REE Automotive is an Israeli start-up with a smart head office in a leafy suburb of Tel Aviv and a listing on the New York stock market that values it at roughly $1.68 billion (£1.24bn). So why did UK taxpayers give it £12.4 million in August to further develop its EV platform?
We put this question to Ian Constance, who heads the government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) that awarded the grant. Why does REE need our cash when it’s already awash with money from its stock listing? “Because a big chunk of that investment money will be spent with the UK economy,” he told us at the recent Cenex-LCV (low-carbon vehicle) show. “The work we’ve done with them has brought their research and development here. It was in Israel before.”
Indeed, in February, REE opened a technology centre at the MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, to further develop its REE Corner concept, which incorporates the suspension and electric motor into a tight package that it hopes will enable big-space, small-footprint electric vans.
Since the APC first opened its chequebook in 2013, it has funded projects worth a combined £1.2bn. Each investment comes with caveats, but these aren’t too arduous. The APC and its delivery partner, Innovate UK from the government, ask that firms match their funding by at least half, collaborate with partners including at least one smaller company and promise to “exploit the results” in the UK. Each project also has to show some form of carbon reduction, though given the industry-wide move towards electrification, that’s virtually every automotive project right now.
In APC parlance, the money – UK taxpayers’ money – goes to projects at the end of their Technology Readiness Level, which basically means proven and pretty much ready to go. Just like in the Dragons’ Den, they want to see some evidence that it works and there’s commercial interest – but unlike the Dragons, the APC won’t demand a chunk of your company in return.