Charging up Europe's battery ecosystem with a Business Accelerator Programme

Bringing innovative battery technology to the market is central to powering the clean energy transition. To improve the business readiness of Europe’s battery ecosystem, Bax & Company worked with 12 partners across Europe to build an accelerator programme for 49 of Europe’s most promising battery startups and SMEs. The programme led to 19 new applications of battery technology, from garden-based heat batteries to mobile hydrogen generators.

Example STEPS

Deep in a suburb in the North of the Netherlands, a block of polystyrene the size of a car is lowered by crane into a garden. Inside the polystyrene sits of tank of water that works as a heat battery, storing energy when local electricity is cheap, and heating the home with its own supply when grid electricity is at its most expensive. Once placed into a dug out hole in the garden, the battery will work out of sight for years to come, heating a family with low-carbon energy stored underneath their feet.  

Developed by Borg Energy, a Dutch SME, this is one of the first examples of combining energy management software with a heatpumps in a residential setting. And it was made possible by the Storage of Energy & Power Systems (STEPS) Business Support Programme.  

Funded by the European Union through Interreg North West Europe, the Programme gave Europe’s most promising battery startups access to knowledge and capital to test innovative battery solutions in previously unfeasible contexts.  

Dutch startup Borg Energy Storage used STEPS to test their garden-based underwater storage system in a low-income neighbourhood, with the support of housing association WoonFriesland. 

“The STEPS programme gave us the opportunity to implement our prototypes in a low cash flow situation” that would have otherwise been impossible, said Merlijn van Selm, R&D Manager at Borg during the STEPS programme. “The extra budget gave us the opportunity to access experts and organisations beyond just a networking context”.  

Testing new ways to deliver storage in the STEPS Business Support Programme 

Borg was part of a class of 49 SMEs, scaleups and startups who graduated through the STEPS Business Support Programme in the past four years. Supported by some of Europe’s leading experts on battery innovation, they received knowledge, training and funding to test their battery innovations in real world environments.  

The programme delivered: 

  • Storage innovation support for 40 battery related SMEs 

  • 19 testbed deployments 

  • Material shared with 257 further SMEs 

Borg was one of 19 businesses who demonstrated their battery innovation in a real-life environment through ‘testbeds’ funded through the Support Programme. From mobile hydrogen generators to roadside solar powered microstations, the Programme piloted cutting edge technologies in real life settings often for the first time. 

Matchmaking was a central component to the Programme. Matchmaking events across North West Europe brought together SMEs from across the value chain to find common areas of work to advance together.  

“The Programme aimed to test solutions with a potential market across North West Europe. Bringing together potential business partners from across the region encouraged the expansion of these technologies to new markets.” said Tom Cornelissen, Senior EU Project Manager at Oost NL, the lead partner for STEPS. 

By the end, participating SMEs had all made meaningful steps to improve both their Technology Readiness Level and Business Readiness Level, as measured by Bax & Company’s Readiness Level methodology.  

“Energy storage is increasingly important for the regions of Gelderland and Overijssel we serve” said Cornelissen. “Business development is one of the important challenges to realising their storage strategies. STEPS gave SMEs the chance to work on business development by testing their product concepts in real life settings”.  

Bax & Company’s Energy Team provided management support for the STEPS Business Programme. “Before the Programme, participants had high-tech solutions they hadn’t been able to test,” said Rolf Bastiaanssen, lead for the Energy Team.  

“Supporting them to turn proofs of concept into tested technologies helped them to advance their Technology and Business Readiness Level, allowing them to test their business assumptions, eliminate models that didn’t work and pointing them towards scalable business opportunities”.  

Our collaborators on this initiative: Oost NL, South East Energy Agency, POM Oost-Vlaanderen, Flux50 , House of Energy e.V., Cambridge Cleantech, Galway Energy Co-operative, University of Twente, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Universiteit Gent, The Faraday Institution and University of Galway, and Interreg North West Europe (NWE)