As renewable energy becomes more important to our future, the challenge of incorporating it onto the grid must be surmounted, in part, with large-scale energy storage solutions.
Redox (reduction-oxidation) flow batteries are considered an advantageous alternative, but some technical improvements are needed for the technology to be viable. The mixed-acid vanadium redox flow battery, developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), is the first commercially viable redox flow battery capable of deployment at grid scale. This breakthrough battery uses a novel approach to the battery chemistry to overcome the limitations of current generation redox flow batteries — a new mixed-acid electrolyte with vastly higher energy density and operating range than the current state-of-the-art, all-vanadium redox flow batteries.
PNNL’s role in this transfer was initially that of technology developer, but it shifted to that of careful and strategic planner and negotiator as multiple parties became interested in exclusively licensing the same technology. UniEnergy Technologies’ (UET) role was as a potential licensee, with the objective and expectation of obtaining an exclusive license for the technology its founders had developed during their tenure as researchers at PNNL. An anonymous licensee’s role was similar to that of UET, with the exception that it had not been involved in any way with the technology’s development. Both parties interfaced with PNNL to carefully negotiate license agreements that achieved their unique business goals, even without full exclusivity.
The mixed-acid vanadium redox flow battery, developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), is the first commercially viable redox flow battery capable of deployment at grid scale.
Because of the high degree of commercial interest in this technology, PNNL formed a Grid-Scale Energy Storage Commercialization Team comprised of appropriate staff in research and development (R&D), lab management, general counsel, and technology commercialization to develop an appropriate licensing strategy. The team determined that only three licenses would be offered to retain value for prospective licensees (often seeking exclusivity) while meeting PNNL’s objective to secure more than one license. When two distinct parties expressed the intent to move forward with licensing, including a startup formed by two of the technology developers for this sole purpose, license agreements offering exclusivity to each party in certain countries and limited exclusivity elsewhere were carefully negotiated and drafted. In the end, both parties were satisfied with their respective agreements.
This transfer benefitted all parties in that all walked away having met their core objectives. PNNL was able to deploy a lab-developed technology more broadly than a single exclusive license would allow. Both licensees received exclusivity in their top priority geographic locations, with limited worldwide exclusivity in that they would share nonexclusive countries with up to only two other parties as guaranteed by PNNL’s strategy to limit licensees to three.