British Lithium has secured a £2.9m Innovate UK grant to build a pilot lithium extraction plant, accelerate its route to commercialisation and provide the critical natural resources to boost the UK’s EV manufacturing industry.
The firm’s pilot plant will produce samples tailored to individual customers’ requirements and 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 Edge has also delivered specialist intellectual property support, helping to protect the company’s innovative extraction techniques currently under development.
Access to high-quality lithium is regarded as a key factor in the international race to build EV battery gigafactories.
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.
The Faraday Institute predicts that without domestic battery manufacturing, the UK will lose 114,000 existing automotive jobs by 2040.
Conversely, if it can produce lithium batteries at scale, eight gigafactories will be needed by 2040, with automotive jobs growing from 186,000 to a potential 246,000.
Roderick Smith, chairman of British Lithium said, “America, China and Europe all desperately want to attract EV plants.
“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.”
Andrew Smith, chief executive, British Lithium added, “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.”