KCMC Industry Steering Group meeting 2020 – Growing the Hydrogen Economy
John Conti-Ramsden, KCMC Director outlines KCMC’s Industry Steering Group (ISG) meeting providing a platform to discuss the major challenges and trends in the industry. This time, taking the form of a virtual event, the ISG meeting focused on the emergence of the hydrogen economy in the UK.
KCMC’s Industry Steering Group (ISG) meeting provides a platform to discuss the major challenges and trends in the industry. This time, taking the form of a virtual event, the ISG meeting focused on the emergence of the hydrogen economy in the UK. This growth will require advancements in materials chemistry, providing opportunities for innovation in materials science and giving the industry an essential role in the creation of a greener energy landscape.
Establishing the hydrogen economy – using hydrogen as a means to store, transport and generate energy for power and fuel – has been identified as a major priority in the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution1. Driven by the goal of decarbonising our energy system and creating a more sustainable society and industry, growing the hydrogen economy will require significant and coordinated efforts across many groups and governmental departments. The ISG meeting brought some of these groups together, providing a platform to share viewpoints in order to identify challenges and areas of opportunity from a materials chemistry perspective.
At the event, we heard from several of our partners about their approaches to the challenge of growing the hydrogen economy. The High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the Catapult system more widely, is engaging with industry and academia to identify the areas of need in establishing the necessary technology and infrastructure. Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) are involved in setting up funding initiatives to support hydrogen economy projects. The Henry Royce Institute is specifically investigating the need for materials innovation in this area. These examples highlight how bringing together these key players will be vital in realising the UK’s full potential in creating a greener energy landscape.
Key areas of interest for industrial application of materials chemistry within the hydrogen economy are catalytic systems for both generation and use of hydrogen, materials for storage and transportation of hydrogen, and safety at scale. Further there are opportunities to use hydrogen as a feedstock in a future zero carbon chemical industry. Developing all these aspects will draw on diverse innovations in materials chemistry.
A window of opportunity
The concept of the hydrogen economy is not new but has been brought into focus by increasing concern around climate change and the government’s prioritisation of developing new, sustainable energy systems, to meet the goal of achieving ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis has added emphasis to the need for change, further increasing demand for greener energy. As an industry, this gives us a timely opportunity, with government and public support, to build on new ways of thinking to contribute to a greener energy system, whilst also driving innovation in materials science and drawing out the widest possible benefits for UK industry.
The importance of connection
KCMC plays a vital role in bringing together key stakeholders to identify challenges and then turn these into business opportunities. As an industry-led partnership, we draw on cross-sector expertise and views, through collaborative events such as the ISG meeting, to identify the points where materials chemists can contribute. With an understanding of the challenges and an industry perspective, we can identify the market opportunities that our partners will be interested in and drive advancements in materials to enable, and take advantage of, the transition to a hydrogen economy.
Events like the ISG meeting help to drive the industry forward, creating connections and building networks that will be vital in enabling the coordinated response that this challenge requires. Networking and forging industry links between innovators in companies and with academia is much more challenging in the current climate, which is why it was so important to adapt the ISG meeting to a virtual format. The virtual event allowed us to come together as a cross-industry-sector group to address the windows of opportunity we have in growing the hydrogen economy. We will continue to utilise virtual events to maintain vital cross-sector communication until it is safe to meet in person. Building on the ways in which our colleagues and partners have found ways to continue working, we will be looking to improve the virtual experience.
Outcomes from the ISG meeting
Over the coming months, it will be important to work in more depth with key stakeholders in both industry and government to identify the needs and opportunities for materials chemistry in developing the hydrogen economy. Creating practical funding schemes and opportunities for collaboration that link with the aspirations of our business partners will help to engage them in the challenge. Achieving this will allow us to work together to establish a more sustainable energy landscape, supporting our network of partners and driving innovations in materials that will help to shape the future of the industry.
- Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (2020) The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936567/10_POINT_PLAN_BOOKLET.pdf