Verkor fundraising: Batteries included

French lithium-ion-battery startup Verkor had an electric autumn. In September, it announced the raising of €2 billion worth of investments, and a few weeks later broke ground on its first gigafactory in Dunkirk, in the north of France.

Posted mercredi, novembre 29 2023
Verkor fundraising: Batteries included

For a factory ground-breaking ceremony there was quite a turnout in Dunkirk on the November 16th. But then, it’s not every day a country gets to open its first-ever home-grown facility producing one of the 21st century's most innovative pieces of technology.

Those present included French prime-minister Elisabeth Borne, minister for the energy transition, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, and the vice-president of the European Investment Bank, Ambroise Fayolle. It was a sign of just how important the facility is, not just to Verkor and the French car industry, but to the future economic prosperity and strategic independence of France and the European Union. After being left in the starting blocks by Asian and American rivals in the smartphone race, European tech could do with a win. 

Verkor’s gigafactory, which will manufacture high-performance, low-carbon batteries, aims to be operational by 2025 with an initial production capacity of 16GWh/year. Located in the Port of Dunkirk, it is set to create 1,200 direct and 3,000 indirect jobs. The funds raised will in part be used to up the pace of research and development in order to attract yet more investment and level up the entire lithium-ion battery value chain in Europe.

Serious backing
The €2 billion raised by Verkor was a record for a French startup. To arrive at the landmark sum, Verkor carried out a series C round that brought in €850 million, thanks to interest from major investors, chief among them Australia’s Macquarie Asset Management. Major contributions also came from French infrastructure investment company Meridiam (to the tune of €200 million, according to Agence France Presse), Renault, EQT Venture, EIT InnoEnergy and Sibanye-Stillwater.

The €2 billion raised by Verkor was a record for a French startup

But it’s not just VC firms and auto industry players betting on Verkor. The bulk of the funding came from the public sector, with European Investment Bank investing €600 million and the French state a further €659 million.

Silicon Valley-sur-Mer
Verkor will need to wisely use every cent if it is to succeed in catching up rivals, such as America’s Tesla, which opened a gigafactory in Berlin in 2022 and is already churning out battery cells. The reindustrialization of France is one of the core economic objectives of French President Emanuel Macron, currently 18 months into his second five-year term. Taking to X in September following the announcement of the Verkor fundraising he wrote, “France is attracting investment, reindustrializing, decarbonizing its economy and creating employment!” underlining the importance of the project from an environmental, as well as economic, perspective.

Indeed, the northern tip of France is becoming something of a hub for the electric-battery industry. Stellantis, Mercedes and TotalEnergies have inaugurated their first lithium-ion-battery plant in Douvrin, while the country has also convinced Tiawanese electric-car-battery maker ProLogium, to open a factory in Dunkirk by 2026.