QUB spin out SerenTech bought by Australian magnets specialist

Announcing the acquisition deal are (from left) Tim Harrison, managing director Ionic Rare Earths; Professor Peter Nockemann of Queen's University; and Esther McKee and Andrew Holmes of IonicTech

AN Australia-based multinational which is focused on investment in the mining and resource sector has acquired a Queen's University spin-out which has developed new techniques to recycle permanent magnets using a revolutionary process for the separation and recovery of rare earth elements from mining ore concentrates and waste magnets.

Ionic Rare Earths (IonicRE), which in the last year has raised AUS$28 million (£15.7m) through the issue of shares, has taken over the running of Seren Technologies in Belfast, which will now be rebranded as IonicTech.

SerenTech - which last month was awarded a £1.72 million grant by the UK Government to develop a demonstration scale magnet recycling plant in Belfast - has 11 full time employees, with another 25 positions to be created in 2023.

And further expansion is planned as it accelerates the scale up of its technology, completing a new pilot plant at its new facility in Titanic Quarter.

Tim Harrison, managing director of Ionic Rare Earths, which operates from Melbourne and Perth, said: “The world’s supply of magnet rare earth elements is failing to keep pace with demand, whilst the importance and ubiquity of magnets as part of everyday life is growing.

“Clearly, as dependence on high grade permanent magnets, which depend on magnet rare earth elements – neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium – new sources of supply must be brought to market.

“Permanent magnets are critical for net zero carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and offshore wind turbines, but also rare earths critical to everyday life, used in smartphones, speakers and 5G internet to name just a few.”

He added: “As the demand for these new technology applications grow, the need for secondary sourcing, otherwise known as recycling, becomes ever more pressing.

“We are delighted to be able to now formally progress with the change of name from SerenTech to Ionic Technologies International Limited, and to commence building the brand from which we will commercialise a leading edge, patented technology to help deliver a viable alternative solution for the processing of end-of-life magnets and swarf to be used in new permanent magnets, developed right here in Belfast.

“The latest statistics suggest the magnet rare earth element supply is sourced between 30-40 per cent from recycled materials, with China dominating over 99 per cent of the magnet recycling landscape.

“IonicRE, through IonicTech, aims to provide an alternative option, with a low cost, modular entry for recycled magnets.”

IonicRE sees the commercialisation of the technology offering from IonicTech as vital to its growth as it now moves to work with global governments looking to develop domestic magnet supply chains.