The case for a coordinated, less fragmented UK Hydrogen Energy programme

A project that aimed to overcome challenges, start dialogues and prove the need for a UK Hydrogen Energy Programme.

A group of PhD Sustainable Chemical Engineering students
Students of Bath's Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Realising potential

As a carbon-free fuel and energy store, hydrogen has lots of potential to contribute to energy security and sustainability. The problem is that not everyone's in favour of it, or agrees that more research is needed.

There are numerous technological and socio-economic barriers to success and, historically, there's been insufficient dialogue between stakeholders in different parts of the hydrogen energy chain.

This has prevented a ‘joined-up’ response to the challenge. Bath's researchers set out to capture evidence to establish that further research would be beneficial.

Collaboration is key

Members of 17 leading UK universities, 15 national and multinational companies, five public sector organisations, three professional associations/institutes and two national laboratories were consulted.

Together, we organised an International Hydrogen Research Showcase spanning national and international research bodies, industries, governments and professional associations.

Our objectives were to:

  • use presentations and poster sessions to disseminate outputs from the UK hydrogen research consortia
  • hold group discussions to identify key areas of research on hydrogen and sustainable energy
  • Host presentations and an open session to promote the social and economic implications of transitions to sustainable energy systems
  • identify multi-disciplinary research opportunities and policy issues relating to hydrogen energy
  • encourage the transfer of knowledge between academia, industry, business, policymakers and the public
  • develop collaboration between researchers to ensure work is not replicated and identify future innovative research

More than 100 people attended, and the event played a key role in informing the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council that both research and stakeholder communities were ready to take the hydrogen energy agenda forward.

Bridging the gap

The consultation process established that the fragmentation of hydrogen energy research was a real concern. We determined that a coordinated programme - addressing the scientific, engineering, socioeconomic, policy and environmental aspects of hydrogen research - is an appropriate and much-needed response.

The project's findings and recommendations were influential in framing a successful bid by our researchers, and principal investigators of other major hydrogen energy projects, for a £5 million Hydrogen and Fuel Cells SUPERGEN Hub.

This hub has become a focus of public funding for hydrogen energy research, and is building the groundwork for bridging the gap between laboratory success and the final commercial application of hydrogen energy technologies.

‘The trajectory toward a hydrogen-based energy storage and conversion infrastructure is both inevitable and underway. The showcase was an excellent opportunity to openly discuss the real needs for and challenges of making this happen.’
Professor Matthew Mench, Vice President of the International Association for Hydrogen Energy