Cambridgeshire battery tech firm powers up for growth thanks to Newable EIS investment

Think battery tech and you wouldn’t necessarily think of the sleepy Cambridge village of Sawston. Here however, is where Echion Technologies is based.

Echion is a Cambridge based spinout company from the University of Cambridge, with a focus and expertise on high performance materials innovations for Li-ion batteries. Echion engages with chemicals and battery cell manufacturers to integrate its materials solutions into their next-generation products. These materials are simply “dropped-in” to existing battery manufacturing infrastructure with no capital cost. Furthermore, it allows consumers of the batteries to experience faster charging periods, and a longer battery life.

The individual behind this success story is Dr Jean De La Verpilliere. Jean studied at the French university, Centrale Supelec, before embarking upon a PhD at the University of Cambridge studying Nanoscience. It’s a decision that has been justified, as Jean notes “There is a wealth of expertise and opportunity here in Cambridge.’’

Halfway through Jean’s PhD, he created a material that could be used in Li-ion batteries. Jean then set about creating a scalable and saleable material that could be used in all types of batteries. Jean officially founded Echion in the final year of his PHD, in 2017 alongside two academic supervisors, who helped secure grant funding from Cambridge Enterprise.

Jean was introduced to Alexander (Alex) Sleigh, Investment Director of Newable Private Investing, through Cambridge Enterprise. As Jean recalls, the relationship was instantly genuine.

“Alex was very friendly as we held a number of meetings to establish a professional understanding. We then moved thorough to the Due Diligence stage that was carried out by the investment analyst. Once this stage was complete, we were offered the chance to present in front of the Investment Committee. I was impressed with how the Investment Committee understood the timescale of our technology and that we needed time and space to fulfil the potential of the company. This was underpinned by an impressive network of expertise that Newable were able to present to Echion, a network that we are making full use of currently!’’

When considering investing in Echion Technologies, Alex recalls three key reasons why Newable decided to invest; “As an investment team, we felt the product that Echion was producing was superior to anyone else in the market, particularly with regards to the time required to charge the batteries. Furthermore, the support that Echion received from a world class institution in the form of Cambridge Enterprise gave us huge confidence, allied to our view that the majority of autonomous vehicles in the future will be powered by battery technology.”

Echion is now thriving, having recently moved into bespoke laboratory space and currently producing 1kg of materials a day. There are thirteen full time employees, all of whom are working on creating a scalable product.

Full commercialisation is close however, and they are now actively looking to hire two sales representatives. Echion has held productive conversations with a number of OEM companies while also securing an official partnership with Vantage Power Ltd, a company that designs and manufactures electric and hybrid systems for buses and heavy goods vehicles.

These exciting developments bring an added pressure, something that Jean is more than aware of. “We really need to have finished the design of our final product within 12 months, so we can enter commercialisation by the autumn of 2020. This will coincide with us looking to raise our Series A round at the beginning of 2020, where we look forward to working with Newable Private Investing.”

Moving forward, the team at Echion is very excited for the future. The shift in government policy towards net zero emission is in Jean’s eyes a game changer.

“It now means that the automotive sector is being proactive about trying to find the best battery technology, something at Echion we stand ready to deliver. When asked for any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs. Jean has simple message; pick your investors wisely and be patient.” he concludes.

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