20 June 2016

The future of energy

Innovative mid-market firms are revolutionising battery technology, increasing efficiencies across the entire business world. How are UK firms investing in the future of energy?

International Festival for Business 2016

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Recent years have seen an influx of investments within the global battery and portable energy sectors, underlining a desire for greater sustainability and efficiency within this space.

While battery R&D may not have the cultural appeal of wearables or cloud technologies, it is difficult to understate the importance of advancements in this field, considering the widespread use of batteries and mobile devices around the globe.

Large investors are now waking up to this realisation and have pledged support to UK firms working towards disruptive energy solutions, many of which have far-reaching implications for business and consumer alike.

Funding commercial disruption in the UK

Creating truly disruptive battery technology requires advancements in reducing costs, improving durability and increasing the amount of energy held within the device.

UK tech firms Nexeon, Oxis Energy and Faradion are currently researching to create a solution that ticks all three of these boxes, although such technology must be commercialised and available to businesses if it is to have a truly sustainable impact.

George Crabtree, Director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) in the US explains that having strong connections with manufacturing companies is a vital step towards commercialisation, particularly at prototype stage.

"They are going to analyse it from a business plan point of view. Does this prototype have a market? Is there a way to make a profit out of it?" Crabtree says.

"Working with them in the final stages of making our best prototype means they know in advance what it can do and what we're talking about, and allows them to give us critical advice."

Investing in energy infrastructure

Crabtree explains that the JCESR is researching two prototype batteries for use in transportation and the electricity grid, which will offer five times the energy density of current batteries at a fifth of the cost, within five years.

These potentially world-changing projects are being funded to the tune of US$120m, and could further the replacement of gasoline engine cars with electric models. This would potentially mean swapping foreign oil dependency with a greater need for domestic electricity.

To facilitate this demand JCESR's second battery prototype will enable power grids to store electricity and redistribute it when required, which is an ability they currently lack.

Sustainable business development

Crabtree's projects are indicative of technological breakthroughs in the battery space, in that one disruption may have knock on effects across other sectors. However, such seismic changes will not occur overnight and are the result of incremental advancements.

Dr Gregory Offer, a member of the Electrochemical Science and Engineering group at Imperial College, London concludes, "Advances with the current generation of lithium ion batteries are likely to be incremental.

"Therefore, new chemistries are needed for the game changers in the battery industry, such as doubling energy density, or halving costs. But new chemistries take many years to scale up, so even small incremental improvements are hugely valuable in a multi-billion dollar industry."

The technology sector is inching closer to realising a truly sustainable world, and the UK plays home to many innovative companies leading this charge.

They are going to analyse it from a business plan point of view. Does this prototype have a market? Is there a way to make a profit out of it?

George Crabtree, Director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR)

Key takeaways

Key takeaways

  1. Establishing good working relationships with multiple manufacturers and partners has opened many doors for JCESR, giving it flexibility and the channels to discuss new ideas.
  2. Enhanced battery technology can open up new business opportunities as efficiency and consumer demand shape the market. Where does your prototype fit in?

Have you considered the commercial or business needs for your prototype? Manufacturers will analyse the market viability of a new product and its propensity to turn a profit.

For further information about trading internationally, visit the HSBC Connections Lounge at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool where an HSBC Trade Specialist will be on hand to answer your questions or call +44 (0)800 78 31 300.

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