The UK’s ability to develop innovative new hydrogen technologies will falter if it fails to produce more graduates specialising in renewable technologies.
This is the view of Professor Joe Howe, Executive Director of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at the University of Chester, who said that for the UK to innovate new hydrogen technologies in years to come, it needs to produce more experts with the knowledge and skills to develop and research new breakthroughs.
His comments come as over 40 academics in the fields of low-carbon energy, renewables, the environment, transport and climate change, support calls by cross-industry group Hydrogen Strategy Now for the government to lay the foundations of a UK-wide hydrogen strategy or risk falling behind other nations that have already done so.
Hydrogen Strategy Now is backed by 41 businesses including Alstom, Bosch and Siemens that employ around 100,000 people and have a value of £100bn in the UK. They are reportedly ready to invest up to £1.5bn in hydrogen projects and create thousands of jobs across the country.
“A hydrogen strategy is essential to the UK stealing a march and becoming a world leader in hydrogen now,” Professor Howe said in a statement. “But in order for that to be sustained there needs to be far more investment in the education of students in renewable technologies.
“Technology will not stand still and will constantly need development and new ideas, and the only way we can keep the UK at the forefront of this is by encouraging more graduates to become experts in the field.”
By taking an early lead in cyber security, the Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Queen’s University Belfast has developed into a world leader in its field for more than a decade, developing major research breakthroughs and producing over 100 Masters graduates.
In an open letter, academics from institutions including the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Birmingham said a hydrogen strategy would “reinforce the UK’s standing, reputation and the export potential of our knowledge in this field”.
The letter states: “The UK has a huge number of natural advantages when it comes to hydrogen energy – we have a surplus supply of renewable wind energy, we have a robust energy infrastructure, and we have a highly-skilled manufacturing base well-suited to a cutting-edge new technology like hydrogen.
“The benefits of having a strong hydrogen economy are clear – it will drastically reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and create new, green jobs across the country. It can help usher in a new era of zero-carbon transport, through hydrogen buses, trains, lorries and even ships and aeroplanes, as well as zero-carbon heating. It will also provide a huge boost to manufacturing in this country and give the UK the opportunity to lead the world in an exciting renewable and low-carbon technology.”
The group warned that if action is not taken to create a hydrogen strategy, then it risks being left behind by other countries which are starting to make moves into this area, such as Germany, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, and China, which have all introduced their own hydrogen strategies.
The European Commission is also creating an EU hydrogen strategy, including plans for multi-billion-euro investment in hydrogen projects.