Heat, hope, and a lot of hard work: LiNa’s 2023 in review

by Will Tope

COP28, and the arid, glittering plains of the United Arab Emirates was a strange — but strangely fitting — place for me to end 2023.

Being in a place blessed with near limitless solar potential, but so dependent on oil, only crystallised my thinking about the importance of our just transition, and the need for workable energy storage options to make it happen.

We are nowhere near hitting the 1.5°C Global Stocktake target. Fundamental change — much bigger than sticking plaster solutions or more myopic agreements — will be required to even come close.

Just as clear to me was that, climate action has to-date largely been done through the lens of the West, of capitalism, and in pursuit of established markets. The countries most impacted by climate change — The Global South — don’t seem to be getting the same representation. Or, at least, not getting the right tech.

Being confronted so starkly with this reality has only emphasised, to me, the importance of deep tech — and understanding the frustrating facts of working in the sector: that it takes time, boundless curiosity, and huge amounts of perseverance and belief, weathering setback after setback, applying unseen levels of true grit. This can’t just be an exercise in throwing mud at the polluters.

I felt hugely proud at COP to be among those at the sharp end of this wedge, and with a differentiated focus on the Global South. It was a reminder of how important LiNa’s work is; it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say that if we don’t do it then no one else will — or certainly not fast enough, anyway.

Sometimes it feels like we are ‘little LiNa from Lancaster’, but what the team achieved last year is proof that our results are anything but little.

In the space of 12 months we hit key milestones across product development, manufacturing, and commercialisation.

On product development, we pushed our batteries hard for months, cycling them aggressively — but they held up amazingly, maintaining capacity even after the torture test. And we demonstrated they degrade capacity slowly, exceeding 4,500 cycles while maintaining 80% capacity.

But our product goes beyond the battery cells.  This year, the engineering team built the system to efficiently keep our cells hot, and the brain for it with our in-house Battery Management System (BMS).

Our manufacturing grew too. Completing the Pre-FEED for our pilot line with support from the likes of Halliburton and Comau has provided both the confidence and expertise to scale rapidly to profitability.

And all of this comes together on our progress to commercialisation. We ended the year sending our first distribution-scale energy storage system out to a strategic industrial partner in India for pilot.

While our commercial gears begin to click, we’ll always maintain a focus on R&D — proving that our tech platform works in bigger, cheaper cells and on greater scales. So the science never stops.

Having put product into customer hands in India, in 2024 we want to do that many, many more times over, and at larger scales.

Part of being successful in deep tech is building something you can realistically scale without taking on a huge financial burden.

There are businesses that will never be profitable until they’ve raised billions of dollars.

One of our key differentiators is that a kilogram of salt is always going to cost less than a kilogram of lithium carbonate, no matter how many kilos — or tonnes — you’re buying.

That same cost saving allows us to grow this business to reach a sustainable, profitable turnover without needing billions in the bank.

More importantly, this also allows us to grow the business all over the world, including in the Global South, as opposed to restricting ourselves — and our technology — to only those established markets with cash to burn.

My hope is that by the time COP29  comes around, there’ll be more of us in the corner of clean, deep tech: the ones doing things the hard way, because it’s the right way. Bit by bit, bigger, better — and building a brighter future.