Our teams chose to think outside the technological box to strike out on a new project that could change the energy world… or at least the electricity storage uses. Imagine an electric battery that recharges in 10 seconds whenever you wish: that’s the NAWATechnologies world.
Launched in 2013, NAWATechnologies’ creation depended to a large part on support from CEA (Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives) and then on the InnoEnergy Highway® programme. Its first Ultra-Fast Carbon Battery is currently in the prototyping and testing phase. Although technologically complex, the project is easy to explain. Imagine bicycle or car batteries that use a revolutionary carbon compound structured at the nanometric scale produced on aluminium foil that’s metres long. Cut off the length you want, roll it up and you’re ready to go! The battery then charges almost instantaneously whenever you need it. That’s thinking outside the box as all battery makers are locked by autonomy. Thanks to a second fundraising campaign, these batteries’ capacity is being optimised and the company is moving to the industrial and commercial phases.
What if we could change electricity uses through technology?
Totally, we’re changing the way each person relates to electricity: not consuming too much, but consuming better. Ambitious? Maybe. But that’s NAWATechonologies’ goal, and the company is obtaining the resources it needs to do so. We talked with Pascal Boulanger, one of the founders.
The creation of NAWATechnologies came about through a meeting of a passion for science and a desire to protect our planet.
Pascal Boulanger: Science has always been a big part of my life. After graduating from engineering school, I was hired by Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA) and worked there for over 20 years. During my last three years, I went back to the lab with the team which created the compound that we’re now using in our products. With this innovation, I sensed that we could make huge changes to how we consume electricity while meeting market demands. I did an MBA at HEC where I met my co-founder, Ludovic Eveillard who was the first to be convinced of the potential market we could create. Then, through assistance from CEA’s spin-off programme, we created the company in 2013 based on the work of the team I had worked with. And, since March 2014, NAWATechnologies has been supported by InnoEnergy.
Today, we’re producing our first batteries for targeted uses like bicycles, tools, industrial uses and for aeronautical and space applications. In the future, we’ll look to more energy-intensive vehicles like urban buses and ferries. Through future fundraising campaigns, we’ll be able to start producing ultra-rapid cells for data centre and hospital emergency batteries.
In just three years, you’ve hired 25 people, built a production, start a second fundraising campaign… You move fast.
Pascal Boulanger: We’re a technology company. So far, we’ve been able to show our investors how we work and innovate, but haven’t been able to show them our products yet. We needed to design the tools and develop the processes. Since our creation and installation in Rousset (sunny city located in the region Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur), we’ve launched our pilot production line for a first battery: as big as a pill bottle for bikes and tools, and the size of a can for buses and backup power for grids. This battery sums up our philosophy: reduce energy consumption through ultra-rapid and more efficient charging. Less energy loss, fewer risks, a longer lifecycle, less waste to replace batteries… That’s how we respect the planet. These ideas—and what we’ve managed to do concretely—attracted a number of partners, including our region Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, Demeter, CEA Investissement, STMicroelectronics (which is hosting us) and naturally
InnoEnergy whose InnoEnergy Highway® programme allowed us to make a huge technical advance.
InnoEnergy Highway® financed a major technical phase: expanding the size of our electrode samples in preparation for industrialisation.
Do you think that some of your experiences could help other company creators?
Pascal Boulanger: Of course! Naturally, the key is to have a good project. And to believe in it. Believe that you can take the plunge, even with atypical ideas. This is the “think different” mind-set you need for a start-up. We won the World Innovation Competition and the EARTO Innovation Award in 2015 with projects that are more than revolutionary. But we’re no “mad scientists” suggesting crazy things: we’re competing with technological leaders like Tesla. So, our partners’ support is so very important… and not just money—which is essential, of course—but their recognition and their commitment gives us credibility and increases our legitimacy against giants.