Global Trends in Battery Innovation & Funding
Creating efficient and more environmentally friendly energy storage is a key component in the fight against climate change. Particularly in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle (EV) space, there is a need to develop an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are reliant on cobalt and nickel mining.
Lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, which limits their energy storage and power output, and impacts the related performance, cost, and life span of the EV. Further, GlobalData reports that the metals used to create lithium-ion batteries are not only difficult to mine, but their global reserves are quickly depleting as the EV market expands.
A Center for Law, Energy & the Environment and the Natural Resource Governance Institute report highlights that mining of these materials and their supply chains also “often overlay areas at high risk of human rights abuses, corruption and weak rule of law, and localized environmental hazards,” and that “all of these challenges can be exacerbated by mineral extraction.”
In this context, new battery technology is a vital sector within Cleantech. Here’s a look at how the battery industry has developed in recent years.
Alternatives to Lithium-Ion Batteries
Batteries are being rethought in the form of new generation lithium-ion batteries and lithium-sulfur batteries, as well as solid-state batteries, which use solid electrodes and electrolytes and which can be recycled and reused, unlike lithium-ion batteries. The latter technology in particular is generating attention for its potential to replace traditional batteries, and “solid state battery” is one of the top 10 keyterms found in patents over the past two years.
Battery Technology Patents
The number of global battery-related patents grew steadily from 2010 to 2018, but has since declined. It is possible that this is related to the general shift of focus away from Cleantech in the context of COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019, many tech startups shifted their attention to more immediately relevant innovations.
Which Ecosystems Are Investing in Batteries?
The US and Asia are clear leaders in terms of funding amount and number of deals in battery innovation. Examples include Silicon Valley-based QuantumScape, which develops solid-state battery technology for EVs and was acquired for $3.3 billion in late 2020, and Sila Nanotechnologies, which creates higher-energy-dense lithium-ion batteries for EVs and has raised $880 million to date.
Beijing ranks as the second global ecosystem in terms of amount invested, but this number is representative of a few startups with a large average amount of funding, rather than a more widespread investment in battery technology. Solid State Lion, which undertakes R&D and production of hybrid solid-liquid electrolyte lithium-ion batteries and all-solid-state lithium batteries, received one of the largest funding rounds.
North America and Asia are also leaders in terms of the number of patent holders in the battery field. Japan and South Korea surpass China in the number of patents filed at the United States Patents Office, but this is not representative of them having more innovation. Rather, it suggests that Japan and South Korea are looking to market their technologies internationally.
The US and Asia are clear leaders in terms of funding amount, number of deals, and number of relevant patents, but other regions have noteworthy initiatives in battery innovation.
Europe’s Battery 2030+ initiative has a vision of creating sustainable batteries that will “provide European industry with disruptive technologies and a competitive edge throughout the entire battery value chain and enable Europe to reach the goals of a climate-neutral society envisaged in the European Green Deal.” Launched in 2020, it is part of a €272 million initiative from the European Commission to enhance and accelerate battery research and production.
In the coming years, such programs may well lead to Europe reporting much higher numbers of battery patents and larger funding rounds.
Want to know more about Cleantech innovation and the top-ranking ecosystems for clean technology? Take a look at the The Global Startup Ecosystem Report: Cleantech Edition