EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Hydrogen - SusHy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering

Abstract

The global hydrogen generation market is valued at $115.25 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to $154.74 billion by 2022 [Global Outlook & Trends for Hydrogen, IEA, 2017]. We are witnessing significant market opportunities emerging for hydrogen technologies today. New and existing hydrogen technology developments and market activities are projected to intensify over the coming decade. Sustainable hydrogen solutions are a key pathway for decarbonising transport, heat and power generation sectors. Common challenges to sustainable hydrogen being adopted across these sectors are:
- Cost reduction
- Safety
- Systems level and multisectoral innovations
- Managing change

Over the next decade innovative solutions are needed to tackle the above challenges, but it will be impossible without a dedicated mechanism to train doctoral Energy Innovation Leaders. These leaders should have a firm grasp of the technology from scientific fundamentals through to applied engineering and a solid understanding of the techno-economic barriers and an appreciation of the societal issues that will impact on the translation of disruptive technologies from research labs through to market. This goes beyond being multidisciplinary, but is a transdisciplinary training, reflecting the translation steps from understanding market driven needs, planning and conducting appropriate basic and applied research to products/solutions/system development through to successful market penetration. This is delivered by a cohort training approach through the cross fertilisation of ideas of a cohort with a diverse background, peer-demonstration of the value of research across a diverse range of stakeholder-led projects, thus facilitating a peer-to-peer transdisciplinary learning culture.

The SusHy Consortium, led by Gavin Walker, continues a long running and highly successful collaboration in hydrogen research between the Universities of Nottingham, Loughborough, and Birmingham (UoN, LU, UoB) which started over a decade ago with the Midlands Energy Consortium. The Midlands Energy Graduate School spawned two successful CDTs (Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and their Applications and the current Fuel Cells and their Fuels). The current proposal for a CDT in Sustainable Hydrogen brings together the world leading expertise in hydrogen generation, purification, sensors/monitoring, and storage, along with whole systems issues (resilience engineering, business economic models and life cycle analysis) which exist across the three Universities. A gap in the consortium expertise is in the research field of hydrogen safety and we identified the internationally-renowned Hydrogen Safety Engineering and Research Centre (HySAFER) at Ulster University (UU) as the right partner to deliver on this key aspect. This is the first broad collaboration in the world seeking to investigate, train researchers and produce leaders in Sustainable Hydrogen.

Stakeholder Partnerships. A key strength of this CDT is the active involvement of the Stakeholders in co-creation of the training programme which is reciprocated in the value with which the Stakeholders view of the CDT. This shared vision of a training partnership between the Universities and Stakeholders will lead to the smooth function of the CDT with not just a high-quality training programme, but a programme that is tailored to the sector needs for high-quality, industry-ready doctoral Energy Innovation Leaders. The valued CDT-stakeholder partnership will also be a significant appeal to candidates interested in energy-related PhDs and will be used to help market the CDT programme to a diverse talent pool.

Planned Impact

The RI self-assessment of an individual's research projects will mean that the cohort have a high degree of understanding of the potential beneficial impact from their research on the economy, society and the environment. This then places the cohort as the best ambassadors for the CDT, hence most pathways to impact are through the students, facilitated by the CDT.

Industrial impact of this CDT is in working closely together with key industry players across the hydrogen sector, including through co-supervision, mentoring of doctoral students and industry involvement in CDT events. Our industrial stakeholders include those working on hydrogen production (ITM Power, Hydrogen Green Power, Pure Energy) and distribution (Northern Gas, Cadent), storage (Luxfer, Haydale, Far UK), safety (HSL, Shell, ITM Power), low carbon transport (Ulemco, Arcola Energy), heat and power (Bosch, Northern Gas).

Policy impact of the CDT research and other activities will occur through cohort interactions with local authorities (Nottingham City Council) and LEPs (LLEP, D2N2) through the CDT workshops and conference. A CDT in Parliament day will be facilitated by UKHFCA (who have experience in lobbying the government on behalf of their members) and enable the cohort to visit the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST), BEIS and to meet with local MPs. Through understanding the importance of evidence gathering by Government Departments and the role this has in informing policy, the cohort will be encouraged to take the initiative in submitting evidence to any relevant requests for evidence from POST.

Public impact will be achieved through developing knowledge-supported interest of public in renewable energy in particular the role of hydrogen systems and infrastructure. Special attention will be paid to demonstration of safety solutions to prove that hydrogen is not more or less dangerous compared to other fuels when it is dealt with professionally and systems are engineered properly. The public, who are ultimate beneficiaries of hydrogen technologies, will be engaged through different communication channels and the CDT activities to be aware of our work. We will communicate important conclusions of the CDT research at regional, national, and international events as appropriate.

Socio-economic impact. There are significant socio-economic opportunities, including employment, for hydrogen technologies as the UK moves to low carbon transport, heat and power supply. For the UK to have the opportunity to take an international lead in hydrogen sector we need future innovation leaders. The CDT supported by partners we will create conditions for and exploit the opportunities to maximise socio-economic impact.

Students will be expected in years 3 and 4 to undertake a research visit to an industry partner and/or to undertake a knowledge transfer secondment. It is expected these visits (supported by the CDT) will be a significant benefit to the student's research project through access to industry expertise, exploring the potential impact of their research and will also be a valuable networking experience.

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