A signature success of the WestGate was announced on May 24, 2012 following the Greene County Council's approval to use economic development bonds to help build a $12 million Battery Innovation Center at the WestGate@Crane Technology Park. Former Commanding Officer of the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, Charles LaSota, will serve as CEO of the new initiative.
According to the Indiana-based Energy Systems Network, the global market for advanced batteries is nearly $50 billion. Economists predict double-digit annual growth over the next decade driven by increasing adoption of electric vehicles, the implementation of smart electric grid technologies, and other applications for flexible energy storage. To take advantage of the demand for rapid commercialization in this high-tech sector, ESN joined other partners to establish the Battery Innovation Center (BIC) to link battery manufacturers, government agencies and research labs, academia, and Fortune 500 companies together to accelerate the battery market.
The BIC will leverage Indiana's public and private sector assets in advanced battery technologies, creating a center of excellence that will provide testing and validation services to industry, product development and technology support for Department of Defense (DoD) among other clients. New battery innovations will be brought to market as participating companies and institutions collaborate to advance battery technologies from discovery to production.
Based in a 40,000 square foot, multi-million dollar facility at the WestGate@Crane Technology Park, the site is adjacent to Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane (NSWC Crane), the Department of Defense center of excellence in battery development and power electronics. "With NSWC Crane as the Department of Defense's largest collection of resources dedicated to Electrochemical Power Sources, developing next generation energy storage solutions is critically important to our mission as energy and power requirements on the battlefield continue to grow at near exponential rates," said Kyle Werner, Deputy Department Director for Applied Science & Demand Management at NSWC Crane.
"NSWC Crane's technical mission in Energy & Power Sources is continuing to grow and requires innovative capabilities,” said Werner. “In order to efficiently execute our technical mission, it is imperative that we collaborate and partner with other government, academic and industry partners.” LaSota commented, "From my tenure at Crane, I know first-hand the demand for these types of services – as a military installation, we often lacked the resources needed to manage the volume of requests from industry for 'technology transfer assistance' while executing our primary mission, providing our military with cutting edge military technology. The BIC can serve public and private customers with a truly world-class array of research, development and production assets."
ESN formed a partnership with NSWC Crane, RADIUS Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to develop a detailed business plan and assess potential demand and support for the Center. Dozens of organizations also provided input into the development process, many of which are prospective member institutions of the BIC, such as Cummins, Delphi, the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Purdue University. The project holds promise to make this Southern Indiana region the ‘Silicon Valley’ for advanced batteries.