AEA joint venture gets pounds 7m state aid

THE Government is to pump pounds 7m into a state-of-the-art factory in Scotland being set up by an Anglo-Japanese joint venture to manufacture "intelligent" rechargeable batteries for use in defence, space and medical applications.

The pounds 12m plant, being built by AEA Technology in partnership with Mitsubishi and the Japan Storage Battery Company, will create 130 jobs in Thurso in the Highlands and will start production in a year. AEA Technology, which was floated from the Atomic Energy Authority two years ago, will invest pounds 2m in the project to manufacture advanced lithium-ion batteries and take a 55 per cent stake.

The Highlands and Islands Enterprise network will provide pounds 3.3m in funding and will also build the pounds 3.9m facility in Thurso to house the new joint venture company, AGM Batteries.

Peter Watson, chief executive of AEA technology, said the market for customised lithium-ion batteries could reach pounds 150m over the next three years. They can be used in applications such as military communications, police radars, space and medical equipment and portable power tools.

The existing market for commercial lithium-ion batteries used in products such as mobile telephones, lap-top computers and camcorders is pounds 860m. AEA Technology owns the technology and worldwide licensing rights for the battery technology. Mr Watson said revenues from the new facility would replace its existing stream of licensing income which will end in two years.