Britishvolt links with universities for Blyth gigaplant

Electric vehicle battery company Britishvolt has signed an agreement with three universities in the North East of England to explore collaborations in research and development (R&D) and education.

Britishvolt, the UK’s foremost investor in lithium-ion battery cell technologies, announced in December it selected a site in Blyth, Northumberland, to build the UK’s first battery gigaplant, creating 3,000 jobs.

Total investment for Britishvolt’s gigaplant will be £2.6 billion, making it the largest industrial investment in the North East of England since Nissan’s arrival in 1984 and one of the largest ever industrial investments in the UK.

Britishvolt said it remains on track to begin construction of the Blyth plant later this year, with production of battery cells due to begin in Q4 of 2023.

The company said on Tuesday it entered an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities to benefit from their expertise. 

The partnership will see the three universities providing Britishvolt with support in R&D and innovation with the view to becoming the educational providers of choice moving forward.

Britishvolt chief technology officer Allan Paterson said: “We are delighted to enter into this partnership with three of the North East’s leading universities, helping us to explore collaborative R&D opportunities looking at future technology advancement and assist in building out the required skills needed to further the UK’s battery industry.

“Alongside the universities we are hoping to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers by familiarising themselves with battery technology and the Britishvolt project.”

Newcastle University vice-chancellor and president Chris Day said: “Newcastle University carries out internationally leading battery research in everything from fundamental material science, through battery recycling and safety, to energy systems integration.

“This vital research into energy storage is pivotal for meeting the country’s net-zero commitments and I’m delighted that with these strengths in science and research we’re working with Britishvolt to ensure they can access the skills required to build the UK’s first battery Gigafactory here in the North East.”

Durham University vice-chancellor Stuart Corbridge said: “Britishvolt’s commitment to North East England is very positive, and a further boost as we seek to lead the UK’s economic revival through and following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Durham University undertakes internationally leading research in areas including energy generation, storage, networks and conversion and we’re excited to work with Britishvolt and other North East universities to power up our region’s recovery.”

Northumbria University vice-chancellor and chief executive Andrew Wathey said: “Britishvolt has made a hugely significant commitment to the region that will create high value jobs and economic opportunity.

“Northumbria offers world-leading research in areas such as physical and electrical engineering, energy materials and battery technology and we are looking forward to using these strengths within this partnership to help put the region at the forefront of renewable energy and sustainable transport on a global scale.

“As the largest provider of graduates in the North East’s professional jobs market we are ready to deliver a pipeline of highly-skilled undergraduates, masters and PhD students to meet growing demand in this sector – and help meet our zero-carbon targets.”