Crucial for the transition to new batteries
LionVolt, a spin-off company from TNO, is developing a new battery design that is based on 3D technology and is solid state. LionVolt’s work could revolutionize the breakthrough of electrically powered vehicles. LionVolt recently raised an investment of four million euros, and the Thematic Technology Transfer (TTT) program played a crucial role in this.
“Such a first early-phase investment for a deep-tech spin-off like this, those first drops… It’s like pushing an elephant up a mountain. That’s what my experience has taught me so far,” says Karl McGoldrick, CEO and co-founder of LionVolt. The native Irishman knows, as he has been through at least fifteen similar investment rounds. McGoldrick came to Eindhoven from Ireland in the 1980s. On behalf of the Philips Research Center, he contributed to the rise of microtechnology. He then worked for Intel in Silicon Valley and Ireland. “In Ireland, I was their first employee. There are now 5,000 of them and 40 billion euros have been invested.” His adventures brought him back to the Netherlands and he shifted his focus from the corporate world to that of startups. “I have been a founder, CEO and investor. I have contributed to many new technologies in the world of smartphones, flexible displays and cameras. Something, by the way, that the Netherlands is not known for at all, which I have always found remarkable. When I see a great idea with potential, I go for it. As I grew older, I noticed that such an idea had to have something extra. There must be added value for society, people and the environment. I found such a new opportunity. The potential of LionVolt is extremely high and I don’t say that lightly.”
Karl got to know Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the current CTO of LionVolt. There was instant chemistry. Together, they brought the company to life in the midst of the start of the corona pandemic. Karl: “Sandeep and I said to each other: if the dominance of ‘wet’ lithium batteries, which use a lot of chemicals, continues, we are heading for disaster. These batteries are not a sustainable solution and are potentially dangerous.”
After the initial contact, things moved quickly. “At the stage when we were still working on our business case and our plans, we came into contact with the people behind the TTT. The first 1.2 million was soon granted and now, at the beginning of 2022, we are already at 5.2 million. Such a large sum for such a young company is unique in the Netherlands. We didn’t even have an office space yet. Investors see our importance and the long-term added value of our technology. And now that we no longer have to constantly look for money, our attention can be fully on the growth of our company. This feels good. Just to refer back to that first ‘trickle’ again… Therein lies the power of the TTT program. Of course, the people at Innovation Industries, one of the investors behind this TTT, had plenty of questions, but we felt confident from the start. Thanks to that first step, we were able to build up the further investments. Thanks to them, we were not left in the dark. It was truly a flywheel effect.”
Although the first steps have been taken, Karl looks to the future of LionVolt and the renewable energy transition with mixed feelings of confidence and excitement. “Currently, billions are being invested in battery capacity based on today’s battery technology. The big tipping point is fast approaching and by then, the industry really should have moved to solid-state batteries. They have to be more sustainable. Otherwise, there is no point in buying an electric car. There will be many large companies supplying lithium-ion batteries now that will not be able to meet the new demand. My dream is that LionVolt will enable them to take that step, based on technology that is developed in the Netherlands. For the development of thin-film, solid-state batteries, there is no better place than the Netherlands. The ecosystem is unique here. If I had been asked to set up LionVolt in Ireland, Germany, or anywhere else, I probably would have said no. But over here, it can be done, and the confidence we have received so far strengthens me in that belief.”
LionVolt develops 3D solid state batteries. These batteries are intrinsically safe, lightweight, they charge at lightning speed and have a long life. Major car manufacturers are standing in line as the batteries will eventually be the ideal solution for electric vehicles. The technology that is currently being worked on is protected by a series of patents and is years ahead of the rest of the world.