European Commission (EC) authorities have approved, through EU State aid rules, a EUR3.2bn (US$3.5bn) Important Project of Common European interest (IPCEI) jointly notified by Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden to support research and innovation in batteries.

The seven Member States will provide up to around EUR3.2bn in funding for the project, which is expected to unlock an additional EUR5bn in private investments.

Completion of the overall project is planned for 2031 (with differing timelines for each sub-project).

"Battery production in Europe is of interest for our economy and society because of its potential in terms of clean mobility and energy, job creation, sustainability and competitiveness," said Competition Policy Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

"Our Important Projects of Common European Interest smooth the way for public authorities and industries from several Member States to come together and design ambitious innovation projects with positive spill-over effects across industrial sectors and regions. The approved aid will ensure this important project can go ahead without unduly distorting competition."

The project will involve 17 direct participants, mostly industrial actors, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), some of which have activities in more than one Member State. The direct participants will closely cooperate with each other and with more than 70 external partners, such as SMEs and public research organisations across Europe.

Following technical discussions between the Commission and the relevant actors for a period of three months, the project was formally notified to the Commission for approval through EU State aid rules in October 2019.

In 2017, the Commission launched a European Battery Alliance, with interested Member States and industrial actors and adopted a Strategic Action Plan for Batteries in May, 2018.

The project supports the development of sustainable technologies for lithium-ion batteries (liquid electrolyte and solid state), which last longer, have shorter charging times, are safer and more environmentally friendly than those currently available.

The project involves research and development activities to deliver across the battery value chain, from mining and processing raw materials, production of chemical materials, design of battery cells and modules and their integration into smart systems, to the recycling and repurposing of used batteries.

Innovation will also specifically aim at improving the environmental sustainability in all segments of the battery value chain. It aims to reduce the CO2 footprint and the waste generated along the different production processes as well as develop environmentally friendly and sustainable dismantling, recycling and refining in line with circular economy principles.

Project participants and their partners will focus on four areas:

  • Raw and advanced materials: The project aims to develop sustainable processes allowing extraction, concentration, refining and purification of ores to generate high-purity raw materials. With respect to advanced materials (such as cathodes, anodes and electrolytes), the project aims to enhance existing materials or create new ones, to be used in innovative battery cells
  • Cells and modules: The project aims to develop cells and modules designed to meet safety, and performance required for both automotive and non-automotive applications, for example, stationary energy storage and power tools
  • Battery systems: The project aims to develop battery systems including battery management software and algorithms as well as test methods
  • Repurposing, recycling and refining: The project aims to design safe and innovative processes for collection, dismantling, repurposing, recycling and refining of recycled materials
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