A Cambridgeshire battery recycling business is about to begin working with a South Korean company on an innovative cleantech process for recovering valuable metals from electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
A visit to South Korea organised by Enterprise Europe Network through the Global Business Innovation Programme created the opportunity for Aurelius Environmental, which has won £620,000 in Eureka network funding to pursue the project.
Aurelius, which has a research base in Cambridge and a low-impact lead acid battery recycling operation at Tipton in the West Midlands, has teamed up with Cellgen Co Ltd to develop a lithium-ion battery recycling demonstrator.
The companies were introduced at a matchmaking event during the visit to South Korea in September 2018.
Cellgen will supply lithium recovery technology to Aurelius, to be incorporated within a comprehensive process for EV battery re-use and recycling.
Recruiting to meet R&D needs
This will include testing, dismantling and destruction of battery packs using technology developed and/or sourced by Aurelius in partnership with the University of Cambridge.
The company, established in 2014, grew into a £5 million-plus turnover business within three years and is on the way to doubling that figure. It employs more than 20 people. Securing the project has required the company to expand its team by 2 key personnel to meet R&D needs that came from the GBIP and successful bid for Eureka grant funding.
Dr Athan Fox, Technology Director at Aurelius Environmental, said: “Electric transport systems will rely heavily on battery and critical raw materials supply chains. We are well placed to be a key player in these fields.
“As the EV batteries reach end-of-life in the UK over the course of the next decade, raw materials such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and more must be extracted, recycled and reused.”
Funded programme of support
Once selected for the GBIP, Aurelius benefited from an intensive package of support, learning how to pitch to would-be partners and investors, receiving advice on cultural aspects and tailored support to meet the company’s specific demands and needs.
Since the GBIP EEN has introduced Aurelius to delegates from a more recent GBIP cohort, in particular Aspire Engineering.
Aspire has applied for funding through the Eurostars programme to partner with Aurelius on a battery project alongside South Korean company ECOPRO, a specialist in low-impact waste management processes.
That Eureka project will support innovation in recycling end-of-life catalysts used in the petrochemical industries, making the process more efficient, whilst using less water and operating at a lower cost than the current process.
After also taking part in a battery technology visit to Israel organised by EEN, Aurelius became an agent of ALGOLiON, an Israeli company which has developed software to predict defects in lithium-ion batteries up to one week before these defects lead to a fire or explosion.
This technology is likely to be crucial in accelerating future development of the battery recycling process for Aurelius and Aspire Engineering.
Read more about Enterprise Europe Network and Innovate UK's Global Business Innovation Programme.
These and other collaboration opportunities are accelerating our international growth. The support of EEN has been crucial in opening doors and making the right connections at the right time.”
Dr Athan Fox, Technology Director, Aurelius Environmental