Clean hydrogen group, European Innovation Council push for hydrogen companies scale-up

A contract between the Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (JU) and the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) aims to support the expansion of renewable hydrogen businesses and the growth of a low-carbon EU economy.

Scaling up is one of the major obstacles to creating a clean hydrogen economy, according to Bart Biebuyck, executive director of Clean Hydrogen JU. “The major goal of this collaboration is to help the numerous SMEs in the hydrogen sector expand up.”

Clean hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or energy carrier, or a storage medium and is created by splitting water with renewable energy. In order to achieve net zero carbon emissions and, more recently, to lessen reliance on Russian energy, the EU is placing its bets on it.

The EU has established a number of initiatives to advance the transition to a low-carbon economy, including the Clean Hydrogen Strategy and RepowerEU.

The collaborative project supports research into hydrogen production, distribution, storage, and commercialization. In the meantime, the EIC is working on breakthrough hydrogen-based technologies that need to be scaled up and brought to market. These projects range in maturity from early to more advanced stages.

According to Jean-David Malo, director of EISMEA, the business is still “in its infancy” and producing green hydrogen is more expensive than doing it with natural gas or methane. Since many businesses in the area are SMEs, scaling up presents additional difficulties. They make up 30% of the beneficiaries in the JU.

SMEs must expand in order for the sector to expand. According to Malo, the goal of the JU and EISMEA alliance is to direct SMEs “to all the existing EU funding support concerning hydrogen-related initiatives.” Projects supported by the JU, for instance, might benefit from scale-up initiatives under the EIC. At the same time, he continued, early-stage research initiatives supported by the EIC might use the JU to deploy the findings in actual settings.

According to Malo, “the collaboration will build a broader and more varied European ecosystem on hydrogen than any of the two programs can do alone.”

There are several efforts being supported by the EU to promote clean hydrogen. The Hy2Use project, which involves 35 projects and businesses in Europe and aims to develop infrastructure for the production, storage, and transportation of hydrogen as well as for hydrogen applications for energy-intensive industries, received approval from the Commission for €5.2 billion in state aid in September.

In July, Hy2Tech, a comparable €5.4 billion project in the hydrrogen value chain, received approval.

Constructing synergy

The goal of the partnership between the hydrogen JU and EIC is to increase information sharing about funds and grants, align funding opportunities for hydrogen projects, and share the data that these projects produce in order to achieve more cogent results and avoid duplication.

For instance, information about grants related to EIC will now be able to be shared in TRUST, a JU tool that collects data on key performance indicators.

“At the European level, it is crucial that we make sure that all the lessons are gathered together and that we are all aware of the advancements in technology,” said Biebuyck.

“At the same time, it’s important to create synergies as well, so that if two businesses are engaged in conflicting ‘exotic’ projects, they might be able to cooperate. By doing this, we give every new technology a chance to advance, he said.

Other obstacles to the growth of the clean hydrogen sector exist in addition to scaling up the infrastructure. According to Biebuyck, one of them is obtaining a sufficient amount of electricity from renewable sources. “We are heavily dependent on the entire sector’s speed of that happening,” he said.