UK-based Echion is a Cambridge University spin-out which provides a patented XNO® anode material for lithium-ion batteries, targeting industrial vehicle OEMs and tier-1s looking to further the electrification of their product lines.
Compared with traditional EV batteries, Echion’s product increases the safety, reliability, longevity and charging speed of battery packs – features that are critical for heavy-duty operations such as mining and construction.
With many battery cell manufacturers and industrial machinery OEMs based in Asia, it was only natural for Echion to seek opportunities in the region.
And - knowing that sales in the fast-growing battery space using a completely new technology can get derailed easily if you can’t support your customers locally in a speedy fashion – Echion appointed us as their on-the-ground business development team in China, Japan and Korea.
Mapping the ecosystem
We set out to map the OEM and battery ecosystem in each target market, focusing on industrial vehicles, battery makers, component suppliers and EV system integrators.
Commercial success starts with small steps – evaluations and MTAs (material transfer agreements) with customers are key. And, to scale rapidly, local or regional supply chain partners need to be secured early on as well. In fact, in Asia, some customer deals can’t move forward without local suppliers involved, which the OEM already knows and trusts.
So, in short order, we initiated conversations with the relevant teams at more than 100 key industrial and battery players across East Asia.
Driving sales cycles
Echion’s value proposition was well-received, and we initiated more than a dozen promising commercial discussions across Asia.
For example, Chinese companies in the heavy industrial vehicle space were particularly interested in applying Echion’s XNO material towards mining trucks, wheel loaders and port AGVs.
Further feedback indicated that, although many industrial vehicle solutions were focused on using LFP, LTO and hydrogen, none of these technologies can realistically achieve widespread electrification – unlike XNO.
In Korea, the most promising segment of the market was next-gen battery cell manufacturing. In fact, we supported Echion with MTAs with five major Korean players in the space.
In Japan – where new battery R&D is focused on graphite, making the evangelisation of XNO an uphill battle – we developed a handful of promising conversations. This included one with a major battery-maker, which proceeded into an MTA, and another with a cutting-edge electrolyte startup.
We also saw interest in several other niche market segments across Asia – including low-temperature applications, uninterrupted power systems, vehicle starter systems and power tools. Lots more opportunities to explore.
Electrifying the supply chain
Our pan-Asian team also engaged cell, separator and electrolyte manufacturers, niobium suppliers, battery research institutes and universities – key regional partners to boost the product supply capability, raise awareness and add local market credibility.
These new relationships were bound to be invaluable to Echion’s future product development and its ability to grow its manufacturing capacity – not only to provide large volumes of its products to its soon-to-be Asian end customers, but to its global customer base as well.
In Asia, a hyper-targeted one-to-one business development approach tends to work best when coupled with B2B marketing support.
We exhibited on Echion’s behalf at one of Korea’s largest innovation-focused trade shows, NextRise. Over two days, we welcomed 800+ visitors and arranged a dozen high-value meetings. Echion also had a booth and gave a successful talk during InterBattery Seoul, one of Asia’s leading battery shows.
Capitalising on the in-person events, we helped to get an article about Echion published in the Korea Economic Daily – one of the country’s top business and tech news publications.
In addition, we supported Echion’s team at the China International Battery Fair (CIBF), generating more than 150 industry contacts and sparking several high-priority discussions. And – to drive these discussions – we created Echion’s official WeChat page, which is a crucial business communications tool in China.
Refining Echion’s strategy
Through all these efforts, and thanks to first-hand feedback from Asian customers and partners, Echion achieved a strong position from which to refine its Asia strategy and capitalise on revenue-generating opportunities.
Some openings our Asia teams uncovered were even outside the initial project scope. For instance, we garnered interest from strategic partners willing to invest in Echion’s next funding round.
With first revenues from Asia coming in through paid evaluations and MTAs, further commercial opportunities and joint R&D projects were set to crystalise soon after. Echion was well on its way to become one of the most promising western battery tech innovators operating in Asia.