In March 2024 the Faraday Institution completed an analysis of the 14 start-ups it has supported. The more established spinouts are thriving, making an impact to the UK battery sector and beyond. Collectively they have grown to 118 employees and have near-term plans to expand to nearly 200. Examples of continued success include scale up of prototypes, product sales to household-name smart phone and car manufacturers and securing new premises. From a Faraday Institution investment of around £1M the companies have secured a 36-fold return in further funding via grants, investment funding, acquisition and product sales (as of March 2024).

Headlines can found in the success story.

Further details of the individual successes of the 14 organisations can be found here, with quotes from founders on the impact of Faraday Institution involvement.

Breathe Battery Technologies, a spin-out from Imperial College London, concentrates on battery system health, charging, cycle life and range. Collaborating with global manufacturers in automotive, robotics and electronics, it will provide the latest version of its charging software for use on Volvo Cars’ new generation fully electric cars. It has partnered with VARTA to enhance their Easy Blade battery series, cutting charge time by 27%. Another collaboration with smartphone maker OPPO aims to double the life of Reno8 Series batteries. As of December 2023, Breathe has expanded to 34 team members.

The Breathe and Volvo teams

The Breathe and Volvo teams.

About:Energy is a joint spin out from Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham. It was set up in January 2022 to help commercialise the battery modelling capability developed by the Faraday Institution’s Multi-scale Modelling project. The company aims to facilitate the use of battery modelling by UK industry, increasing the speed of battery prototype development and giving the organisations it works with a competitive advantage. The company closed a pre-seed funding round in June 2022, employs 14 full time members of staff and collaborates with six research affiliates.

Former CEO of Renault and JLR Thierry Bolloré joined About:Energy as a non-executive director in 2023, pictured here with co-founders Kieran O’Regan (left) and Gavin White (right).

Former CEO of Renault and JLR Thierry Bolloré joined About:Energy as a non-executive director in 2023, pictured here with co-founders Kieran O’Regan (left) and Gavin White (right).

OXLiD specialises in lithium-sulfur battery technologies for the aerospace, maritime and EV sectors. The technology is particularly significant in applications requiring high-performance and lightweight batteries. It has successfully secured seed and subsequent investment, initial research contracts, including collaborating with academic and commercial entities. It was acquired by Gelion in November 2023, securing a significant IP portfolio for the UK.

The high level of support provided by the Faraday Institution, Faraday Battery Chalenge and the Advanced Propulsion Centre has been instrumental in OXLiD’s fast growth and technological success. Partnering with Gelion will accelerate the development and commercialisation of our Li-S battery technology further, which will be vital to support our shift towards a greener society.”

Dr Adrien Amigues, Founder and CEO, OXLiD

Solveteq is a spin-out from Imperial College London focused on the recycling of lead-acid batteries. The firm’s patented low-temperature process aims to cut energy and environmental costs for recycling companies. Solveteq’s technology enhances lead-acid battery recycling by removing high-temperature smelting, reducing energy consumption and emissions. It could help reduce informal lead recycling in some developing regions where vulnerable communities can be affected by lead poisoning and other serious health problems. Solveteq is testing a 6m3, 1kg/h prototype with plans to scale its technology to a 25kg/h pilot demonstrator.

Qdot Technology is a University of Oxford spin-out that focuses on developing scalable and modular propulsion systems for hybrid-electric aircraft. Initially targeting heavyweight drones and small passenger aircraft, Qdot’s products incorporate a patented thermal management technology that enhances battery efficiency and lifespan and scalable and modular propulsion systems that will reduce overall operating costs.

Cognition Energy specialises in thermal management and cell testing to improve battery life and ownership costs. The firm employs eight full-time and three part-time employees and offers an extensive battery cell testing service that assists clients in gathering crucial data for the design and validation of their cells and packs. It has also developed a proprietary CellPod testing product, which is a micro thermal chamber specifically aimed at accurate control of cell temperature during tests.

Cell pod individual cell test chambers manufactured by Cognition Energy.

Cognition Energy’s Cellpods.

Faraday Institution’s initial funding allowed Cognition Energy to be founded, hire its first employees and start work on better testing using prototype CellPods. Further funding was used to help us move out of university labs and into a permanent site during the Covid pandemic.”

Tom Cleaver, Co-founder and CEO, Cognition Energy

Gaussion, a spin out from UCL, is developing its proprietary MagLiB technology that utilises a dynamic magnetic field to accelerate lithium-ion battery charging and extend lifetime. The technology has shown over 60% reduction in charge time in commercial cells while preserving energy and power density. The company is actively seeking commercial partnerships, has raised £2.85 million, grown its headcount to 10 and set up a 3,700 square foot R&D HQ in London.

Tom Heenan with FUSE interns at their central London facility, summer 2023

Tom Heenan with FUSE interns at their central London facility, summer 2023.

The Entrepreneurial Fellowship was the perfect catalyst that allowed the Gaussion founders to obtain sufficient evidence to gain investment and spin-out from the university.”
Dr Tom Heenan, Co-founder and CEO

Altelium started as a spin out from Lancaster University that offered a non-intrusive diagnostic toolkit to inform the insurance industry on battery warranties. The company is aligned with the efforts of the Faraday Institution’s Multi-scale Modelling project. Real time information about battery state of health, enhanced by AI technology, has been packaged in a secure platform that is accessible and practical for customers that need to make investment or operational decisions about EV batteries. Its platform is an integrated management system offering automated pricing, issuance and underwriting of battery insurance products. Latterly, Altelium has focussed on EV battery testing, reporting and extended or enhanced EV battery warranties.

Illumion is commercialising charge photometry, a bench-top optical microscopy technique for examining the internal structures and dynamics of batteries during their operation. The technology aims to simplify and reduce the cost of identifying defects within batteries, as well as speed up the development of new materials. Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, illumion’s solution is agnostic to the underlying battery chemistry and projected to be about four times less expensive than existing solutions, making it appealing for start-ups in battery development.

Ionworks is founded from members of the Multi-scale Modelling Project at the Universities of Warwick, Oxford and University College London. The company aims to speed up the use of physics-based modelling in industry focused on battery R&D. The two product suites the company is working on (Ionworks Lab and Ionworks Studio) aim to make modelling and its outputs more accessible to the wider teams and customers of the battery product developers as well as streamlining workflows and increasing the efficiency of knowledge transfer.

Tom Tranter (left) with other members of the PyBaMM team (upon which Ionworks technology is developed) who were awarded the Faraday Institution Collaboration Award in 2021.

Tom Tranter (left) with other members of the PyBaMM team (upon which Ionworks technology is developed) who were awarded the Faraday Institution Collaboration Award in 2021.

The Faraday Institution has played a crucial role in the foundation of our business. Through our time as researchers we were encouraged to engage with industry, which was made possible through the FI’s excellent conferences and networking opportunities. The fellowship has allowed us to recruit and engage with external software engineers to professionalise our product development so that we are in a good position to seek further rounds of funding and make a high impact with our product releases.”
Dr Tom Tranter, Co-founder and CTO, Ionworks

Polaron originated from Imperial College London in February 2024 and will use generative AI to help companies design higher performing materials. The company’s technology is underpinned by the research of a Faraday Institution PhD researcher as part of the Multi-scale Modelling project. It is developing generative machine learning algorithms that could improve the performance of products such as batteries and wind turbines. The spinout aims to enable manufacturers of advanced materials to accelerate their design process by modelling the complex relationships between processing parameters, the microstructures of the materials produced, and the performance of the resulting products.

Faraday PhD workshops, including the mini MBA, strongly influenced me to pursue an entrepreneurial path after my PhD. Connections to other start-ups from the Faraday Institution provided inspiration and support during the early stages of founding our company.”
Dr Steve Kench, Co-founder and CTO, Polaron

 

Polaron’s AI platform is built on image-based generative AI algorithms, with microstructural image data at its core

Polaron’s AI platform is built on image-based generative AI algorithms, with microstructural image data at its core.

Recovolt is developing a battery discharge system deployed on end-of-life lithium-ion batteries to ready them for battery recycling. He recently completed his PhD at Newcastle University as part of the ReLiB project. By leveraging advanced power electronics and intelligent algorithms the technology can discharge multiple batteries simultaneously – addressing a productivity area identified by the recycling industry. The technology addresses fire risks and captures residual energy that can be used to power facilities.

Mahfuz Kamal

Mahfuz Kamal, founder of Recovolt

TaiSan Energy is pursuing the development of a quasi-solid-state sodium-ion battery based on a gel polymer electrolyte and a sodium metal anode to increase energy density while maintaining industry-standard room-temperature ionic conductivity. The team uses a novel polymerisation method to enable an ideal interface between electrolyte-electrode and that removes the need for a high cell stacking pressure. Early indications show that this approach will be scalable using existing lithium-ion battery production lines.

Sanzhar Taizhan, founder of TaiSan Energy, working at a glove box

Sanzhar Taizhan, founder of TaiSan Energy

Sention, a spin out from University College London, is developing a prototype for a sensitive mapping technique that uses ultrasound to evaluate the physical properties of batteries. Applications include degradation monitoring and quality control during battery manufacture.

Page published April 2024.

Cell testing at Sention

Cell testing at Sention