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Kickstarting a regional hydrogen supercluster

The Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies (GW-SHIFT) is a unique two country programme designed to develop the emerging hydrogen research and innovation cluster across the South West of England and South Wales. This will support the ambitions of these regions to decarbonise different sectors and accelerate our journey towards a sustainable and secure Net Zero future. 

Over 70 invited stakeholders and guests attended the GW-SHIFT Kickstarter event on Friday 1st March at Cardiff University, coinciding with Hydrogen Week 2024 

The event provided an opportunity for attendees to learn more about the programme’s key aims and objectives and a chance for stakeholders and partners to discuss potential activities and shape the high impact projects in greater detail.  

Researchers from across the GW4 Alliance of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities alongside Swansea, South Wales, and Plymouth will work with civic and industry partners, to unlock the huge potential of our region’s hydrogen ecosystem providing solutions for storage and distribution, transport, and the energy sector. 

GW-SHIFT Co-Directors, Professor Tim Mays, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at University of Bath, and Professor Xiaohong Li, Director of Global Development at University of Exeter kicked off the event by providing an overview of the programme’s aims and objectives. 

Co-Investigators and theme leads also presented more detail about their specific areas:  

  • Hydrogen Production – Dr James Courtney, University of Swansea 
  • Hydrogen Storage and Distribution – Dr Jemma Rowlandson, University of Bristol 
  • Hydrogen Conversion – Professor Augustin Valera-Medina, Cardiff University                  
  • Hydrogen and End-Use Applications – Professor Deborah Greaves and Dr Yeaw Cho Lee, University of Plymouth 
  • Hydrogen and Industrial Feed Stock – Jon Maddy, University of South Wales 

Attendees were also introduced to the Co-Chairs of the Advisory Board - Steph Jary, Western Gateway and Ben Burggraaf, Net Zero Industry Wales, ensuring that civic and industry partners are well represented throughout the project.  

The second part of the event focused on discussing how attendees could get involved and co-design the high impact projects. GW-SHIFT is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as a flagship Place Based Impact Acceleration Account. Funding is provided for creative and innovative activities which must deliver impact within the hydrogen cluster and drive regional growth.  

The Kickstarter event provided space for attendees from academia, civic and industry to start co-designing and collaborating on these project ideas; including collaborative projects to tackle key place-based challenges, projects focused on new technologies, processes or interventions, secondment opportunities, skills development and projects designed to engage with schools and the wider public.  

GW-SHIFT Co-Directors, Professor Tim Mays and Professor Xiaohong Li both agreed: “It was fantastic to see so many stakeholders engaged in supporting the development of a hydrogen supercluster across the South West of England and South Wales. The ambition of GW-SHIFT is to grow our region from an emerging cluster to an established supercluster to lead the delivery of the green hydrogen economies needed to decarbonise the UK, driving joined-up impact that spans multiple sectors including maritime, road, rail and aerospace, across the region’s unique testbed of urban, rural, and coastal areas and resources. It was great to hear and be part of so many critical conversations which will help shape the programme’s activities and enable sustainable growth and positive change to happen.”

Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, said: “This programme builds on our region’s unique strengths in this area, including the highest concentration of Net Zero economy businesses in the UK and our nationally important R&D facilities supporting the development of a hydrogen ecosystem.

“The transition to a green economy is dependent on innovation that draws upon the collective strengths of universities, business, industry and civic organisations. Our academics are at the forefront of new and innovative research and we look forward to continuing the discussions kick-started today and working with a host of partners to accelerate the transition to sustainable Net Zero.”

Hydrogen technologies will play an important role in decarbonising transport and energy to meet the UK government’s 2050 Net Zero target and large scale aims to drive the growth of low carbon hydrogen. GW-SHIFT will be a key enabler of these priorities, supporting the UK transition to green hydrogen production.

Over the next four years, GW-SHIFT will support innovative research and high impact activities to create a thriving low carbon hydrogen supercluster focusing on key themes such as production, storage and distribution, conversion and transport.

Further Reading

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter