British Lithium has secured a £2.9m Innovate UK grant to build a pilot lithium extraction plant, accelerate its route to commercialisation and provide critical natural resources to boost the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing industry.
British Lithium’s pilot plant will produce samples tailored to individual customer requirements. Once tested and proven, the company aims to begin full-scale production of 21,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate a year within the next three to five years.
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas that can significantly impact the UK economy. While proposals must be business focused, applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy, such as: the arts, design and media; creative industries; or science or engineering.
Access to high-quality lithium is projected to be a key factor in the international race to build EV battery gigafactories.
“America, China and Europe all desperately want to attract EV plants,” said Roderick Smith, Chairman of British Lithium. “The winners are going to be the EV producers and the losers will lose their car industries. In the UK, cars are our biggest export commodity and so economically speaking, nothing could be more important.”
The Faraday Institute predicts that without domestic battery manufacturing the UK will lose 114,000 existing automotive jobs by 2040. However, if it can produce lithium batteries at scale, eight gigafactories will be needed by 2040, with automotive jobs growing from 186,000 to 246,000.
The government’s recent Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy prioritises the domestic extraction of lithium and acknowledges funding for British Lithium’s pilot plant as part of that commitment.
Andrew Smith, Chief Executive at British Lithium, said:
“We are delighted to have won government recognition of our important work in Cornwall and the significant contribution we’ll be making to “building back better” and achieving zero carbon emissions.
“The results achieved so far have exceeded all expectations and we are now looking forward to expanding our operation to showcase what is possible – not just locally and nationally, but globally too. We’re very grateful for the help and support of Innovate UK.”