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HomeBattery TechSalinity Solutions secures £1m investment from SQM Lithium Ventures

Salinity Solutions secures £1m investment from SQM Lithium Ventures

The investment, from one of the world’s leading producers of battery-grade lithium chemicals, will fund the next stage of the company’s growth.

Salinity Solutions, an engineering tech start-up based in Birmingham (UK) has secured a GBP £1 million initial investment from SQM Lithium Ventures to fund the next stage of its growth. SQM Lithium Ventures, in return, will take ownership of a minority stake in the company, with the option to acquire additional equity in the future.

SQM Lithium Ventures is the corporate venture capital arm of the lithium business of Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), one of the world’s leading producers of battery-grade lithium chemicals. Salinity Solutions joins the SQM Lithium Ventures portfolio alongside industry-leading companies like Altilium Clean Technology and Electric Era.

Salinity Solutions was formed a spinout from the University of Birmingham in April 2021 and developed HyBatchä, its ground-breaking batch reverse osmosis water treatment technology – the first in the world to be manufactured commercially – to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of water treatment. The technology uses less energy, purifies a higher amount of wastewater, generates less waste, and is more compact and portable than traditional reverse osmosis systems. The first of Salinity Solutions’ five registered patents has been approved in the European Union, China and the United States.

Since launching in 2021, Salinity Solutions has completed trials in multiple industries, including lithium mining, industrial and municipal wastewater, and food production. The company has built a strong sales pipeline across multiple sectors and geographies.

“SQM’s investment will help us accelerate Salinity’s growth and achieve our 2024 goals of increasing unit sales and securing our first licencing agreement. Their strategic interests in lithium and water, combined with their geographical reach from Chile to China, offer a perfect fit to support our ambitious growth plans,” said Salinity Solutions’ CEO, Richard Bruges.

The investment goes hand-in-hand with SQM’s ongoing drive to improve efficiency and reduce its environmental impact as part of its sustainability goals. These include reducing the use of groundwater by 40% by 2030, decreasing brine extraction in the Salar de Atacama by 20% in 2023 and 50% by 2030, and becoming carbon neutral in lithium production by 2030. As part of its collaboration with SQM, the Salinity Solutions team will run a pilot project in the Salar de Atacama, with its team members based in Antofagasta and other locations in the north of Chile.

Angeles Romo, Director of SQM Lithium Ventures, commented: “SQM Lithium Ventures is investing in Salinity Solutions in hopes that the company, through its revolutionary technology, will be capable of scaling and making an impact across different industries and geographies. This marks our first investment in water, one of our core focus areas for investment along with lithium and electromobility. At SQM Lithium Ventures, we are always seeking to fund projects in cleantech, specifically water, to accelerate start-ups like this one. In doing this, we seek not only to scale the business, but also make an impact on the quality of life of multiple communities.”

Salinity Solutions’ co-founder and CTO, Tim Naughton, commented: “We are delighted to have SQM as a partner as we commercialize our world-leading technology. Global water demand is set to double over the next five years. Water treatment consumes 4% of the world’s total electricity production and conventional reverse osmosis systems are energy intensive. Working with SQM, we can bring significant energy and water savings to the mining sector and many other industries, in Chile and around the world.”

Pablo Melipillan, SQM’s Lithium Process Director for China, who will join the board of Salinity Solutions, commented: “It is a great pleasure to join the water treatment business through this international partnership. With our experience in running innovation and scaling up and building cutting edge industrial projects, SQM can support Salinity to be successful in reaching its technical and commercial goals.”

Salinity Solutions was formed following 10 years of research and development at Aston University and University of Birmingham under the supervision of Professor Philip Davies. Founder Tim Naughton secured an Innovate UK ICURe grant and seed investment from Clean Engineering, followed by two oversubscribed crowdfunding campaigns on Crowdcube. Existing investors, including the University of Birmingham, have added to this investment round over the last six months, investing over £960,000 alongside SQM, providing a total of £1.96m in new funding for the company.

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