To effectively compete in the global race toward electrification, the UK must adopt a strategic approach to foster intelligent, innovative and targeted collaborations. The Faraday Institution was established with a model of application-inspired research, designed to facilitate fruitful partnerships between universities and industry players, to accelerate research out of the lab and onto the path of commercialisation. To do so, it has convened a collaborative community to transcend traditional boundaries between academia and industry, bringing people together to allow the exchange of ideas, tools and techniques whilst emphasising research alignment with industry needs.

In this success story, we explore the ongoing and multi-faceted collaboration between the Faraday Institution community and Fortescue WAE, the Oxfordshire-based technology and engineering services company. This collaboration has yielded substantial benefits for both organisations in terms of:

 

The Faraday Institution values
The Faraday Institution’s model and values underpin the UK battery research community’s ethos in what is a global race to develop next generation technologies ripe for scale up and manufacture. The Faraday Institution values…
• We collaborate
• We are pioneering
• We make a difference

…were chosen to deliver a competitive advantage and drive impact for the UK. The organisation understands the power of collaboration, network building and convening of community.

We collaborate
• We actively collaborate to achieve shared and focused objectives.
• We build connections; within and between project teams, and externally with industry, government, and other influencers.
• We foster a sense of belonging.
• We work together to develop a diverse pool of talent.

 

Establishing research and commercialisation directions

At a research programme level, the Fortescue WAE/Faraday Institution relationship is mutually beneficial and wide reaching. WAE’s presence at the Expert Panel helps to ensure the Faraday Institution’s research portfolio is focused on industry need. In turn, Fortescue WAE benefits from knowledge transfer opportunities and access to the researcher network.

Timeline

2018

Rob Millar, Head of Electrical, Fortescue WAE, appointed as one of the inaugural Faraday Institution Expert Panel Members. ​

As tagged expert panel member for the Multi-scale Modelling project, he meets monthly with project leadership to steer research direction to meet industry need.​

Bi-yearly expert panel meetings: knowledge sharing, and informing strategic research directions across the research portfolio.

2020, 2021, 2023

Networking & knowledge exchange at Faraday Institution Conferences.

2022 – present

Engagement on the set up of the Battery Parameterisation Standard (BPX) and Battery Modelling Standard’s Forum – two important outputs of the Multi-Scale Modelling project.

Rob Millar presenting at the BPX webinar

Image: Rob Millar presenting at the BPX webinar

June 2023

Allan Paterson (formerly Head of Programme Management at the Faraday Institution), joins Fortescue WAE as Head of Battery Development.

As tagged expert panel for the modelling project Rob Millar’s monthly input is invaluable in ensuring the project retains its industry relevance. But his input extends much beyond that, to safety, to new chemistries and beyond, to inform the strategic direction of our entire portfolio of research. In turn, knowledge transfer from Faraday Institution researchers is helping to shaping Fortescue WAE products such as Elysia Battery Intelligence.”
James Gaade, Research Programme Director, Faraday Institution

Fortescue WAE is a world class battery development company that is highly engaged with the Faraday Institution on multiple research topic areas, from pack design to thermal insulating materials to development of new battery chemistries. It’s the type of relationship where we can informally reach out to each other to validate our thinking. Having this type of sounding board is indispensable.”
Ian Ellerington, Technology Transfer Director, Faraday Institution

Collaborative research projects

The mechanisms that enable collaborative research projects between the two organisations are wide ranging from Faraday Institution-funded Industry Sprints, Seed Projects and Industry Fellowships to more informal collaborations that evolve from existing relationships. Strong collaborative links have also been formed between Faraday Institution researchers and Fortescue WAE as part of Faraday Battery Challenge Innovate UK collaborative R&D projects such as WIZer. Here expertise and knowledge from the Multi-scale Modelling project researchers helped WAE develop a new approach to battery management systems, which formed the basis of the launch in April 2023 of the Elysia Battery Intelligence System serving automotive manufacturers, battery asset financiers and fleet operators.

Timeline

Key

September 2018 – March 2022

Faraday Battery Challenge Collaborative R&D project WIZer – developing a new approach to battery management systems. Project benefits from expertise and knowledge from researchers in the Faraday Institution Multi-scale Modelling project at Imperial College London and elsewhere.

August 2018 – June 2021

Fortescue WAE a member of the Collaborative R&D project UK Niche Vehicle Battery Cell Supply Chain led by AMTE Power.

February 2020 – present

Industry Sprint between Prof. Nicole Grobert, University of Oxford and Fortescue WAE on thermal interface materials.

September 2021 – February 2023

Industry Fellowship between Fortescue WAE and Dr Billy Wu and Dr Haijun Ruan, Imperial College London, on derating strategies.

  • Fellowship helps Dr Haijun Ruan secure his first academic position at Coventry University – March 2023.
  • Fellowship helps Dr Billy Wu win an Impact Acceleration Account award at Imperial on battery digital twins – July 2023. 

June 2022 – June 2023

Collaboration between Imperial College London and Fortescue WAE on improvements to equivalent circuit models, leading to a paper in Applied Energy.

June 2022 – March 2024

Dr Huizhi Wang, Imperial College London, leads a seed project developing a multiphase, multiphysics model of battery failure via thermal runaway in collaboration with Fortescue WAE.

 

November 2022 – present

Melissa He invited to talk on a careers panel for the Faraday Institution ECR Conference. Caught up with Roksana Jackowska (previously met at a cohort tour of Fortescue WAE) leading to conversations within Fortescue WAE and a current collaboration.

 

February 2023 – December 2024

Fortescue WAE a member of the collaborative R&D project ExtrAPower led by Nyobolt.

April 2023

Launch of Fortescue WAE’s Elysia Battery Intelligence System – underpinned by the Multi-scale Modelling and WIZer projects. 

Elysia logo + young researchers in office environment

 

Working with Fortescue WAE has been immensely productive for my team (with 10+ publications from WIZer) and ensured we are applying our skills to solve actual problems that industry faces. Having regular contact with Fortescue WAE, and especially with the team that later became Elysia, meant we could benefit from each other’s experience, often exchanging advice and data. Showcasing meaningful and mutually beneficial collaboration, we continued to work together beyond the end of the project – the last article published together is on a model that targets an industry need and provides a viable solution for battery state estimation.”
Dr Monica Marinescu, Imperial College London and Co-investigator on the Faraday Institution’s Multi-scale Modelling Project

The Faraday Institution and its research community have welcomed industry collaboration with a shared enthusiasm to address the barriers to battery electrification. They have been receptive to industry needs and understanding the R&D skills required. The FI collaboration has widened our network, giving us insight into the research/innovation happening across the UK, and facilitated conversations with the researchers and industry partners alike.”
Melissa He, Senior Engineer, Elysia Battery Intelligence from Fortescue WAE

Working with Fortescue WAE has enabled us to frame our research with an industrially relevant lens. Whilst a range of approaches and techniques are possible for battery diagnostics and control, balancing this with real-world practicalities through collaboration with WAE has helped us to make sure our research can easily be adopted by industry.”
Dr Billy Wu, Imperial College London, Industry Fellow, and co-investigator on the Multi-scale Modelling project

To be able to work with a company such as Fortescue WAE, who have extremely interesting problems to solve, gives the research we do a focus and provides the students and researchers a window into industry challenges and research that has real-world impact.”
Emma Kendrick, Professor of Energy Materials and the University of Birmingham, and co-investigator on multiple Faraday Institution projects

We’re really excited to be collaborating closely with Fortescue WAE’s Elysia product development team on the topic of battery modelling, which is core to developing advanced diagnostics algorithms. The partnership will give us access to Fortescue WAE’s broad expertise, understanding of user requirements, and rich test dataset. We will in return be able to demonstrate the advantages of using innovative modelling approaches, bridging between electrochemical and circuit models, to improve health and state estimation. On a personal level we also hugely enjoy working with the Elysia team and particularly appreciate their curiosity, openness, and eagerness to learn together with us.”
Professor David Howey, University of Oxford, and Co-investigator on the Multi-scale Modelling project

Fortescue WAE will provide cell and module test data, which the Imperial team will use as the basis for model validation. Additionally, model development will benefit from WAE’s technical knowledge and industrial experience in design for battery safety. Fortescue WAE is interested in the project’s outcome as, if successful, it has the potential to inform, accelerate and reduce costs associated with battery safety design processes.”
Dr Huizhi Wang, Imperial College London, comments about the seed project she is leading.

Nurturing talent development and recruitment efforts

As Fortescue WAE embarks on large-scale electrification projects the R&D team will need to expand through the addition of 200 new positions at Begbroke, Kidlington and Banbury. This recruitment challenge is anticipated to be significant, with a substantial number of individuals holding PhDs needed. Among all its departments, the battery team stands out for recruiting a higher volume of PhDs, often sourced from their partnerships and networks.

Fortescue WAE anticipates they will need to recruit individuals who can:

  • advance battery technology across various sectors, including energy, transport and manufacturing
  • foster the development of the UK battery value chain
  • gain academic and industrial advantages in both current and next-generation chemistries
  • enhance the role of batteries in contributing to achieving net zero emissions in sectors that include automotive, wider transport, aerospace, grid storage, portable technology
  • facilitate the launch of new technology companies and spinouts

Working together, the talent development initiatives between Fortescue WAE and the Faraday Institution have been mutually beneficial.

By the numbers
Of the 30-strong Fortescue WAE battery R&D team:
6of the team have been previously funded or affiliated with the Faraday Institution
4internship placements at Fortescue WAE from Faraday Institution PhD cohorts
33%hold a PhD
59%have a Masters
28%come from another battery company or start up
20%come directly from studying (PhD/student)
20%come directly from another industry
32%of students have battery experience

Timeline

Key

Key

November 2018 – November 2023

Tours of Fortescue WAE each year for first year PhD cohorts, building awareness of industry opportunities at the start of their PhD training programme.

Cohort 2 at WAE

Image: Faraday Institution PhD cohort 2 at WAE

2020 – 2024

Fortescue WAE provides a PhD top up for a EPSRC Case Award for Waseem Marzook, supervised by Dr Monica Marinescu, Imperial College London on “Characterising thermal performance of Li ion batteries and cell benchmarking in application-relevant conditions”

April 2022

Melissa He, Senior Engineer – Elysia Battery Intelligence, Fortescue WAE, invited to talk at 4th year PhD cohort training. Met Jacob Dean, leading to introductions to Tim Engstrom, an internship, then a full time role for Jacob.

Image: Melissa He

May 2022

Melissa He joins Faraday Institution Training and Diversity Panel. Helps to advise the Faraday Institution on how best to achieve the aims for its career development programmes.

July – September 2022

Jacob Dean (University of Bath, Multi-scale Modelling project) completed a PhD internship at the company, leading to a full time role, Data Scientist, Fortescue WAE, April 2023. Read more.

A photograph of James Dean doing his PhD internship at Elysia.

Image: Jacob Dean at Elysia.

July 2022 and 2023

Fortescue WAE support for Faraday Institution’s sponsorship of Formula Student, raising awareness and excitement of battery engineering as a career path, judging Best EV Powertrain.

Photos of tour of 1st years at WAE

Image: The judges with the Southampton University team at Formula Student, who won the Best Newcomer EV Award in 2022

August 2022

Anna Tomaszewska joins Fortescue WAE as Senior Engineer – Battery Electrochemical Modelling, following a PhD at Imperial College London, funded by Shell, and associated with the Multi-Scale Modelling project.

April – June 2023

Nicole Melzack (University of Southampton) completed a PhD internship with the company.

Nicole Melzack

April 2023

Antti Aitio joins Fortescue WAE as Principal Data Scientist following a PhD at the University of Oxford affiliated to the Multi-scale Modelling Project.

Antti

June – August 2023

Adam Lewis-Douglas (University of Oxford, Multi-scale Modelling Project) completed a PhD internship with the company.

September 2023

Hollie Richards (University of Bath, CATMAT project) began a PhD internship with the company.

Autumn 2023

Niall Kirkaldy, joins Elysia from Imperial College London after working on the WIZer project.

Leaders and participants explain the benefits of the collaboration:

The mutually beneficial partnership between Fortescue WAE and the Faraday Institution is effectively contributing to talent development for the battery sector. Industry tours inspire and provide insights, PhD internships give first-hand industry experience to academic researchers (with potential for future roles) and Fortescue WAE respresentation on a variety of key Faraday Institution panels ensures training and skills programmes are tailored to meet industry need.”
Francesca Long, Head of Education and Talent Development, Faraday Institution

From our experience, we’ve seen huge value from Faraday PhD interns as they can ramp up to productivity much faster than is typical. They bring transferable analytical skills and tend to ‘jump in the deep end’ with a high degree of independence. We’ve also seen a strong cultural fit between Faraday researchers and the Elysia development team in that we share a common vision, a culture of personal empowerment, and the fortitude to break new ground in the battery space.”
Tim Engstrom, Manager for Advanced Battery Technologies, Fortescue WAE

I thoroughly enjoyed the internship with Fortesue WAE. It was the highlight of my PhD, and it would never have happened without the careers event that the Faraday Institution organised or all the work the team have done for the cohort over the years.”
Jacob Dean, former Faraday Institution PhD researcher and now Data Scientist at Fortescue WAE 

During my placement at Fortescue WAE, I was able to explore aspects of battery modelling that weren’t directly part of my PhD and learn from experts in the field. I gained experience of working in the battery industry and have made connections that will help me in my career after I graduate.”
Nicole Melzack, PhD Researcher

The Industry Fellowship between Imperial and Fortescue WAE that collaboratively published a critical review paper on battery lifetime extension supported me in securing my academic position.”
Dr Haijun Ruan, Assistant Professor of Battery Systems, Coventry University

Read more

Read more about how an Industry Fellowship between WAE and Imperial led to the go-to resource for companies seeking how to best use derating strategies to extend battery lifetime.

Read how PhD Researcher Jacob Dean’s internship at WAE led to a permanent job with the company.

Read the Faraday Battery Challenge Innovate UK case study on how the collaborative R&D project WIZer built the foundation for Elysia.

The Faraday Institution welcomes approaches at any time from UK-based companies that wish to become more integrated into Faraday Institution research projects and its community. Contact [email protected] in the first instance.

Case study published February 2024.