In April 2020, the Faraday Institution awarded its 5th Entrepreneurial Fellowship to Tom Heenan, a Faraday Institution Research Fellow that works at UCL's Electrochemical Innovation Lab, and who is a member of the Faraday Institution's Degradation Project. The other four Entrepreneurial Fellowships announced to date are:
• Tom Cleaver, and the team at Cognition Energy - a physics-based approach to developing high performance batteries with a particular focus on thermal management to extend life and reduce ownership cost (photograph above).
• Ola Hekselman (Department of Materials, Imperial College London), Solveteq – Sustainable Lead Recycling.
• Jack Nicholas and Tsun Holt Wong (University of Oxford), Qdot – Cutting Edge Heat Transfer Technology.
These fellowships have been set up to facilitate the creation of new business opportunities that have emerged from Faraday Institution research programmes or closely related activities. They provide seed funding, business support and mentoring to maximise the potential of success and accelerate the spin-out process.
“Developing an idea into a technology that impacts the market and delivers societal benefits is difficult,” said Ian Ellerington, Head of Technology Transfer, the Faraday Institution. “Complex technical challenges, long development cycles and expensive equipment can be significant hurdles for even the most determined innovators to overcome. The goal of our scheme is to give some of the brightest entrepreneurs in the battery space the best chance of success. We were delighted with the strength of the applications received in this first round.”
“To meet the global challenges in energy supply and sustainability we need to support a culture of innovation that combines the risk-taking spirit of entrepreneurs with the expertise and capabilities of national research programmes such as ours,” continues Neil Morris, CEO of the Faraday Institution. “The more we drive technologies into applications and successful businesses that change manufacturing, the more the UK can realise the benefits of that innovation through job creation, economic growth and global competitiveness.”
Tom Heenan, UCL
Tom Heenan has been awarded a £100K Entrepreneurial Fellowship for his project on ‘Enabling The Fast-Charging Of Automotive Batteries’. This fellowship will support his time and the purchase of essential equipment and consumables that will be required in order to realise this timely commercialisation opportunity. The novelty of this project originates in patented charging-enhancement technology, the IP protection of which was supported by UCLB plc and UCL Innovation and Enterprise. Along with Tom, co-inventors are Chun Tan, Paul Shearing and Dan Brett. The technology has been in development for several years and has already demonstrated charging time reductions of over 60% in commercial cells. The Fellowship aims to propel the technology into commercial battery applications, from cordless power tools to electric vehicles.
Cognition Energy was founded by Tom Cleaver, Dr Yatish Patel, Dr Greg Offer and Prof Peter Cawley. The group is taking a physics-based approach to developing high performance batteries with a particular focus on thermal management to extend life and reduce ownership cost. Their concept solution includes an innovative thermal management system, a custom battery management system, improved safety and a design that is both easy to manufacture and recycle.
The Faraday Institution entrepreneurial fellowship has allowed Cognition to take on its first employees to develop a small prototype battery that can be tested and demonstrated to customers for use in their applications. Target markets include commercial robotics and electric aviation with a longer term aim to expand to the vehicle and grid sectors. Shown in the photo (from left to right) are Tom Cleaver, Waseem Marzook, Bertie Boakes and Alex Holland, who are building the prototype.
Breathe Battery Technologies
Breathe is an independent start-up founded by Yan Zhao and Ian Campbell, both of whom are completing their PhDs in Dr Greg Offer’s group at Imperial College London. They are targeting a step reduction in the charging time of batteries by replacing widely-used static charging algorithms used in existing battery management systems. By adapting the charging process to the unique, evolving health of every battery, the researchers believe they can unlock substantial latent performance. Health-adaptive charging could also potentially increase battery lifetime and decrease battery cost. The start-up has received backing from Climate-KIC and the Imperial Enterprise Lab, where the duo were recently winners of the Energy & Environment category of the Venture Catalyst Challenge.
The researchers are targeting the consumer electronics market, with its short qualification periods, as a proving ground for its longer-term focus of electric vehicles. The Faraday Institution funding will allow the team to refine its business and pricing strategy and make progress along its technical roadmap to develop and demonstrate a product to satisfy early adopters in the consumer electronics market. Funding will predominantly be used for salaries and to purchase software licences and equipment.
Solveteq’s co-founder, Dr Ola Hekselman, is developing a new, low-energy, low-pollution, potentially low-cost chemical alternative to current smelting processes for lead-acid battery recycling. It produces lead oxides, which are commodities that can be directly used in the production of new batteries. Despite the rise of Li-ion batteries, lead acid batteries are still present in hybrid and electric vehicles and with emerging applications such as grid energy storage, no decline in their use is expected in the near future.
The research originates from RELAB, an EPSRC-funded research project. Proof of concept has been established at the lab scale, and the intellectual property has been captured by a pending patent. Solveteq’s plans have benefited from Imperial’s Techcelerate entrepreneurial programme, mentoring from Imperial Venture Mentoring Service and business coaching from the College’s Business School MBA programme.
This entrepreneurial fellowship will fund personnel costs, equipment purchases, consumables and travel for the 12-month duration of the award. During this time Solveteq will aim to scale up the process from gram scale to multi-kilogram scale and to optimise the process at the greater scale. In the longer term, the same process could be used to tackle the challenge of recycling other battery types.
Qdot is a University of Oxford spin-out developing cutting edge heat transfer technology to solve some of the world’s most challenging thermal engineering problems. The three co-founders of Qdot – Dr. Jack Nicholas, Dr. Holt Wong & Prof. Peter Ireland – are aiming to apply the company’s patented heat transfer technology to achieve a step change in the re-charge rate of Li-ion batteries. Applied to EVs, Qdot aims to increase the re-charge rate from 6 miles/min to over 15 miles/min.
Qdot’s heat transfer technology was originally developed for applications in a nuclear fusion tokamak, where heat loads can be in excess of 10 MW per square metre and the temperatures are over 100 million kelvin. The aim of the twelve-month entrepreneurial fellowship is to develop a prototype thermal management system, based on this technology, to achieve extremely fast charging at the battery cell level. Future research would then look at expanding this to a battery module, and then pack, level. Qdot would initially look to market its technology in the EV sector, particularly in applications that demand high availability.
About the entrepreneurial fellowships – ongoing application process
The Faraday Institution expects to award approximately five fellowships per year. Applications may be submitted at any time by completing a short application form and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Periodically, the Faraday Institution will convene an assessment panel to review applications. Any questions about the scheme should be directed to Ian Ellerington (01235 425124).
Entrepreneurial Fellowships are offered with funding in the range of £50,000 to £100,000. Fellowships are available for a period of 3-12 months to reflect the needs of each opportunity. The Faraday Institution intends to help the groups it funds by providing, amongst other support, mentoring, publicity, facilitating introductions to researchers and industry partners (within and external to its research projects), to other potential funders and potential customers, and by sharing insights into the competitive environment.
Applicants must be UK researchers who wish to create or investigate the possibility of creating businesses through spinning out technology from Faraday Institution research projects. The organisation also considers applications from recent spin-outs or research teams developing technology related to the Faraday Institution’s scope of energy storage and conversion.
Applications are judged by a panel assembled from Faraday Institution managers and independent advisors with expertise in seed capital funding of technology innovations. The panel assesses the potential for creating a successful business in support of the Faraday Institution mission. Factors considered in making funding decisions include:
• The likelihood of there being a market and the market size.
• The technical potential of the innovation.
• The strength of the team and support from their home institution.