“SLOVAK INNOVATIONS’ EUROPEAN SUCCESS IN THE BATTERY INDUSTRY.” Perhaps you’ve come across this quote on the website of the Slovak Ministry of Economy, a few days after the announcement of project IPCEI EuBatIn’s successful notification. What does mean in practice? Does it really represent an important step in the support of Slovak innovations?
You could read the aforementioned quote (“SLOVAK INNOVATIONS’ EUROPEAN SUCCESS IN THE BATTERY INDUSTRY”) on the website of the Slovak Ministry of Economy, a few days after the announcement of the successful notification of an important project of common European interest – “European Battery Innovation” (Important Project of Common European Interest – IPCEI EuBatIn). Maybe you’ve heard about it, maybe not, but the European Commision notified the project on January 26th, 2021. What does this mean in practice? In short, Slovak companies have had the opportunity to receive notification for projects of common European interest in the field of battery business. Let’s answer another question, before we delve further in: IS IT AN IMPORTANT STEP TOWARDS INNOVATION SUPPORT, OR JUST A DROP IN THE OCEAN OF WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
THIS QUESTION CAN BE CLEARLY ANSWERED BY FACTS AND FIGURES
The IPCEI EuBatIn project has brought together 12 EU member states and 42 companies, all working in the field of battery system development and production. A significant advantage to be noted is that the project covers the entire value chain – from the extraction of raw materials, through design and production, to recycling and ecological disposal of batteries, based on the circular economy model. It’s also important that the notification of the project has been part of the European Commission’s wider efforts to develop an innovative and sustainable European battery industry. In addition, the project complements the “IPCEI on Batteries” project, from December 2019. Let’s move on to the facts and figures. The importance of IPCEI projects in the field of battery production (IPCEI EuBatIn a IPCEI on Batteries) can be evidenced by these numbers:
- 12 member states
- 59 companies
- almost 370 expected collaborations and partnerships
- 6.1 billion EUR in support from public funds
- another 14 billion EUR from private investments
What do you think? I’d argue that IPCEI EuBatIn can be an invaluable contribution and an important step in the advancement of the whole battery business.
SLOVAK COMPANIES INOBAT AUTO AND INOBAT ENERGY ARE ALSO PART OF THE IPCEI EuBatIn
Yes, even in Slovakia, there are projects that bring huge benefits to our society and the environment. InoBat Auto and InoBat Energy are part of this club. After more than a year of continuous effort, the projects have succeeded in the European Commission’s challenging assessment of their benefits, innovation, and many other features. Let’s discuss what MAKES THEM BENEFICIAL AND INNOVATIVE.
INOBAT AUTO: DEVELOPMENT OF TOP-RANK BATTERIES FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES AND TRANSPORT APPLICATIONS
Why are battery cells from this company so innovative and beneficial for the environment when applied into practice? Their research and development focuses on silicon anodes, advanced low-cobalt cathodes, optimised liquid electrolyte and electrolyte-based batteries.
INOBAT ENERGY: RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION IN FLOW BATTERY SYSTEMS, TO BUILD A PILOT POWER PLANT
The result? An innovative, easy-to-disassemble and recyclable battery system, which will be part of our pilot power plant, with an output of roughly 5 MW!
At the end of the day, both projects have the same goal — to make Slovakia a more visible player in European and worldwide innovations, to strengthen the EU’s innovation potential, and to support research within Europe. Moreover, by involving partners from academic and private spheres, there can be a wider transfer of know-how in the battery sector. All of this will happen alongside creating InoBat’s own intellectual property, which will be registered in Slovakia and the EU.
WHAT’S THE LAST STEP TO ACHIEVE OUR INNOVATIVE GOAL? LET’S CROSS IT OFF!
There’s only one important thing missing before we reach the last step and launch our projects — the obtaining a co-financing grant from the Slovak Ministry of Economy. The door to this last step has been opened by the Operational Program Integrated Infrastructure 2014-2020 of the European Structural and Investment Funds, when it announced a new call for the support of R&D and innovation phases of our projects, up until 2023. How are we doing, at the moment? After successful preparation, application evaluation, and contract signing, we’re now awaiting the launch of the first phase. The following one will be realised after 2023 — consisting of a further assessment, with the possibility of co-financing from European Structural and Investment Funds, for the 2021-2027 programming period.
ARE THINGS CHANGING FOR THE BETTER? NOWADAYS, GETTING SUPPORT IS A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE ALTOGETHER
We can probably agree that the IPCEI projects have significant benefits for the EU’s strategic sovereignty, economic growth, employment rates, and the competitiveness of EU industries and businesses. They also bring together knowledge, expertise, finances, and economic actors from across the EU. What is their main goal? To overcome market or systemic failures and societal challenges that couldn’t be solved otherwise. All things considered, the goal of the IPCEI projects is to connect the public and the private sector and jointly carry out large-scale projects that will benefit the EU and its citizens. Let me quickly return to the question of WHAT HAS CHANGED AND WHAT DO I CONSIDER THE MAIN BENEFITS OF IPCEI?
- CO-FINANCING: a project’s successful notification only results in the approval of the given aid rate, or, the gap in funding from the European Commission. However, co-financing the projects is in the hands of the individual Member States.
- OPEN DIALOGUE AND COLLABORATION BETWEEN APPLICANTS AND STATES: through the open communication established between the successfully notified companies and the Slovak Ministry of Economy, we’ve managed to allocate resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds. At the same time, with an innovative and effective approach, we’ve managed to bring the conditions of co-financing as close as possible to the requirements set for our projects, in accordance with IPCEI rules.
THE RIGHT APPROACH FROM THE STATE CAN OPEN THE DOORS TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATIONS
I’ll turn to the recent past. We saw a similar effective approach of applicants and the Slovak Ministry of Economy in the Horizon 2020 EIC Accelerator, in the call for support of projects with the so-called “mark of excellence”. Here, we could see many positive aspects, ones that led to the successful launch of a call for the co-financing of these projects. I’m talking, specifically, about the direct communication with the holders of the “mark of excellence”, the effort undertaken to understand the tools and needs of the applicants, but also the transfer of knowledge and co-financing opportunities at a transnational level. I suggest that we get to know the rules of other European aid instruments, and look for ways to apply these rules into practice in Slovakia. This could open the doors to the advancement of research, development and innovations in our country, which could bring added value to us, and also to the EU and the world as a whole. Through innovative support from the state, we can also become an important player in the field of innovations. Let’s learn from other successful examples and apply our knowledge in practice.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS — LET’S SHOW THE WORLD THAT SLOVAKIA IS TRULY MOVING FORWARD WITH ITS INNOVATIONS
Whether you believe it or not, many innovations that have emerged from Slovakia are at the top of the European, and even global, levels. Each of them has the right to belong among the elites and become a full part of the economy’s value chain. That’s another reason why Slovakia is involved in other IPCEI projects at EU level.
IPCEI FOR MICROELECTRONICS AND COMMUNICATION – within this project, Slovakia has nominated 5 companies that will submit their projects to be assessed by the European Commission, by the end of the year. The aim here is to increase the safety and sustainability of microelectronic components in Europe, as well as the production and integration of solutions to support European industries, in areas where Europe is dependent on other subjects. Let’s also not forget about ensuring the global competitiveness of EU industries.
IPCEI FOR HYDROGEN – in the area of hydrogen technologies and systems, Slovakia has selected 16 projects. These will participate in assessment rounds with a focus on hydrogen production, its transport, distribution, storage, equipment production, industrial applications, end user applications, and more. It’s also worth mentioning that the first round, which is already underway, includes our own project — InoBat Hydrogen. We intend to develop and launch a jointly managed and controlled network of InoBat stations — ones that will combine the acquisition and delivery of green zero-emission energy for vehicles, local communities, and network service providers.
SLOVAKIA, LET’S BE READY!
I’d like to conclude this blogpost with a wish. Let’s not rest on our laurels — we should start preparing and securing future co-financing for our projects TODAY. Let’s build the foundations for the application of positive experiences of successful pioneer projects, and let’s increase the feasibility of these projects in our home country. And I’m not just talking about the IPCEI projects. There are other projects that can effectively support the development of start-ups and established companies, on the road to their own innovations. At InoBat, we’re giving it a go!
Head of Grant Financing, InoBat