Naperville native returns home: Battery tech startup Bedrock Materials settles down in Chicago

When Naperville native Spencer Gore left Illinois for internships at NASA and SpaceX, he didn't look back.

He went on to join Tesla's battery engineering team and then started his first company, which created electric drones using pioneering battery technology.

But when Gore's second company took shape and he began looking for a place to grow the battery technology startup, he found there was no place like Chicagoland.

Between its innovative research facilities like Argonne National Laboratory and its unique quality of life, the region was not only a great place to be a battery scientist — but a great place to raise a family.

Bedrock Materials announced $9 million in seed funding Thursday, alongside the inauguration of its new Research & Development headquarters in Chicago.

“When I graduated from (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), I pretty much caught the first flight that I could out to California, and never in a million years did I think that I was going to come back to Chicagoland,” said Gore, a Naperville North High School alum. “I think that experience, spending 10 years out there, gave me a little bit of the sensation that there really is no place like home.”

Bedrock Materials’ focus is on producing materials for low-cost, eco-friendly sodium-ion batteries — thought to be the next-generation alternative to today’s widely used lithium-ion batteries. With a decade of battery research under his belt, Gore hopes the company will lead the charge in providing an affordable, domestically sourced battery for electric vehicles.

To do that, Gore needs a team of highly educated, mid-career scientists at his side. And it turns out Silicon Valley, where the median home sale price reached a peak of $1.53 million in 2022, isn’t the most attractive place for them.

“The question was, ‘Where can we go where we can actually give our employees a really great life? Specifically, where can be a great place to raise a family, but also a great place to be a battery scientist?’” Gore said. “And of all the places that we looked — we looked at Boston, we looked at Austin — there was nowhere better than Chicagoland. You've got the talent pool here between Argonne, University of Chicago, Northwestern and a little bit further UIUC.”

Argonne was a particularly strong pull factor given its existing work in sodium-ion battery innovation, Gore said.

“It is truly exciting that the state of Illinois can attract startup companies like Bedrock Materials to be part of the clean tech community. The innovation ecosystem is growing, and we look forward to collaborating and supporting startups,” Shirley Meng, Chief Scientist of Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science, said in a news release.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker meets Bedrock Materials co-founder and CEO Spencer Gore at Illinois EV Industry Day in April 2024. Bedrock Materials

Gore said when it comes to batteries, which are rich in layers of complexity, he “could not ask for a more fascinating thing to work on.”

“The realization I had at SpaceX is that even if we can manage to turn humanity into a spacefaring civilization, if we then we make it there and we look back at the Earth and the entire biosphere is in ruins, then what's the point?” Gore said. “I think there's a strong kind of moral call to arms for people who have science and engineering talent to do what they can in this global effort to decarbonize. And I personally found batteries to be not only the way in which I could make the biggest impact but also a surprisingly and uniquely beautiful and interesting technology.”

In addition to the $9 million in financing from a slate of investors, Bedrock Materials secured an incentives package from the state of Illinois under the Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act. The package requires that the company reach specific job creation and capital investment targets.

“Illinois is home to one of the most robust EV ecosystems in the nation, and I’m thrilled to welcome Bedrock Materials to our great state,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in the release. “Their research and development headquarters will join our growing EV supply chain, bringing innovation and job creation to our EV economy.”

Jenny Whidden,, is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see

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