Researchers from the University of Bath are set to lead a new project designed to accelerate the impact of hydrogen fuel, creating a supercluster of expertise and innovation in the UK’s South West and South Wales.

Working alongside colleagues from fellow GW4 Alliance universities of Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff, as well as others from Swansea, South Wales and Plymouth, the project will bring together academics, civic organisations, and industry partners to help reach the UK’s Net Zero carbon emissions targets.

The project, ‘GW-SHIFT: Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies’, has secured £2.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of their Place Based Impact Acceleration Account Awards (PBIAA).

Supported by a range of partners including the Western Gateway, Great South West, West of England Combined Authority, Hydrogen South West and SETsquared, GW-SHIFT will enable cross-sector partnerships to drive the development of hydrogen skills, infrastructure and technology.

Hydrogen technologies will play an important role in decarbonising transport and energy to meet the UK government’s 2050 Net Zero target and large scale aims to drive the growth of low carbon hydrogen. GW-SHIFT will be a key enabler of these priorities, supporting the UK transition to green hydrogen production. Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, water or solar.

Over the next four years, GW-SHIFT will support innovative research and activities to create a thriving low carbon hydrogen supercluster focusing on key themes such as production, storage and distribution, conversion and transport.

Working with existing and identifying new partners the project will co-create low carbon hydrogen solutions for aviation and shipping, heating buildings, and the power sector. The Western Gateway Hydrogen Delivery Pathway calculates that investing in hydrogen infrastructure within the area could create up to new 40,000 new jobs and safeguard a further 60,000 existing jobs.

Professor Tim Mays, GW-SHIFT Principal Investigator and Co-Director and GW4 Net Zero Ambassador, from the University of Bath's Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “GW-SHIFT will develop as a place based supercluster to accelerate the impact of research and innovation in sustainable hydrogen technologies in the South West of England and South Wales to secure the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target for 2050.  All partners are incredibly excited to be involved and look forward to working together over the next four years and beyond.”

Professor Xiaohong Li, Project Co-Director, University of Exeter added: “We are delighted to establish the GW-SHIFT hydrogen supercluster for the South-West of England and the South Wales to support these regions to accelerate strategic and high-impact uses for green hydrogen. Not only will the supercluster bring together the academic institutions, civic organisations, and key industry partners in the region, but in the meantime the co-created projects and collaborations will enable us to move further and drive innovations.”

Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, said: “We are thrilled to secure funding for this ambitious collaborative project. The GW4 Alliance brings together academic expertise spanning the whole systems approach from hydrogen production, storage and distribution to energy system integration, policy and economics, public behaviour and acceptance. Working with civic and industrial partners sits at the heart of our mission to support a knowledge-intensive green economy.

“A thriving hydrogen ecosystem is dependent on innovation that draws upon the collective strengths of universities and business, industry and civic organisations. Our academics are at the forefront of new and innovative research and we look forward to working with a host of partners to accelerate the transition to sustainable Net Zero.”

The project builds on the South West England and South Wales’ unique strengths and emerging hydrogen ecosystem, including the highest concentration of Net Zero economy businesses in the UK. The region is also home to the world’s leading aerospace cluster outside of the US; who are backing hydrogen solutions to deliver the future of long-haul flight.

Our regions host nationally important R&D facilities supporting the development of hydrogen such as the University of Bath’s IAAPS - home to the first green hydrogen manufacturing plant in the South West, as well as the National Composites Centre (part of the UK’s Catapult Network), Airbus Zero Emission Development Centre (ZEDC), GKN Global Technology Centre, the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility, UK-HyRES and the South Wales Industrial Cluster.

In partnership with the Western Gateway (a pan-regional partnership for South Wales and Western England), the GW4 Alliance launched a vision for the development of a hydrogen ecosystem and earlier this year, along with the industry alliances of Hydrogen South West and the South Wales Industrial Cluster, held a national Hydrogen Conference with over 500 attendees to showcase the breath and scale of hydrogen activities and unlock green and inclusive growth opportunities across the region.

GW-SHIFT’s collaborative projects will not only impact policy and our critical industrial base and economic productivity but importantly will also communicate research and findings to the public via roadshows and events, as well as providing materials and demonstrations to schools.

The project builds on existing hydrogen expertise at Bath, including the ‘Future Fuels: Hydrogen and its carriers’ Bath Beacon, which is empowering our research community to tackle the global challenge of future fuels, and the £11m UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels (UK HyRES), which is also directed by Prof Mays. Prof Mays is also a core member of the University of Bath Institute for Sustainability.