Verkor buys Siemens site for battery R&D Lab  

Verkor buys Siemens site for battery R&D Lab  

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

French battery startup Verkor has raised more than €250m for its Innovation Centre in Grenoble as part of the purchase the site from Siemens.

With BritishVolt teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in the UK, the deal highlights the complex financing startups need to build gigafactories to supply European car makers.

The 15,000 m2 Verkor Innovation Centre (VIC) includes an R&D lab for designing high-performance batteries, a flexible Industry 4.0 digital pilot line with a capacity of 150 MWh/year, and a training centre to meet the battery sector’s growing need for a specialised workforce. Construction is underway, with delivery set for the first half of 2023.

As the construction of the VIC approaches its final stage, Verkor teams are now focused on financing the first Verkor Gigafactory with initial production capacity of 16 GWh/year in the Port of Dunkirk. This investment, due for approval in the first quarter of 2023, will be in the region of €1.5 billion and will create around 1,200 direct jobs.

ItalVolt has taken a similar approach, buying the former Olivetti site in northern Italy for a battery gigafactory.

“Heritage and transmission are strong values at Siemens. As we celebrate our 175th anniversary this year, we are proud that a company like Verkor, with whom we share these values as well as the spirit of innovation and the development of cutting-edge skills for an intelligent and efficient industry, carries on the legacy,” said Doris Birkhofer, President of Siemens France.

The funding for the R&D lab came from the European Investment Bank with €49m as part of the Energy Demonstration Projects (EDP), with Bpifrance Assurance Export guaranteeing €51m of bank financing.

This financing has still to be finalised but has provisional agreement from Santander Corporate & Investment Banking and Société Générale. This strategic project guarantee (GPS), granted by the French Government to “Large strategic projects” allows the state and the BPI to support the development of national champions. Verkor is the first project to benefit from this French state support to strategic projects.

A convertible bond issue with financial partners Demeter FMET and the SPI investment fund (“Société de projets industriels”) operated by Bpifrance on behalf of the French Government as well as industrial partners Plastic Omnium, Sibayne-Stillwater, Groupe IDEC, Schneider Electric and Verkor employees are bringing several million euros of personal investment.

The total acquisition of the Siemens site in Grenoble and the co-investment with GROUPE IDEC for a total of more than 70 million euros with the goal of finalising the Verkor Innovation Centre, moving the company’s headquarters and opening the “Ecole de la Batterie.”

“This announcement is a further concretisation of the efforts undertaken over the last two years to build the future of electric mobility in Europe,” said Benoit Lemaignan, CEO of Verkor. “I welcome the support of our institutional and industrial partners to make our project a reality. I know we can continue to count on them for the next milestone of our development. I would also like to thank our team who, over and above their unwavering commitment every day, are betting on the future of our collective project.”

Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President of the European Investment Bank said: “The European Investment Bank is demonstrating its determination to build a better future using European technologies that address the urgency of the fight against climate change, as well as the objective to relocalise strategic value chains. After financing several other projects in the sector like the Northvolt Gigafactory in Sweden and those of Renault in Douai and Stellantis in Douvrain, the European Investment Bank is proud to join the ecosystem of public and private partners supporting Verkor as they reach their goals in France.”

Laurence Boone, State Secretary to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for Europe added: “Last week, the European Union confirmed the objective of 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035: this is a major step forward towards our climate objectives. It goes hand in hand with the ambitious industrial policy that we are pursuing in Europe and in France, the project implemented by Verkor being a part of it. We are committed to developing French and European production capacities for electric vehicles, batteries and to deploying charging infrastructures, while supporting companies and households in this transition as well as promoting employment.”

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