The STEM project story of success: advancing energy-managing composite materials

Horizon Results Booster services were very helpful. It was useful to understand how exploitation could go beyond direct commercialisation. Through these seminars, I realised that in fact it could be applied to many fields.

Projects involved

The STEM project set out with a bold ambition: to pioneer innovative composite materials boasting advanced mechanical properties while doubling as energy harvesters. These materials are created by combining carbon nanotubes, known for their strength and conductivity, with nanostructured semiconductors that can convert external energy into electricity. The project focused on controlling the assembly of these materials to optimise their mechanical strength and energy-harvesting capabilities. Through detailed structural and performance analyses, they birthed lightweight, multifunctional materials poised for transformative roles in transportation and electronics. While achieving these goals, an unexpected discovery emerged, leading to breakthroughs in fabricating nanomaterial-based textiles.

As the project director, Dr. Juan José Vilatela, explained, the project grappled with challenges surrounding scalability and nanomaterial integration. However, a novel method was developed to fabricate fabrics entirely made of nanomaterials — a feat with profound implications for energy and transport sectors.

Initially, the STEM project was granted an ERC Starting grant — an esteemed EU funding initiative catering to early-career researchers across diverse disciplines. Later on, STEM was selected to receive Horizon Results Booster services. Thanks to the Portfolio Dissemination & Exploitation Strategy Service – Module C, which empowers projects to refine their exploitation strategies, and Business Plan Development support a spin-off company was created, Floatech.

Maximising potential beyond commercialisation

Dr. Vilatela highlighted the importance of a multidisciplinary team and highlighted Horizon Results Booster's (HRB) services to leverage their discovery's potential impact, especially in battery applications. HRB services helped them in understanding exploitation beyond commercialisation, IP management, and how investors would perceive their discovery.

The follow-up of STEM is SiNERGY. In this case, the initiative benefited from HRB Go To Market – Business Feasibility service which was specially designed for them and with them. It encompassed a comprehensive management plan and IP strategy for technology transfer and commercialisation; including business planning and structuring, paving the way for strategic partnerships with investors.

Following the breakthroughs achieved with STEM, the SiNERGY’s team focused into tackling the potential of silicon as an anode material for lithium-ion batteries, which could greatly improve energy storage compared to traditional graphite anodes. SiNERGY was looking to develop a simple and scalable method for the continuous production of nanoengineered silicon electrodes. This way, the project was aligned with European energy storage targets and aimed to contribute to meeting the growing demand for energy storage in various sectors, including transportation and stationary applications.

The project's next steps include scale-up and commercialisation for batteries and other markets, supported by additional grants and venture capital investment. The spin-off company, FLOATECH, is building a pilot plant in Spain to produce next-generation anodes for lithium-ion batteries, particularly for electromobility applications.

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