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Boston-Power Adds $30M to Build China Plant

published: 2011-12-28 15:58

Boston-Power Inc., a Westborough maker of next-generation lithium-ion batteries and systems, has landed an additional $30 million in new funding to add to the $125 million investment the company took in September.

The funding came from private equity investors. Leading the new round for Boston-Power was GSR Ventures, which led the previous round, at which time GSR managing director Sonny Wu became chairman, and founder Christina Lampe-Önnerud was named international chairman. Also participating in the $30 million addition were prior investors Oak Investment Partners and Foundation Asset Management.

“All of the money — this money and in September — is going toward building out operations,” Lampe-Önnerud said.

Specifically those operations are at the new manufacturing facility being built in Liyang, outside Shanghai. Boston-Power recently broke ground on the new facility, which is pegged for completion by the end of 2012. In the September funding, Boston-Power received $125 million in both private funding from the above-mentioned firms, and government funding from sources in China .

“We’ve been able to get that up at supercharged speed for our industry — no holdups on government stuff,” Lampe-Önnerud said about the new facility.

Over the next 18 to 24 months, Boston-Power plans to add 600 to 1,200 new employees to the roster of about 500 that has been steady for the past year, Lampe-Önnerud said. Some employees have been moved from Westborough to China, she said, but much of the research and development for the company will stay at its Massachusetts headquarters, even as it gets ready to expand R&D in China.

“We have 200 employees in Beijing where we are opening a Technology Center,” she said, adding, “We will keep some of the R&D here, in Westborough specifically. You will see a lot of innovation coming out of this team.”

Growing the company in China is simply a matter of going where the bulk of the market in the growing area of electric transportiation will be in the next few years, Lampe-Önnerud said.

“I think that China will take most of the market. Right now it looks to be the No. 1 market,” she said. “As an American, I would like to see that happen in America too, and we will be in America once that market is established. We have some nice collaborations in the U.S., but the markets are still first in China.”

In September, in advance of the $125 million funding, Boston-Power laid off CEO Keith Schmid, chief financial officer Steve Byram and vice president for marketing Sally Bament. Lampe-Önnerud gave up her CEO title earlier this year when Schmid came on board.

Boston-Power, which has targeted its technology for applications such as electric vehicles, portable power and utility storage, has brought in approximately $355 million in funding since it was founded in 2005. Lampe-Önnerud was named a Mass High Tech Women to Watch honoree in 2007.

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