Biological Sciences

Louise Horsfall recognised in global innovation awards

Professor Louise Horsfall has won the grand prize in "Top 10 Global Science and Technology Innovation Awards" at the 2050NOW La Maison’s global trends forum.

2025NOW La Maison, part of Les Echos-Le Parisien, the LVMH group’s media division, tracked thousands of global innovations and selected the 10 most outstanding ones. 

The awards recognises the most credible, creative and sustainable innovations in the past year that may change the future. 

Professor Louise Horsfall, Chair of Sustainable Biotechnology, and her research group are recognised for their work on engineering bacteria to recover valuable metals from spent lithium batteries in electric vehicles.

Recovering valuable metals

As governments worldwide look to limit the use of fossil fuels, the numbers of electric vehicles are growing quickly. Over time this will lead to a rapid rise in lithium-ion battery waste.

There are currently no methods to recycle these large batteries, that maintains the intrinsic value of the metals.

But after 2030 the UK will have to ensure that new batteries include recycled metals to continue to sell into the European market.

As part of the ReLib project, a Faraday Battery Challenge funded programme, Louise’s research group developed a bioseparation process to extract metals from battery leachate – a metal solution obtained during the battery recycling process.

ReLiB is a £18m research project led by University of Birmingham, that aims to provide technological solutions, and thought leadership, to the challenges of re-using and recycling lithium-ion batteries. 

Working with Edinburgh Genome Foundry Louise’s group analysed engineered strains of different bacteria to identify which could selectively recover valuable metals in the form of nanoparticles.

Once recovered, these valuable metals - including cobalt, manganese and nickel – are precursors for making new rechargeable vehicle batteries. 

Scale Up

The group conducted scale-up work with FlexBio, an Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) bioprocessing scale up facility at Heriot Watt in Edinburgh.

Larger fermenters, using both synthetic and real battery leachate, were used to refine the process of recovering metal nanoparticles after the bioseparation process.

While the technology is still in the early stages of its development, preliminary life cycle impact assessment suggests it is well over 100 times more sustainable than conventional recycling methods.

They will next present their work at an Edinburgh Innovations event -  Sustainable mining and the future of critical mineral recovery - on Thursday 25th April.

About 2050NOW La Maison

2050NOW La Maison is an independent observatory that tackles the challenge of the century: the shift towards sustainability. 

Global Trends is a pilar of the forward-looking offering from 2050NOW LA MAISON, based on the analysis of 3000 innovations per year. 

The annual trends, reflecting sustainable innovation across all continents and sectors, aim to understand the present to make better decisions for the future.

The awards ceremony, which will also be live streamed, took place on April 23rd 2024 at station F in Paris, the world’s largest start up campus.


This is fantastic recognition for a technology with the potential to transform how we access and use the limited resources on earth. We are proud we are shaping the future, making a difference, and leaving a positive legacy for generations to come.

Professor Louise Horsfall,Chair of Sustainable Biotechnology

Related Links

Professor Louise Horsfall 

Global Trends Forum 

Reuse and Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries (ReLiB) project 

Edinburgh Innovations event -  Sustainable mining and the future of critical mineral recovery

Faraday Institution

Edinburgh Genome Foundry