Since InMotion Ventures, the independent investment and incubation initiative set up by Jaguar Land Rover, launched in 2016 the firm has focused on backing companies across the mobility space broadly. Its 15 active investments run the gamut from autonomous vehicles, to car insurance tech, to ride-sharing, and travel planning, but increasingly the firm is focusing its efforts on vehicle electrification and sustainable supply chains.
As the mobility market moves to embrace electrification, InMotion wants to make sure its portfolio is in the mix.
That’s evident from its most recent investment in Circulor, a company that monitors supply chains from raw material inputs to finished outputs with an eye toward sustainable sourcing.
“As an OEM nowadays it’s increasingly important to have increasing transparency and visibility into how all of those materials have been sourced,” said the firm’s managing director, Sebastian Peck. Circulor already has a strong footprint in the automotive industry, Peck said, and is working with a major oil company on tracing the share of recycled plastics that have come from that provider. “It has applications across any industry.”
Jaguar Land Rover is also using Circulor’s technology to track a material that’s being used in the interior of one of the company’s vehicles, Peck said. The stealthy project hasn’t been publicly revealed yet, but the company has worked with a university and supplier to trace the material from its point of origin to the finished product.
Sustainable supply chains aren’t the only priorities Peck laid out in a recent interview with TechCrunch.
As the mobility market moves to embrace electrification, InMotion wants to make sure its portfolio is in the mix and Peck said it would be looking to make investments in a number of different areas around electric vehicles and batteries.
“We have looked at a number of companies who are developing new battery chemistries. We haven’t made an investment yet,” Peck said. “We don’t have a deep enough insight into the IP portfolios of the big battery suppliers to really be able to reliably benchmark those new chemistries. We have not had enough conviction to make an investment or back a particular company. From a value chain it is two or three steps away from us. It’s a space we’re looking at.”
If battery chemistries have been an interesting, but slightly inaccessible, focus area for the firm, the supply chain around batteries and the prospects for electric charging companies are proving to be more welcome targets, according to Peck.
“As far as electrification is concerned, we are very interested in second-life batteries and energy storage. Smart charging technologies is an area we’re looking at very closely, one direction, bidirection and grid management,” are all areas where Peck’s team is hoping to find potential investment targets, he said.
Peck outlined a few priorities across the battery sector. The first is raw materials management, which would involve companies like Circulor to track the materials that are extracted. Then there are the sustainable materials themselves, where automakers are on the hunt for more sustainable metals or mining companies whose processes have a lower environmental impact. Once batteries are manufactured and in use, InMotion and its corporate benefactor are looking at ways to plan for the end of life and reuse of battery materials as well. Finally, there’s a software component to this too, where companies can use data-driven analytics to ensure that they can prolong the life of a vehicle to achieve better component performance, Peck said.
“These are areas we have started to look into over the past 12 months,” Peck said. “We’re looking into a company in the second-life energy storage, which is a U.K.-based business that is setting mobile storage solutions for events and construction sites and for renewable energy generation using our batteries. That’s a very symbiotic business model relationship.”
Of course, the firm is also continuing to back tech companies developing services and features that extend far beyond zero emission vehicles.
“Obviously we venture beyond electrification into autonomous vehicles and connectivity,” Peck said. “There will be a lot of value creation once OEMs are able to surface their APIs.”
Still, in the near term electrification is key, especially since InMotion’s parent expects to go electric from 2025. That’s going to require the discovery of new value chains and new technologies.
“We’re obviously trying to find our footing and trying to support that transformation,” Peck said.
InMotion operates as a limited company in the U.K. and invests off its balance sheet. The company’s board includes two members of Jaguar Land Rover management and a senior director of the company and the head of InMotion’s connected incubator, Studio 107. InMotion makes between three and four deals per year, and the company’s assets under management are undisclosed. It typically will invest between GBP100,000 to GBP2.5 million initially into deals.
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