5 Minutes With: Vaulta founder and CEO Dominic Spooner

Close-up headshot of blonde, white man smiling and wearing black shirt (Vaulta)
Vaulta founder and CEO Dominic Spooner

Energy Source & Distribution chats with Vaulta founder and CEO Dominic Spooner about his mission to reduce battery waste globally.

Dominic, tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m the CEO and founder of Vaulta, a battery casing technology company based in Brisbane, Australia. I’m a design engineer with an industrial design background and have worked across industries including renewables, defence, aerospace, and consumer goods. I’m married to an amazing woman and have a five-year-old daughter and two elderly bulldogs.

Related article: Battery tech startup Vaulta gets first international investment

How did the idea for Vaulta come about?
There’s no doubt battery tech advancements—in cells, cell types, shapes, and geometry—are pouring out of the US and Europe, however these overlook a crucial element—packaging. Batteries are generally very environmentally unfriendly and I wanted to find a solution to the growing mountain of battery waste. The “lightbulb moment” was a decision to create a battery casing that could be disassembled, allowing for internal cells to be removed, recycled, and reused, saving the unit from being lost to landfill. With Vaulta’s patented design, new cells can also be added as technology continues to evolve.

The company recently received its first international investment from Turkish-based Niocycle. What does this mean for Vaulta?
I’m passionate about advancing battery technology in a sustainable way and it’s exciting to align with Niocycle, who share this view on making batteries more circular. We’re jointly working on development of battery products with recycling in mind. Vaulta’s technology creates the capacity to rescue batteries that may traditionally have ended up in landfill, and Niocycle, also an early-stage tech company, is similarly dedicated to ensuring batteries have more than a single life. This investment essentially closes the loop on where batteries can go in the future and it’s a vote of confidence in Vaulta’s work, allowing for a joint focus on business development across the Asia-Pacific, as well as the US and Europe.

What have been some of Vaulta’s biggest milestones since you started it three years ago?
Staying creative and constantly learning are vital components of the Vaulta machine, and we’re always pursuing and advancing opportunities to grow. We’re fortunate to have the support of ASX-listed clean energy investment firm Renu Energy, and received $250,000 in early May this year, the second tranche in an investment worth up to $1 million in total. This allows us to expand Vaulta’s capability and capacity and will fund the employment of extra staff, with our focus on enhancing diversity of thought, gender, ethnicity, and background. This is important to us, because we are in a problem-solving industry and solutions can come from any area. Last year, Vaulta was honoured to win the coveted Good Design Australia Sustainability Award, which spans all design disciplines, among 900-plus nominees. In 2021, we were awarded a Federal Government grant to commercialise our low-cost, lightweight battery casings for the electric vehicle market.

Close-up shot of a pair of hands working on a Vaulta battery (investment)
Image: Vaulta

What are the biggest challenges for battery tech companies in Australia at the moment?
Vaulta, like the rest of the world, has not been immune from the past few years’ supply chain issues. While these are lessening, the industry is still catching up. We focus on locally-made and locally-sourced components where possible, which can be a challenge; but one we are driven to overcome. Cost to production is a factor, because developing, testing, and manufacturing high-quality batteries that can store and release energy efficiently is expensive.
While Australia is a key producer of lithium, globally, the availability of key raw materials can be a barrier, as these are concentrated in just a few countries, which can create geopolitical risks and supply chain vulnerabilities.
Being a fairly new industry also comes with support challenges—we are working to build a network of likeminded peers in the domestic industry, but also abroad, to elevate the battery industry and increase opportunity for Australian innovation to shine. In Queensland and Australia the spotlight is brightening on renewables and the battery space, with investment growing, however there is always more that can be done and we want to see significant investment strides continue to drive innovation.

What’s on the horizon for the business?
We’re focused on growing our team, and pursuing opportunities to power the world more sustainably. There’s much more to come from the team at Vaulta—watch this space! We have customers in three continents now, so we’re expanding our reach all the time. We want to establish a solid, holistic industry in Australia, encompassing everything from concept and design to manufacturing, installation and maintenance; and then be able to share this with the rest of the world.

Related article: ReNu Energy invests in battery tech firm Vaulta

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When the workshop roller door comes down, my focus is on spending quality time with my wife and our daughter, who is at such a fun age, hitting the gym for a strength and conditioning set, and, if there’s any time left over, watching NBA, and hunting for my next sneaker purchase.

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