Retaining a significant lithium-sulfur battery IP portfolio for the UK

Gelion, the AIM listed Anglo-Australian battery innovator, acquired OXLiD for up to approximately £4.2 million. OXLiD is a UK-based lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery technology developer, dedicated to the development and commercialisation of Li-S batteries for electrified transportation and sustainable energy storage in the electric aviation (drones and eVTOL) and electric vehicle markets.

Gelion sees the acquisition as a way to diversify its battery technology portfolio and quickly establish operations in the UK, which, with the Faraday Institution’s LiSTAR project, it regards as a fertile centre to license intellectual property (IP) and build on the UK’s significant Li-S know-how and research networks. For OXLiD the acquisition provides significant funding that will allow the team to grow and to continue generating home-grown IP. OXLiD is a complementary acquisition for Gelion, providing synergies across the research programmes, IP portfolios and teams.

The high level of support provided by the Faraday Institution, Faraday Battery Challenge 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. Together, Gelion and OXLiD will develop a set of products that are more energy dense, cheaper to produce, made with less resource-intensive raw materials and are safer to operate than existing battery solutions.”
Dr Adrien Amigues, Founder and CEO, OXLiD

OXLiD’s strong relationship with Faraday Institution researchers at blue chip universities across the UK evidences the quality of the business and people behind it, and we are confident that this acquisition provides strong enhancement of the path to market for Gelion’s Li-S technology. The foresight of the UK Government in establishing the Faraday Institution has put UK research at the forefront of battery technology at this critical time. We look forward to supporting and growing all that OXLiD has established and participating as an active member of the great community that has been developed around Faraday and LiSTAR.”
John Wood, CEO, Gelion

The relationship between the Faraday Institution Commercialisation Team and OXLiD is the embodiment of what sets the organisation apart from other research organisations, with its distinctive and flexible commercialisation approach. The team is perfectly positioned to provide strategic and timely support to help UK-based battery companies involved in bringing our research programme’s emerging technologies to market. This particularly applies to technology areas where the UK has a strong position and is well placed to seize opportunities.”
Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution

Multi-faceted Support for OXLiD

In this success story, we explore, via a timeline of activities, the assistance provided by the Faraday Institution, and the wider UK battery innovation ecosystem via the Faraday Battery Challenge and the Advanced Propulsion Centre, to OXLiD. This support has culminated in OXLiD’s successful acquisition by Gelion, safeguarding a robust IP position for Li-S technology within the UK, thereby reinforcing the country’s sovereign capability in this important field. The support encompasses research funding, business mentoring, early-stage commercialisation funding and acceleration, introductions (to potential customers, supply chain partners and investors), talent retention, and access to the community of the 500 Faraday Institution battery researchers.

First some background…

Benefits of lithium-sulfur batteries

To enable the electrification of applications including aerospace, super cars and heavier electric vehicles there is a need to develop batteries that supersede the practical capabilities of lithium-ion batteries. While there are several realistic candidates, lithium-sulfur batteries combine relative technical maturity with practical performance limits that places the technology in a strong position for commercialisation acceleration.

Compared with conventional Li-ion batteries, Li-S cells store more energy per unit weight and can operate in a wider operating temperature range. They may also offer safety and cost improvements, making them an attractive technology for the electrification of flight. However, several major hurdles prevent the widespread use of Li-S that stem from sulfur’s insulating nature, migration of discharge products leading to the loss of active material, and degradation of the metallic lithium anode. Overcoming current limitations in the power density and lifespan of Li-S cells could unlock their use and see their translation from research into prototypes and industry.

The Faraday Institution LiSTAR project

The Faraday Institution LiSTAR project aims to address the research challenges currently preventing the commercialisation of Li-S battery technology. The project is generating new knowledge, materials and engineering solutions, and has an application-guided approach, with dual focus on fundamental research at material and cell level, and an improved approach to system engineering. The consortium is targeting rapid improvements in Li-S technologies, with the aim of securing the UK as the global hub for the research, development and commercialisation of this emergent technology.

The consortium consists of over 40 researchers from multiple disciplines and 10 universities: UCL, Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton, Coventry, Cambridge, Cranfield, Imperial and Surrey, together with NPL, the Aerospace Technology Institute and five industry partners. The project represents an investment of £12.9 million by the Faraday Institution to March 2025, and is led by Professor Paul Shearing of the University of Oxford (formerly UCL).

Timeline

October 2019

Faraday Institution LiSTAR project commences.

OXIS Energy, a UK-based developer and producer of next generation lithium-sulfur cells, was selected as an industry partner at LiSTAR’s inception, and helped to set up the project’s technical targets.

July 2021

Following OXIS Energy entering administration, Johnson Matthey acquires its assets and intellectual property.

July 2021

Dr Adrien Amigues, former Head of Intellectual Property at OXIS Energy, joins the Faraday Institution as Business Development Analyst, on a short term contract to contribute to the preparation of commercialisation plans for the organisation’s research projects via the TSCAN initiative.

Adrien Amigues

January 2022

OXLiD Ltd founded by Adrien Amigues, who recognises the opportunity for a new UK-based entity to develop and commercialise Li-S battery technologies.

As part of the Faraday Institution’s remit to accelerate the commercialisation of research aligned with Faraday Institution projects, the Commercialisation Team commences bi-weekly business mentoring calls with OXLiD, which continue through 2022 and 2023.

March 2022

UCL identifies the opportunity to partner with OXLiD to develop quasi-solid-state Li-S batteries and is an awarded a Faraday Institution Industry Sprint aligned to the LiSTAR project. Quasi-solid-state Li-S technology has the potential to significantly enhance the number of times Li-S batteries can be charged before they reach end of life, the energy they can store per unit volume and the temperature range over which they can operate.

The Sprint is defining a technology roadmap and generating intellectual property for the development and commercialisation of Li-S batteries, providing tools for potentially significant economic benefits to the UK. Researchers are testing and screening potential cathode materials and developing suitable electrolytes for a quasi-solid-state format. The final deliverable will be a demonstration of the best cathode materials identified in commercially relevant high-capacity pouch cells and an evaluation of the maximum potential performance of quasi-solid-state Li-S materials to guide future commercialisation.

The Sprint allows OXLiD and UCL to identify cathode and electrolyte materials able to deliver high energy densities whilst avoiding the use of standard and unsafe Li-S additives such as lithium nitrate.

March 2022

The Faraday Institution Commercialisation Team, through its continued mentorship, introduces OXLiD to Electric Revolution Ventures and the investment company Oxford Science Enterprises. OXLiD secures seed funding from the two investors, which provide ongoing support and advice on OXLiD’s commercial strategy.

October 2022

University of Nottingham partners with OXLiD to host the R&D team in the GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry, following an introduction by the Faraday Institution.

GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry, University of Nottingham

Photo courtesy of University of Nottingham

January 2023

OXLiD is awarded an Innovate UK Faraday Battery Challenge Round 5 project via competitive process to accelerate the development, scale-up and commercialisation of quasi-solid-state Li-S batteries for the automotive market. The project builds on the LiSTAR and Sprint projects and involves partners at the University of Nottingham, UCL, William Blythe, WAE, Exawatt, Emerson and Renwick, and Infineum UK. The project is aiming to develop suitable electrodes, separators, electrolytes, and a cell design, with the aim of combining them in pouch cell format and demonstrating superior performance.

March 2023

Gelion acquires the lithium sulfur and silicon anode patent portfolio (including solid and liquid electrolytes, disordered rock salt, electrode formulation and battery materials recycling) from Johnson Matthey.

May 2023

OXLiD announced as one of 14 UK-based companies in the seventh cohort of the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) initiative, receiving up to £170,000 in funding support, business support and mentoring. The aim of this 17-month programme is for companies to take their early-stage transport technology concept and accelerate the route to market.

June 2023

Gelion approaches OXLiD with an offer of acquisition. The Faraday Institution Commercialisation Team and LiSTAR Principal Investigator support the due diligence process.

2022 – 2023

OXLiD has active and ongoing links with researchers at four UK universities involved with the LiSTAR project. The company holds a license to Oxford IP through Oxford University Innovation. It also holds an exclusive option for a licence agreement for University of Nottingham IP. Further discussions with the other two universities are ongoing, which may lead to further licensing arrangements.

November 2023

Gelion agrees to acquire OXLiD for up to approximately £4.2 million and completes a capital raise on the London AIM exchange, a portion of which is to be used to support OXLiD’s ongoing development effort and growth in the UK-based workforce.

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 November 2023.