the reach of these solutions is extremely limited.

ZE-Gen will enable the replacement of millions of polluting and expensive fossil-fuelled generators by accelerating the transition to renewable energy-based alternatives. It is a collaborative, cross-sector initiative to tackle barriers, accelerate innovation and fund activities to build a thriving, competitive market for alternatives. ZE-Gen has an initial commitment of over £15 million, with the ambition to seed a wider £100 million partnership.

About the Clean Energy Innovation Facility (CEIF) Platform

Accelerate-to-Demonstrate (A2D) Facility:

At COP27, the Prime Minister announced a new £65.5m Accelerate-to-Demonstrate (A2D) Facility (2023-2029), which focuses on accelerating the commercialisation of innovative clean energy solutions in key thematic areas, such as clean hydrogen, critical minerals and cross-cutting energy transitions themes, including energy storage. The A2D Facility, delivered through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), is a key part of delivering the UK’s £1bn Ayrton Fund ODA commitment for accelerating clean energy innovation in developing countries, which contributes to the UK’s £11.6bn international climate finance pledge. The A2D Facility is in the set-up phase and further information will be available in early-2024.

Energy Storage Innovation Fund under the Clean Energy Innovation Facility (CEIF) 1.0 Programme:

The UK’s £7.3m Energy Storage Innovation Fund (2019-2021) under the £50m Clean Energy Innovation Facility (CEIF) 1.0 Programme (2019-2024) focused on accelerating the commercialisation of innovative clean energy solutions for energy storage in developing countries. The Fund was delivered through Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme and contributed to the UK’s Mission Innovation commitment to double spend on energy innovation in 2020/2021 and UK’s £1bn Ayrton Fund ODA commitment. 20 projects were supported, and activities included pilot demonstration, knowledge sharing events and capacity building in countries across Africa, such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa with 100% of projects advancing at least one Technology Readiness Level, leveraging £6.4m of private finance with all projects demonstrating potential for scalability of innovative technologies in supported developing countries.

The Faraday Battery Challenge at UK Research and Innovation is delivered by Innovate UK. The Challenge is making the UK a science and innovation superpower for batteries, supporting the UK’s world-class battery facilities along with growing innovative businesses that are developing the battery supply chain for our future prosperity. Its aim is to build a high-tech, high-value, high-skill battery industry in the UK.

Posted on August 15, 2023