Business secretary Greg Clark aims to bring researchers and companies closer together with the launch of the Faraday Challenge
It’s hardly a secret that the UK is struggling with a massive productivity gap. While countries like Germany and France get a high output from their workers, Britain is trailing behind the other G7 countries by more than 15% Fortunately, the government’s industrial strategy aims to close the gap by bringing academic researchers and innovative businesses closer together. And in a push to do just that it has announced new plans to supercharge British battery developers and manufacturers.
During a speech on Monday, business secretary Greg Clark announced a $246m investment over the next four years to bring Britain to the forefront of innovation in battery technology. The so-called Faraday Challenge will see a coordinated programme of competitions aimed at boosting both research and development of battery technology. An overarching Faraday Challenge Advisory Board will be established to ensure the coherence and impact of the challenge.
The Faraday Challenge’s competitions are divided into three streams: research, innovation and scaleup. The research stream will be led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and aims to bring the best minds from a consortium of universities together to create a virtual Battery Institute, which will cost £45m and will aim to make technology more accessible and affordable. Following on from this, the innovation stream will see Innovate UK, the technology development body, take the research from the institute and help bring it to market through a series of competitions. Finally, the scaleup stream will further develop the real-world applications of battery technology through a competition led by the Advanced Propulsion Centre, which will identify the best proposition for a new state-of-the-art open-access national battery manufacturing development facility.
Commenting on the government’s approach to closing the productivity gap, Clark said that the industrial strategy will bring together different sectors, enabling “entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers, industries and local and national government” to join forces. Clark said: “The work that we do through the Faraday Challenge will – quite literally – power the automotive and energy revolution where, already, the UK is leading the world.”
And it seems as if the business secretary isn’t the only one excited about the drive to boost battery technology in the UK. “By any scale, the Faraday Challenge is a game-changing investment in the UK and will make people around the globe take notice of what the UK is doing in terms of battery development for the automotive sector,” said Ruth McKernan, CEO at Innovate UK. “The competitions opening this week present huge opportunities for UK businesses, helping to generate further jobs and growth in the UK’s low carbon economy.”
Given that the Faraday Challenge comes on the back of the government investing £1bn in April to fund cutting-edge technologies to create jobs and raise living standards, it seems as if the government has truly devoted itself to closing the productivity gap.