In December 2019 the European Commission launched its European Green Deal plan of action, setting very ambitious goals for achieving carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050 and therefore calling for big investments in disruptive green technologies. Later, in September 2020 the Commission proposed its Communication ‘Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition’, aiming at increasing the EU’s climate targets to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of at least 55% by 2030.
The European Innovation Council (EIC), the organization managing the Horizon Europe budget for investments in deep tech SMEs, embraced the Commission’s ambitions, and in 2021 has allocated a significant share of its 1 billion Euros fund exclusively for transformative green innovations. As a matter of fact, from 2021 the EIC will not fund any project contravening the objectives of the Green Deal, including any proposal dedicated to increase the efficiency of fossil fuels. A decision clearly explained by Yousef Yousef, EIC Advisory Board Member, in an interview for the EIC community: “The next generation is not going to accept if your product has a massive carbon footprint. And that’s why you should start now [reducing your product’s GHG footprint]. It’s an opportunity, a very big one, and it will set the standard for doing business. Customers will ask for it, governments are asking for it, the industry is asking for it. You just need to hang in there and adapt your product”.
The EIC Accelerator 2021 Green Deal call
The new EIC Accelerator, the EIC’s flagship funding scheme awarding innovative deep tech SMEs with a combination of grants and equity investments, in 2021 has launched a call specifically designed to support Green Deal innovations. The call focuses on the EU’s priorities for transitioning to a green, digital and healthy society, with a special attention to innovations in one of the following areas:
- Low carbon industries (solutions on electrification, circularity and industrial symbiosis industrial processes, the use of carbon capture storage and utilisation technologies or the digitisation of industrial processes)
- Deep Renovation of Buildings (breakthrough innovations that accelerate the growth of the deep renovation market to increase the energetic and environmental performance of residential, commercial and public buildings)
- Renewable energy (breakthrough innovations to further develop renewable energy sources, green hydrogen or decarbonised fuels production and/or storage at different scales)
- Batteries and other energy storage systems (innovations related to the various segments of the strategic battery value chain, from critical raw materials to recycling, and comprising other energy storage systems such as chemical as well as physical storage technologies).
The energy storage revolution
Large scale energy storage systems, such as batteries, flywheels, compressed air, and pumped hydro storage hold the key to transforming this world into a renewable-fueled one. For example, the terrific increase in lithium-ion batteries production in the last ten years has provoked a decrease in prices (about 85%), making electric vehicles (EVs) commercially viable, smart cities and smart homes a reality. If EVs will grow exponentially, the peak oil demand will be reached soon, easing the European transition to a low-carbon economy.
The extent to which electricity storage can be developed will determine the extent to which the intermittent renewable sources can displace dispatchable sources, taking surplus power on occasions and bridging intermittency gaps. This is because electricity cannot itself be stored on any scale, but it can be converted to other forms of energy which can be stored and later reconverted to electricity on demand. The growing energy storage market offers no shortage of innovation opportunities and the 2021 EIC Accelerator Green Deal call is expected to intercept and support a significant share of Europe’s future energy storage solutions.
A selection of energy storage champions
During the EIC Accelerator pilot phase, in 2019-2020, the EIC has already invested in a number of cutting-edge energy storage innovations, confirming the Council’s attention to breakthrough technologies in the energy field. The team of Alien Technology Transfer has supported several companies securing investments from the EIC, including the following energy storage innovations:
- Teraloop (Finland) developed a highly scalable, kinetic energy storage system, which draws upon proven technologies (flywheel energy storage, magnetic levitation and brushless motors.), innovatively configured for grid-scale storage with minimal visual and environmental footprint. By enabling a fully renewable electricity generation system, it can safeguard the World’s resources for future generations. Renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, is often available only in short bursts, but Teraloop offers a constant stream of energy, without interruptions, with minimised environmental impact.
- Addionics (Israel - UK) developed a paradigm-shifting 3D battery architecture that significantly improves battery performance regardless of the battery chemistry. The innovation centres are capable of producing 3D electrode components (current collectors) through a proprietary 3D electro-printing process based on advanced, cost-effective electrodeposition techniques. Specifically, this new so-called “smart 3D structure” minimises internal resistance and improves the mechanical longevity, thermal stability and other fundamental limitations and degradation factors in standard batteries.
- Pulsedeon (Finalnd) developed Coldab, a film coating process leveraging Ultra-Short Pulsed Laser Deposition (USPLD), that can optimize the production of LIB components on a large scale. Coldab’s unique PLD coating process allows cost-effective manufacturing of a new class of safer, smart tailored, high-performance EV batteries. The process enables optimised large-scale manufacturing of multilayer Li-ion battery components and batteries including inorganic solid state electrolytes, ultrathin Li metal anodes and various interfacial engineering solutions.
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