By Kathryn Magnay and Jacqui Murray, Co-Interim Directors, Faraday Battery Challenge

Kathryn and I first met last August in our first team meeting.  We had both been given the title of Co-Interim Director. On paper, the arrangement sounded a hindrance, but from that first meeting, we inspired each other, played to our strengths, delivered content as individuals and worked together to deliver outcomes. We have helped each other to remain true to our values in the midst of difficult decisions or pressured moments, in short, we fell head first into a collaborative leadership approach.

The opportunity for electrification of vehicles is now

From the beginning it just clicked. We knew ‘why’ Faraday was so important to the UK and just as important, we knew ‘how’ we wanted to lead as the temporary custodians of the challenge. The Faraday Battery Challenge has to achieve something monumental for the UK. There is a paradigm shift with the electrification of vehicles coming, now is the opportunity for the UK, but now is also the most complex time for technology – so it isn’t as simple as one person knowing the answers, we needed to stay responsive, open and deliver strategically.

Carving out a competitive advantage for the UK

Those that have heard us speak about Faraday, know we always start with the productivity puzzle, the gap in the UK that means we work longer hours to produce less than the rest of the UK.  You’ll have heard us explain how 163,000 jobs are in Automotive; that per person, Automotive produces twice the value for the UK; that the EV shift is coming due to air quality and climate change regulations and that the time to act is now.  Speaking about why was a joint decision, joint content.  We wanted to communicate the vision so that it empowered urgent action to be taken by our stakeholders – transformation is needed right now for the UK to carve out competitive advantage.

Seeking collaboration inspiration from the British Olympic team

Step back for a moment and consider the programme alongside the level of complexity in the 21st Century.  We know with complexity that collaboration is king and that the programme must deliver across the UK as well as springboard success for individuals. Kathryn and I talk regularly about the coaching approach that the British Olympic team have, how we need this programme to emulate their success.

Collaboration requires trust and participation

Jacqui and I are both aware that collaborative leadership requires building trust and participation. This trust is built upon conveying the vision with passion and conviction and delivering that vision in a fair, transparent and open manner, drawing in the necessary stakeholders to help us realise that vision. We will only acquire the necessary trust if we can demonstrate we are prepared to listen and translate what we hear into delivery, this brings differing views and potential for conflict which we seek to explore and learn from to the benefit of the programme.

No one person has all the answers

As Jacqui has mentioned no one person has the answer and we know we don’t have all the answers so constant checking and revising our plans allows the perspectives of stakeholders to have a continual role shaping the programme.

A value driven programme

Placing these values at the heart of the programme and remaining true to them will take the programme a long way down the path of the transformational change that is required. These are values that are supported by the structures around the programme – a UKRI-based Executive Programme Board and a strong, experienced and keen Advisory Group.

The role of the programme board in collaboration

Our programme board are essentially problem owners ensuring optimal solutions come forward and using a series of designed in audits allow us not just to check progress and achievement of vision but check the route we use to achieve that progress – have we remained true too the values of collaborative leadership and required by open, transparent and fair governance? The Advisory Group is our powerful coalition of actors in the battery space in the UK. It is their role to challenge and advise and to do that well they we must enable a shared vision. This group represents the actors who can capitalise on the success of the programme, we look to them to set the tone and targets to ensure the Faraday Battery Challenge is providing the correct solution for the UK so they can build on it and achieve the last important strand of industrialisation.

7 months of progress

There is a long way to go before we truly deliver world class battery technology in the UK, but in less than 7 months we have:

  • Set up the Faraday Institution and £20 million of application-led, industry-sponsored Fast Track research projects
  • Sponsored collaborative research & development in 27 UK projects with 66 companies using £40 million of funding in the space
  • Opened another £25 million round of collaborative research & development competition, which closed on 28 March 2018.
  • The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP announced the £80 million award for the open access UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and WMG, at the University of Warwick), and this is now underway.
  • We passed the Gateway 0 audit for the programme and have used the recommendations to improve the programme structure.

Enter Tony Harper

On the 9th April, Tony Harper joins this team. His timing is perfect. The operational aspects of getting the Faraday Institution, CR&D Competitions, UK BIC are well underway and we have Communications and International workstreams underway and about to launch another for Skills. This is the perfect opportunity to welcome Tony.  He joins as we start to build in earnest on the quick wins and deepen analysis of the portfolio, the UK battery sector, progress in key technologies worldwide and are starting identify the business case for the next phase of the Faraday Battery Challenge.  With Tony at the helm, we can continue to sharpen the programme into the springboard that UK Industry needs to become world class in battery technology.

The ATI would like to thank Kathryn and Jacqui for their contribution of this guest blog.

Dr Kathryn Magnay is Head of Energy at EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and as such heads the RCUK (Research Councils UK) Energy Programme. Kathryn has spent 15 years at the Research Councils managing investments in engineering and manufacturing and supporting EPSRC’s strategic relationships with its 23 largest University partners.

Jacqui Murray is Head of Advanced Materials at Innovate UK. She is a specialist in automotive steels, regulation and transformational change. Her advanced materials background comes from the UK steel industry and degrees in Materials Engineering. Following an MBA, Jacqui moved into industrial environmental regulation policy for the Environment Agency and Welsh Government.