Ilika plc (LON:IKA) Chief Executive Officer Graeme Purdy caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the collaboration with COMAU, plans for scale up, UK BIC and the grant funding from APC.
Q1: Graeme, some great news this morning with the best part of £250,000 of grant funding for the company to carry out a scale up study for Goliath. Why have COMAU and Ilika chosen each other for this study?
A1: Well, on the one hand, COMAU is a very well known industrial plant design and implementation organisation that has got a great track record in the battery industry. They were involved, for instance, in fitting out the Envision AESC facility which manufacturers batteries for the Nissan factory up in the North-East of England so they’ve got a lot of expertise in taking processes and implementing them at significant scale in the battery industry.
On the other hand, we are part of the cohort of leading developers of solid state battery technology around the world and COMAU is clearly keen on working with what they perceive to be the technology leaders in order to give themselves insight into that industry. It’s going to be a really important sector for the battery industry going forward.
Q2: Can you just explain your plan for scaling up Goliath?
A2: We’ve got a three-step process.
The first thing is for us to increase the capacity of our pre-pilot line here in Romsey, we expect to increase that from a kilowatt hour a week up to ten kilowatt hours a week by implementing automation and making sure that we start to transition some of the labour-intensive processes that we currently have through to a more industrial automated process.
Then we’re going to step into the UK BIC and that will move us straight into megawatt hour per year scale so that’s a significant step up.
The next step really is to have a manufacturing partnership whereby we get to gigawatt scale.
Q3: Why are you planning to work with UK BIC rather than build your own facility?
A3: Of course, there’s substantial investment that’s being made in the UK BIC, there’s about £135 million being invested in that facility so far and one of our objectives with Goliath is to make sure that we can leverage existing assets. By that, what I mean is when we design the process for Goliath, we want to make sure that the process impact on existing assets is minimised so it’s easy for adopters of the Goliath technology to take what’s been developed by us and implement it on an industrial scale without having to re-engineer all of the facilities that are already in place when making traditional lithium-ion batteries.
So, it’s great that we can work with an existing facility and it helps us avoid having to make substantial investments in capital equipment at the megawatts hour per year scale so it avoids us having to invest in the order of that £135 million in order to make a coating line for the cells.
Q4: If you’re now planning these scale up activities, does this mean that technical development of Goliath is complete?
A4: No, in fact, technical development of Goliath is ongoing and the team has made great progress over the last 18 months or so.
We have great ambitions for improving the technology further and as a result, we’re continuing to be active over the next couple of years really as we move through that s-curve of technology development intersecting best-in-class lithium-ion battery performance and then becoming the technology of choice for the industry.
Q5: Is it fair to say the Advanced Propulsion Centre, which is managing the grant, tends only to get involved with more mature technologies?
A5: I think it’s a signal that the Goliath technology is becoming more mature because the APC tends to pick up the industrial support baton from Innovate UK and, as you know, Ilika have had substantial grant funding through the Faraday Battery Challenge which is managed by Innovate UK to get us to this point of maturity.
We’re continuing to improve that technology and then scale it up with the help of this APC grant which is indeed awarded for technologies which have already started showing more promise and are moving through the technology readiness level scale to get ready for industrial deployment.