Two Japanese manufacturers are joining forces with AEA Technology to build a £12m plant to produce advanced lithium-ion batteries at Thurso, near its Dounreay facility in Scotland. The project will create 130 new jobs.
The batteries will be for specialist applications in the medical, defence and satellite communication fields a growing market estimated to be worth about £150m per year within the next three years.
Production at the plant, which opens next year, will rise to about 2m rechargeable Li-ion battery cells per year, creating an annual turnover of about £30m, just over 10% of AEA’s total sales.
‘We would be disappointed if production did not get well beyond this figure within the next few years,’ said AEA Technology chief executive Peter Watson.
Lithium-ion batteries were invented by AEA in the early 1980s. They are made under licence to power laptop computers and mobile telephones. The market is estimated to be worth £800m.
The units to be produced at Thurso will use the same technology, but adapted for specialist applications, for example in non-standard shapes to fit in pacemakers or military radios.
The plant is the result of a joint venture called AGM Batteries, involving AEA Technology with 55%, Japan Storage Battery Co with 25%, and Mitsubishi Materials Corporation with 20%.
The £12m investment includes a £7.2m grant from the Highland and Islands Enterprise network.