For Group14 co-founders CEO Rick Luebbe and CTO Rick Costantino, applied innovation has been at the core of Group14’s success from the beginning, helping to bring the invention of SCC55™ to commercial scale while making the process repeatable anywhere in the world through modular manufacturing.
“Applied innovation goes back to our roots,” says Luebbe. “We were always thinking about silicon battery materials – not only as a brilliant science project but equally, how we could get our product to global markets as quickly as possible. That thinking created a timeline that allowed for extensive experimentation and improvement of our products in the lab. Simultaneously, it established an end goal for how we receive and process customer feedback and requests, and then apply it all to global scale.”
Succinctly put, for Group14, applied innovation is the framework for innovating on two paths at once. The first path is material innovation – creating novel materials that eventually become products. The second path is process innovation – developing the processes that result in the specific way Group14 manufactures those products at scale. These two pieces rely on each other to create advanced silicon battery materials and scale them to meet global demand. All of Group14’s material development and manufacturing processes come into focus through this model.
On a broader level, applied innovation helps Group14 align with battery manufacturers, electric vehicle brands, and other companies that need to comply with regional carbon emission requirements, supports local supply chains, and continues getting the world closer to the electrification of everything as fast as possible.
“We believe the secret to unlocking the age of silicon for energy storage is the byproduct of marrying process innovation with material innovation,” adds Costantino. “When working to develop our flagship products, we look at process design and the development of innovative materials with a focus on reliability and sustainability to address global issues, affordability, and scalability.”
Material and manufacturing processes always begin in the R&D Center. Here, the Engineering and R&D teams work together, rapidly testing new possibilities, working through potential challenges, and quickly getting solutions ready for market. This helps meet customer timelines and ensures that Group14 is at the forefront of developing new and innovative silicon battery materials.
“The R&D Center at Group14 is a place where we can develop a fundamental understanding of a process and take it to the next step – it’s about getting to the idea and making it tangible,” says Abirami Dhanabalan, Group14’s Manager of R&D. “Applied innovation comes into play where you are not only just coming up with creative ideas and solutions, you’re focusing on an orientation and developing the process to make them commercially viable,” Dhanabalan adds.
Our process for rapidly scaling the production of SCC55™ is a great example of applied innovation in practice. As a model for thinking, producing, and scaling, this framework set the stage for Group14 to develop Modular Manufacturing, the blueprint for repeatably building plug-and-play BAM factories around the world.
Many companies use innovation alone to drive product development. The strategy often focuses on figuring out the problems, working them out, and making the product better. “It’s an effective way to keep customers happy,” says Luebbe. “But, if your goal is to scale far and wide to meet the tidal wave of global demand as fast as possible, it’s critical to go beyond innovation alone – you need to take the ‘applied innovation’ approach.”
At Group14, the big-picture framework of applied innovation ensures that the processes of pioneering new materials and enabling them to be manufactured at global scale are consistently in sync.
From ensuring SCC55™ is the highest performing silicon battery material, to perfecting its manufacturing process, Applied Innovation is guiding Group14’s path towards achieving its North Star – the electrification of everything.