They are the future of the lead battery industry: highly-educated, motivated and brimming with new ideas and ambition. CBI spoke to three talented scientists, new to the lead battery industry, to find out more about their perceptions of the workplace and to hear their suggestions about how the industry can continue to attract the brightest and the best.
Max Parker, a PhD Student at Warwick University (United Kingdom); Miguel Rodríguez Gómez, PhD Student at INMA (Spain) and Grace Rocha, a Scientist at ITEMM (Brazil). From industry’s first impressions, learning new areas for innovation and crucial for our future, to the industry’s urgent effort to attract more young talents, they are the voices of a new generation inside the lead battery industry and here’s how they feel about it.
CBI : Tell us a bit about when you first joined this industry. What were your expectations ?
Max : « Batteries are an exciting area with a lot of areas to look at and lots of different things to analyse. Before joining the industry I didn’t really know what made one battery better than the next, why this one can charge faster than the other or why this one lasts longer than the other. Lead batteries are interesting because they have been around for such a long time, but there is still so much more to look at, and still so much more to learn. »
Grace : « To be really honest I didn’t think very much about the whole Lead Battery industry. I just wanted to be part of a great industry with a great social impact, which everybody near around knows Moura does to the city and to the state. Now, I am truly surprised with how much I enjoy working on the field. I see that there is a excitingopportunity for progress learning and development in every area of lead battery technology. »
Miguel : « I had just finished my masters degree and I was looking for research into something related to the energy or climate crisis. Energy storage is essential to be able to cover the off-peak hours of renewable production, and to move away from fossil fuels (which also have rapidly diminishing reserves). So, I started to look for research lines related to batteries. The truth is that I knew almost nothing about lead batteries, I thought there were only in cars and little else, but when I learned a little more and discovered that they can be used for many things and above all that recycling is very high, I decided to go for it.”
CBI : And now that you’ve been working for the industry, what’s your current perception ?
Max : « I think that there are lots of challenges ahead for the world of lead batteries. I would like to see more innovation to meeting these challenges, especially in the energy storage sector, which will be a big part of the future of lead batteries. Innovation is constant, and constantly necessary, because the use cases of lead batteries are changing. We need to be providing the new and innovative batteries of not just today but also the future. »
Miguel : « There is still much to discover and improve, and I think that since the materials of the batteries are cheap and abundant (but also safe and resistant), it will be very important in the years to come. On the other hand I think that production is too focused on the automotive industry. There is less and less demand for cars worldwide and energy is becoming more and more expensive, so I am convinced that the future is energy storage and back up systems. »
CBI : What can you learn from working with professionals who have been in the industry for a long time? What do you learn from each other in your projects ?
Max : « Professionals with a lot of experience have a wealth of knowledge and, but it is up to them to pass that on. I started from zero knowledge and having an experienced professional to provide guidance would have been of great help to ensure that I wasn’t misunderstanding things. Since being involved with the CBI, it has enabled contact with battery experts within companies and other universities. Some of them can share knowledge that is not as well known or written about in technical literature. And this leads to better experiments, better understanding and better development. »
Grace : « One of my favorite things about my job is the opportunity to network with everybody in the global lead battery chain. I’ve noticed that there is so much contribution on the field. For example, every time I have a call with a supplier, a partner, a specialist, I learn something new. And I feel they are always willing to help, they are so welcoming to answer my questions (and I do have lots of questions !). The Lead battery is not a technology that you learn through on college here in Brazil. So everything I know so far, I’ve learned from their experience. I’m really glad to see how some of the ideas I’ve given actually worked and contributed with the development of the projects. »
CBI : What things would you like to happen in the industry to attract more talent ?
Miguel : « There are two main things to attract younger professionals. The first is to raise awareness of the lead battery industry, communicating its importance globally and showing that it is possible to have a fruitful career in it. The second is to communicate that it is a technology that can help with very important problems that especially (but not only) the younger generations are going to suffer, such as the climate crisis, the energy crisis and the resource crisis. For me personally, it is essential that 99% of the lead in batteries is recycled. I would not like to work with a polluting technology that ends up accumulating in landfills. I also believe that research lines focused on renewable energy storage and batteries for trains (which is the most efficient and less polluting transport, both for people and goods), should be encouraged. »
Max : « From my perspective in the world of academia, I would like to see more PhD funding, more internships, sponsorships and more university partnerships. Early career development and career paths can encourage people to join. Another option would be a summer job/internship/work experience in a battery company. Getting young people into the world of batteries requires investment in them, and guidance. With the right support and guidance a PhD student can produce some excellent research. But without the right funding they will go to do something else, or a PhD in another field. »
Grace : « I believe the answer is undergraduate students. Talking about the Brazil scenario, I would like to see the industry work more with universities. For example, investing in programs to develop new projects for undergraduate students. I think that would be a win/win situation : The students would have the opportunity to work on a real life problem and learn about the lead battery from experts ; and the company would have the opportunity to work with new researchers and a new university department. This is a great way for students to be more prepared before they join a lead battery company.
I think even quick programs like a “Battery Marathon”, something like a Hackathon, would make students curios about the area and starttheir development from college. Today, at ITEMM we are already making this approach. Recently we started the implementation of a research and innovation center in a technical college in the city, focused on developing young talent.»
CBI : Would you recommend the lead battery industry as a place to work for young scientists?
Miguel : « I recommend the lead battery industry to anyone interested in energy storage. It is a well-known technology but there is still a lot of room for improvement, and research is always interesting and fun. From my work I especially like the direct relationship with the industry, which is eager to generate more and more research projects. This year at ELBC, I have learned a lot and it has been a very rewarding experience to learn about the latest advances in research and also to see what the market trends are. »
Grace : « I do recommend. The more I work on the field the more I see there is still so much room for new ideas. It is a great time to be working in the battery field! Environmental care is one of the major concerns around the world, and batteries are key to this! One of the great things about the lead battery industry is that we are a safe technology, critical for energy storage, which helps reduce the global carbon footprint. Something people forget is that we are also an industry that has a true circular economy. »
Both Max and Miguel won this year’s CBI & EUROBAT Student Award, a great way to promote their work in the industry by bringing them to ELBC 2022 as speakers. In 2022, CBI also visited ITEMM in Brazil, where we had the chance to meet Grace and learn about her work at the Research and Development Department.
Interested about their work with CBI? Check out our blogs and videos: