The GW4 Alliance of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter Universities hosted delegates from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the UK Aerospace Research Consortium (UK-ARC) at IAAPS, a University of Bath-led £70 million R&I centre focused on propulsion technologies, situated at the Bath and Bristol Science Park.
The visit focused on showcasing our region’s hydrogen capabilities, world-class facilities and collaborative research and innovation projects in order to identify connections and develop future opportunities.
The GW4 region is a world leader in smart and sustainable aviation, building on a rich aerospace and advanced engineering heritage while simultaneously embracing new innovations and technologies. The region is home to 14 of the 15 largest aerospace companies and has the world’s leading aerospace cluster outside of the US; who are backing hydrogen solutions to deliver the future of long-haul flight.
Hydrogen presents huge opportunities to decarbonise different areas, such as the energy sector and transport, including hard-to-decarbonise industries such as aviation. Hydrogen technologies will play a key role in meeting the UK government’s 2050 Net Zero target and large scale aims to drive the growth of low carbon hydrogen.
Laura Cuss, Programme Director at ATI and Helen Brocklehurst, ATI Hydrogen Research Academy Lead started the day by introducing ATI’s Hydrogen Capability Network, which is looking at what materials, supply, skills and research are required to accelerate the development of liquid hydrogen fuelled flight.
Roger Gardner, UK-ARC Network Manager spoke about how they help organisations identify and engage with the UK’s aerospace research capability, aligning research agendas with industry to support the development of collaborative research projects. UK-ARC’s consortium partners include several universities including GW4 institution University of Bristol.
The delegation heard from academics and leading hydrogen experts from across the GW4 Alliance presenting our regional and institutional hydrogen capabilities including our recently funded GW-SHIFT (Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies) project led by the University of Bath and University of Exeter.
Supported by a range of academic, civic and industry partners GW-SHIFT will drive the development of hydrogen skills, infrastructure and technology; providing solutions for storage and distribution, and transport, including the aviation industry.
Professor Tim Mays, GW-SHIFT Principal Investigator and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at the University of Bath also spoke about the aims and ambitions of UK-HyRES, the UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels, which he also leads.
Professor Asif Tahir’s, Associate Professor in Renewable Energy at University of Exeter, presentation included the Hydrogen Innovation for Accelerated Energy Transitions Hub (HI-ACT), another EPSRC Hydrogen Hub, involving Exeter and Cardiff universities in its consortium.
Attendees heard about the DragonFLY project, from the Hydrogen Electric Propulsion Research Centre at St Athan. Led by Cardiff University, its main aim is to develop a scalable technology demonstrator to prove the concept of a hydrogen electric hybrid propulsion system and test its performance capabilities on a regional scale flying testbed.
Discussions also included the importance of experimental research in collaboration with industry, the opportunities and challenges of using hydrogen as a fuel including transportation, storage and safety, lessons to be learnt from other sectors such as marine and the importance of creating and supporting a pipeline of talent and skills.
The delegation also enjoyed a tour of IAAPs - home to the first green hydrogen manufacturing plant in the South West of England and the National Composites Centre, part of the UK’s Catapult Network supporting UK industry. The NCC has the technology and expertise to support the entire product development lifecycle from concept development to flying prototype manufacture.
Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, said: “We are delighted to be hosting ATI and UK-ARC. If the UK is to reach its Net Zero targets and strive for a sustainable future it is vital that industry and universities engage and work together to develop cutting edge research and implement real-world solutions.
“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, acceptance and skills. Working with civic and industrial partners sits at the heart of our mission to support a knowledge-intensive green economy and we look forward to working with a host of partners to accelerate the transition to sustainable Net Zero.”
GW4’s strategic research priorities, partnerships (including Western Gateway and Hydrogen South West) and innovation landscape supports the transformation towards sustainable transport. Our region hosts nationally important R&D facilities supporting the development of hydrogen such as the National Composites Centre, Airbus ZEROe Development Centre, GKN Global Technology Centre, the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility, UK-HyRES, the South Wales Industrial Cluster and the University of Bath’s IAAPS, which are all leading the way in unlocking green and inclusive growth opportunities.