Resolve “Not Enough Storage”

Brill Power, the winners of Climate-KIC UK & Ireland’s recent Venture Competition Finals, are revolutionising energy storage

Reducing the lifetime costs of energy storage is essential for integrating more renewable energy sources like solar and wind into the grid more quickly, and for getting more EVs on the road. Climate-KIC UK & Ireland’s Gudrun Freese spoke to Christoph Birkl – who gave the winning Venture Competition pitch in London on the 18 September 2017 – about his team’s position within the wider energy transition story.

GF: You won! What do you think tipped it for you?

CB: We know how to describe what our business is about, and how it makes money. As a tech company, it’s easy to get stuck in the nuts and bolts of science and technology. Our Accelerator coaches worked with us to develop a pitch that tells a story about our commercial value and positive environmental impact. Also, storage is a missing link in the bigger picture of energy transition. Technological improvements happen slowly and are usually very expensive. Our solution enables a step change in energy storage technology.

GF: So what is your business about?

CB: We produce intelligent ‘control systems’ for lithium-ion batteries that make batteries perform better and live longer. Our USP is that we control batteries at a cell-level, enabling us to get the maximum amount of energy out of every cell. Our tech allows us to extend the life-cycle of a battery by up to 60%; in other words 60% more charge and discharge cycles than conventional battery management systems.

GF: What’s your pitch to your customers?

CB: We will supply our product – circuit boards with specialised software – to battery makers in markets such as grid-scale energy storage or electric vehicles. By extending the useful life of batteries we reduce their lifetime cost and help avoid battery waste, giving our clients a decisive edge in their respective markets.  

GF: And what’s the attraction for investors with environmental impact criteria?

It’s actually a great example of the triple bottom line.

Our technology reduces the lifetime capital costs of batteries by getting 60% more cycles out of every cell in a pack. Even if you’re happy with the existing lifetime of your battery, we can reduce the capital cost of a battery system by using fewer cells to achieve the same long-term energy storage requirements.

This reduction in capital expenditure makes storage more economically feasible for developers, which makes it more likely to be more widely adopted, which unlocks greater potential in renewable energy generation.

Another environmental benefit of our technology is its ability to reduce the number of lithium-ion cells that have to be manufactured to meet a given energy storage demand. The energy required to make lithium-ion cells leads to roughly 2 kg of CO2 equivalents per cell. By reducing the number of cells required for a pack, we can significantly reduce emissions associated with cell manufacturing.

GF: How do you explain the social benefits of your tech to investors and customers?

The social benefits of our technology are closely linked to its environmental benefits – reducing emissions, particularly in urban areas, has a direct positive impact on the quality of people’s lives. Air pollution is a huge and growing problem, not only in emerging economies but also in Europe and the US, which has been recognised by the commitment of numerous European countries to ban combustion engines within the next few decades. We can help make the transition to zero emission transport a success through more efficient, longer lasting battery systems.

GF: You’re based in Oxford, where in some areas, grid constraints make it difficult to maximise the amount of renewable energy integrated into the grid. How would your technology impact this dynamic?

CB: Our technology increases the financial viability of grid-connected storage. This could mean that instead of massive infrastructure investments to improve grid capacity, or limiting the production of renewable energy, we can create the storage that is necessary to integrate more renewable energy into our electricity grid. We are talking to National Grid about testing our technology in collaboration with battery makers. We’re keen to develop as many pilots as we can over the next few years, all over the country.

GF: Tesla – customer or competitor?

The battery industry is traditionally made up of cell makers, like Panasonic, Samsung and LG Chem, and battery system makers like NEC, ABB and Siemens. Battery system makers combine cells with a control system, which they either make themselves or purchase from a control system supplier like Brill Power. Tesla are starting to blur the lines between cell and system makers by making their own cells and integrating them into battery packs.

As far as we know, Tesla are not yet exploiting the potential to use every single cell more efficiently. They also don’t make control systems for other battery system integrators – just for themselves. So we’ll see! At the moment, they’re both a potential customer and competitor.

GF: What’s next for your team?

CB: Our team of four has been working out of the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. We’re going to find our own office and lab space now and transition into full-time work on Brill Power. The prize money will help us buy equipment and facilities to develop and test our technology. Over the next year, we’re going to take our technology out of the lab and into real-world applications through pilot projects with partners in the fields of grid-scale and off-grid energy storage.

GF: What’s your invitation to the world – anything you’d like to put out there?

CB: If you are a battery system maker and interested in making your products live longer, perform better and cost less, please get in touch with me through our website www.brillpower.com.

Since winning the Climate-KIC UK & Ireland Venture Competition, Brill Power has also won the Shell New Energy Challenge in Amsterdam – an award of €100,000 in the form of a convertible loan. This past summer they also won the Oxford Venturefest Pitching for Success competition and were named as “Best potential angel investment” by the Oxford Investment Opportunity Network. Brill Power will be pitching at Hello Tomorrow in Paris on 27 October as one of seven finalists in the Energy Transition track.

 
Location
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Ombrea raises €1 million to commercialise its smar...

EIT Climate-KIC supported start-up Ombrea, which offers a tool...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Ombrea raises €1 million to commercialise its smart agriculture system
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces partnership with Silicon Valley innovation hub

EIT Climate-KIC has announced its partnership with cleantech innovation...

EIT Climate-KIC announces partnership with Silicon Valley innovation hub
In The News
Eight EIT Climate-KIC innovators in prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe List...

In the last four years, the EIT Community has...

Eight EIT Climate-KIC innovators in prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe List 2019
In The News
Bill Gates lists EIT Climate-KIC’s Climeworks on 2019 Breakthrough Techn...

Bill Gates was invited to be the first guest...

Bill Gates lists EIT Climate-KIC’s Climeworks on 2019 Breakthrough Technologies list
Innovation Spotlight
AI and robotics could revolutionise municipal waste sorting

Ferrovial, a leading infrastructure operators and municipal services company, and EIT Climate-KIC partner, is collaborating with start-up...

AI and robotics could revolutionise municipal waste sorting
In Detail
Accelerating the transition to a circular economy

A new report, “Accelerating the transition to a circular economy: Improving access to finance for circular economy projects,” provides key recommendations to drive increased...

Accelerating the transition to a circular economy
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches ‘Call to Action’

This week, EIT Climate-KIC launched its call for proposals....

EIT Climate-KIC launches ‘Call to Action’
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Ÿnsect raises €110 million, becoming global leade...

Ÿnsect announced yesterday that it has raised €110 million...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Ÿnsect raises €110 million, becoming global leader in alternative protein
Opinion
Policy: The circular designer’s secret weapon
Joe Iles & Simon Widmer Circulate News & The Circular Design Guide
Policy: The circular designer’s secret weapon
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Climetrics announces top ten European equity funds f...

Climetrics, the world’s first and only independent climate rating...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Climetrics announces top ten European equity funds for climate performance
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported WINnERS secures over €1.5 million in funding

WINnERS, an agricultural supply chain de-risking service supported by...

EIT Climate-KIC supported WINnERS secures over €1.5 million in funding
In our community
Interview with Marian-Constantin Vasile, Trainer, EIT Climate-KIC
Interview with Marian-Constantin Vasile, Trainer, EIT Climate-KIC
In our community
Interview with Piotr Magnuszewski, Programme Leader, Centre for Systems Solu...
Travis Hendrix tbd
Interview with Piotr Magnuszewski, Programme Leader, Centre for Systems Solutions
Opinion
How the climate community breeds its own inaction
Dominic Hofstetter EIT Climate-KIC
How the climate community breeds its own inaction
Innovation Spotlight
Not your ordinary reusable bag: Plant trees & earn discounts while you s...

Remember a time when you’d carry your purchases home in a plastic bag? Neither can we. That’s...

Not your ordinary reusable bag: Plant trees & earn discounts while you shop with goodbag
In our community
Interview with Mike Asquith, Project Manager – Integrated Environmental As...
Interview with Mike Asquith, Project Manager – Integrated Environmental Assessment, European Environmental Agency
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches strategy for 2019-2022

EIT Climate-KIC, innovation community established and funded by the...

EIT Climate-KIC launches strategy for 2019-2022
Opinion
A systemic approach to innovation in land use and nature-based solutions
Daniel Zimmer Director Sustainable Land Use at EIT Climate-KIC
A systemic approach to innovation in land use and nature-based solutions
Opinion
How moderation could accelerate climate action
Dominic Hofstetter EIT Climate-KIC
How moderation could accelerate climate action
In The News
Close the circularity gap to avert catastrophic climate change, Davos told tod...

A new report by Circle Economy, supported by EIT...

Close the circularity gap to avert catastrophic climate change, Davos told today
In our community
Interview with Mia Dragovic Matosovic, Scientific Researcher, Institute for ...
Interview with Mia Dragovic Matosovic, Scientific Researcher, Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy
In our community
Interview with Charlotte Breen, from C40’s Business & Innovation Team
Interview with Charlotte Breen, from C40’s Business & Innovation Team
In The News
EU group invites feedback on sustainable finance definition

The Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (TEG) set...

EU group invites feedback on sustainable finance definition
In Detail
Municipality-led circular economy case studies from EIT Climate-KIC and part...

How can cities create prosperity for expanding populations whilst transitioning through systematic change to low-carbon economies? How can cities achieve continued prosperity whilst preserving...

Municipality-led circular economy case studies from EIT Climate-KIC and partners
In Detail
Transformative change through innovation: An analysis of the role of innovat...

One of the areas with significant potential to reduce carbon emissions is the energy sector, including the transition away from coal. It is, and...

Transformative change through innovation: An analysis of the role of innovation in five transition regions
In The News
COP24 report: The vital role of land use in climate mitigation

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, key...

COP24 report: The vital role of land use in climate mitigation
In The News
COP24: Distributed ledger technology could help enact Paris Agreement

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, key...

COP24: Distributed ledger technology could help enact Paris Agreement
Opinion
System innovation is needed to help regions shift to a low-carbon economy
System innovation is needed to help regions shift to a low-carbon economy
In The News
COP24: Social innovation to drive just transition of coal regions

With the carbon costs of travel in mind, key...

COP24: Social innovation to drive just transition of coal regions
In Detail
DLT for climate action assessment

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a myriad of milestones that have put the vision of a prosperous, climate-resilient society on...

DLT for climate action assessment