Investment insights - taking TasmanIon’s technology to the world

Dr Ashwath Sundaresan

December 8, 2021

Pacific Channel is delighted to be leading the seed round for TasmanIon, a new spinout from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) focussing on commercialising new aluminium ion batteries. Founded by Dr Shalini Divya, TasmanIon aims to solve the problems associated with traditional batteries such as flammability, supply chain constraints and cost. Having completed her PhD in chemistry from VUW, Shalini is now looking to commercialise her technology by developing early proof of concepts and identifying key commercial partners.

Safe and sustainable batteries:

The last decade has seen a massive growth in battery demand. Driven by our need to electrify everything and reduce our emissions impact, everything from cars to power grids are looking at batteries as an energy storage solution. Currently, most applications use the lithium-ion battery which is made up of lithium, cobalt and nickel. However, as battery demand increases, the price of these raw metals has skyrocketed. In addition, withmany of these metals either unethically sourced (e.g. cobalt from African mines with poor human rights records) or having a poor safety profile (e.g. lithium batteries and their high flammability profile) there is a strong need for a battery that is safe, cost effective and sustainable.  TasmanIon’s battery has thepotential to solve these challenges by using a highly abundant and sustainable metal – aluminium.

 

Impactful research:

I first met Shalini as a young researcher and have seen how impactful the commercialisation ecosystem is in nurturing academic entrepreneurs. Under the wing of Prof Thomas Nann, Shalini was focussed knee-deep on her PhD looking at alternative cathode materials that could enable new battery types. Starting with the ideology of being “sustainable from day zero”, Shalini’s research was underpinned by using materials already available as opposed to trying to create something new and unknown. With the support of Wellington UniVentures and Kiwinet, Shalini was awarded the Emerging Innovator Award which helped her build her commercialisation skills and more recently the 2021 Kiwinet BreakthroughInnovator Award which recognises an outstanding entrepreneurial researcher. Over the course of her PhD, I had witnessed Shalini’s increasing passion to take her technology out of the lab and translate it to real world impact.

Our investment:

Pacific Channel’s investment into TasmanIon is as much about the technology as it is about Shalini. Having witnessed the growth of Shaliniand her unique ability to hustle and get in front of the right people, I have a lot of conviction on her ability to take TasmanIon’s technology to the world. As the lead investor, a key part of our investment is  to provide Shalini with the right support and resources to prove her technology, take it to the next stage and develop her skills as she grows. We are very fortunate to have co-investors and partners with experience in battery commercialisation who can also help provide specific expertise around the technology. As a society, we need to do more reduce our emission footprint and help bring these new technologies to market – Pacific Channel is proud to lead this investment.