Binghamton University marks official launch of federally-funded battery initiative

Battery NY to be located in University-owned facility in Johnson City
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National Science Foundation (NSF) officials joined Binghamton University to officially launch the Upstate New York Energy Storage Engine. After winning the designation earlier this year, Binghamton University and its New Energy New York and Engine coalition partners gathered to celebrate what this all means to the region.

At a press conference on Thursday, Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger welcomed NSF Assistant Director of the Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate Erwin Gianchandani to Binghamton to help launch the Engine program.

Erwin told the crowd that Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the NSF, is pleased with the progress demonstrated to date by the Upstate Engine.

“We’re thrilled to see the impact and progress from the New York NSF Engine,” Panchanathan said. “In just a few short months, with the support of NSF and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, this team has already been building serious momentum by creating new industry partnerships and laying the groundwork to build new battery development facilities to accelerate energy and battery supply chain innovations while driving technology innovation, U.S. competitiveness and local workforce development.”

The press conference was held at the former Gannett warehouse facility in Johnson City. President Stenger announced that the building, which is owned by the University’s Foundation, will be the future home of Battery NY.

A first-of-its-kind research and development center supporting industries looking to create advanced, sustainable battery technologies, Battery NY was announced when the University won the federal Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) program and was originally planned for a different site. But the Johnson City building is providing a central location, closer to the University, with more room to build and also the potential for expansion in the future.

“This is an exciting step in our vision for creating a full-scale, lab-to-market battery economy right here in upstate New York,” Stenger said. “Through NENY and its partnerships with federal agencies, other colleges and universities, and industry-leading companies and startups, we’re striving to be global innovators in batteries and energy storage.”

NENY builds on the research of Distinguished Professor M. Stanley Whittingham, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019 for his work in the development of lithium-ion batteries, a key component of renewable energy storage as the world weans itself from fossil fuels.

“This funding will let us come up with new inventions, which we intend to test out and build up to a commercial stage in this facility,” said Whittingham, who last week was named a knight bachelor of the United Kingdom as part of King Charles III’s birthday honors list.

Founded two years ago, NENY has attracted academic and corporate partners that have developed a host of programs to support the growth of the battery and energy storage manufacturing industry.

The NSF designation joins the $63.7 million awarded through the BBBRC in September 2022 and the designation as a federal Battery Tech Hub in October 2023. Binghamton is the only U.S. university to receive all three designations. New York’s Empire State Development is also supporting all of the NENY initiatives with more than $60 million in state investments.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that he had Binghamton and other Southern Tier and upstate communities in mind when he wrote and passed the federal CHIPS and Science Law in 2022 that created the NSF Regional Innovation Engines Competition.

“I believed so strongly that if we could make smart federal investments boosting the great innovations happening across this country, we could combat some of the biggest threats we face to our economic preeminence and future vitality and growth, protect supply chains, and boost domestic industries — all while bringing new opportunities and jobs back to communities like those right here in upstate New York,” wrote Schumer.

“That is why I have been New Energy New York’s biggest champion since day one, and I am so proud of this team and all their accomplishments.”

Ben Verschueren, executive director of Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR), sees the coalition of state and federal funding for NENY as “exponential drivers for positioning New York and the U.S. as a global leader in energy storage.”

“This region has an immense amount of talent and can take on a challenge like this,” Verschueren added. “We’re so excited to see a vibrant and expansive consortium of partners committed to executing a grand vision for the future.”

A key research partner with NENY is Cornell University. Krystyn J. Van Vliet, vice president for research and innovation, is a materials engineer and appreciates the cooperation needed to innovate energy storage technology.

“Cornell University looks forward to continued and now amplified support of these efforts around innovation and technology translation that will advance upstate New York’s position as a national leader in battery technology,” Van Vliet said.

Serving as acting CEO of the Upstate NY Energy Storage Engine will be Meera Sampath, associate dean of research and graduate studies at Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science. She pointed to the accelerating effects of climate change for the urgent need to develop a greener energy economy.

“Batteries and storage technologies are foundational to a carbon-neutral economy and to meeting our New York energy goals,” Sampath said. “I am very honored to be part of the team that will drive innovation and inclusive growth in this crucial technology area.”

One of 10 inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines around the country, the Energy Storage Engine will receive $15 million from the NSF for the first two years of the project and up to $160 million over 10 years.

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