Booming business at Harwell Campus helps to boost Science Vale UK’s innovative energy and battery technology cluster

Last year’s lettings figures, announced in February, showed that Harwell Campus in Science Vale attracted the largest combined commercial take-up and development of new space ever seen in Oxfordshire.  The race to secure commercial space for tech companies looking to expand or relocate to the area, totalled 160,000 sq ft of Grade A space, equalling 40 per cent of the total Oxford region.

Of those lettings, 83 per cent went to innovative tech companies working across the space, life sciences and energy sectors. This included GMV, AgSpace, Mirion, Keit Ltd, SMS Environmental and Longwall Ventures, who together are taking around 20,000 sq ft of space for a mix of office, lab and high-tech manufacturing purposes.

With year-on-year lettings growth set to continue, Harwell Campus is aiming for a total of 5.5 million sq ft of planned development and 1.5 million sq ft to be developed by 2025, creating the largest rejuvenation and commercial property growth project ever seen in Oxfordshire.

This year is already off to a flying start after the Faraday Institution, the UK’s independent national institution for electrochemical, energy storage science and technology, recently announced it is locating its headquarters in the new Quad building at Harwell, from Spring 2018.

Being at Harwell puts the Faraday Institution at the heart of a growing, successful tech and innovation hub, with more than 30 public, academic and commercial organisations already working in the energy field, with many dedicated to battery technology and storage.  It will also enable researchers to leverage the expertise of world-leading facilities such as the Diamond Light Source, the ISIS neutron and muon facility and the Central Laser Facility based there.

The Faraday Institution is overseeing the allocation of £42 million in new government funding to four UK-based research programmes, known as the Faraday Battery Challenge.  Led by a consortia of UK universities in consultation with industry, this research aims to overcome battery challenges and bring about the widespread use of electric vehicles.  The projects will focus on extending battery life, battery system modelling, recycling and re-use and next generation solid-state batteries.

Nexeon, based at Milton Park in Science Vale, is one firm already stepping up to take on the battery challenge.  Earlier this year it was awarded, alongside its partners, Synthomer and University College London (UCL), £7 million Innovate UK funding to develop better materials for Li-ion batteries, using silicon as a replacement for carbon in the cell anode.

Named SUNRISE (after Synthomer, UCL & Nexeon’s Rapid Improvement in the Storage of Energy), this project will be an essential stepping stone to enable electric vehicles to achieve a range of 400 miles and above.

As Nexeon CEO, Dr Scott Brown says, “the biggest problems facing electric vehicles are range anxiety, cost, charge time or charging station availability – almost all (of which) relate to limitations of the batteries.” Nexeon and the battery challenge funding will help put the UK and Science Vale at the forefront of design, development and manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.