Question: There is an urgency around developing next-generation batteries in the UK. Why do you feel the time is right for the UK?
Neil Morris: The UK has some of the world’s top researchers and research universities, an auto industry committed to moving to fully electric vehicles and a public that wants cleaner energy. By bringing together the industry experts with the research capabilities we have in a highly collaborative environment we are uniquely positioned to be able to make technological advances that will benefit the environment and create new jobs in the UK.
Q: You have had a stellar career as a leader in the oil and gas sector. What drew you to work in the battery space and in particular for the Faraday Institution?
Neil: I have spent much of my career in downstream oil refining and during that time we have seen significant advances in producing cleaner transportation fuels. When I started we were still putting large quantities of lead into petrol. I have been involved in developing technical solutions to make the cleaner fuels being used today. Moving into the battery space seems like a logical next step in that journey to cleaner forms of energy.
My interest in technological advances has always been to move them as quickly as possible from the laboratory to industry to benefit society. I’m excited by the unique collaboration between academic institutions and business that is at the heart of the Faraday Institution; by all working together I’m confident we can create some exciting breakthroughs.
Q: You’ve led large, diverse teams before. What are the challenges or opportunities you see in bringing together industry and academic researchers from across the UK on focussed projects?
Neil: I expect the greatest challenge will be to break down barriers between groups that have a different perspective and are not used to working together; however, this is also where the greatest opportunity lies. The prize is to bring together leading researchers and industry to work on tightly focused projects that can advance the technology more quickly and effectively than either group could have done alone.
Q: What impact do you expect the Faraday Institution will have on the UK? And how will you measure success?
Neil: Our most immediate impact will be in the area of education and training. The UK needs a pipeline of diverse talent for energy jobs of the future that require different skills to the past. We aim to create a national curriculum that will nurture students from secondary education to advanced degrees.
In the medium term, I am confident that we will find technological advances that will create opportunities for investment in energy storage and new jobs.
I also hope the Faraday Institution will become a model for how academia and industry can work together to advance technology and will be emulated in other areas.
Q: The Faraday Institution sees an opportunity for many new jobs and careers in battery research and development and across the supply chain. What advice would you like to share with those pursuing or planning to pursue a career in the battery space?
Neil: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are tremendously important and fascinating areas to work. The world is moving to cleaner forms of energy and batteries will play a significant role, not just in electrical vehicles. If you want an interesting career and you want to make a difference to the environment and people’s lives, now is the time to join. I’m sure it will be an exciting and rewarding journey.