A new university-industry partnership could help Australia become a major player in the global hydrogen market.
Founded by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney and Providence Asset Group (PAG), the Hydrogen Energy Research Centre (HERC) aims to translate leading university research in hydrogen technologies into real-world, commercial products.
“Universities are very good at fundamental research, but traditionally have not been so good at developing products through to market launch,” said UNSW Engineering Professor Kondo-François Aguey-Zinsou, who will lead the new centre.
“HERC will build a full innovation ecosystem — where we have industry partners deeply engaged with research academics at every step of the way — to generate commercial outcomes.”
The HERC will include an applied research and development, prototyping and testing lab, as well as a production hub aimed at increasing the uptake of hydrogen products. An experience centre to engage investors and customers, as well as a training facility to upskill the workforce, will also be part of the new facilities.
Through partnering with industry, Aguey-Zinsou, who was named one of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers in 2018, is confident HERC will overcome some of the major obstacles in taking hydrogen products to market.
“The problem in Australia is we lack the deep expertise needed in consulting firms and industry to advise on the best hydrogen technologies to pursue, not only in terms of quality and product life, but also accurate financial modelling to secure capital investment,” he said.
“HERC’s ecosystem of expertise will overcome these barriers to commercialisation and ensure greater market uptake of hydrogen products. It’s not just about making hydrogen per se, it’s about changing the entire economy.”
Supported by an initial $5 million investment from PAG, the HERC facilities will be established over the next seven years at UNSW. The partners expect to develop hydrogen energy storage and distributions solutions by 2030, capable of meeting much of Australia’s power needs via renewable energy.
“Australia has a huge competitive advantage over other countries in implementing hydrogen for green energy storage,” said UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Nicholas Fisk.
“Together with Providence, HERC is set to integrate electrolysis, storage and fuel cells, to translate for both domestic and export markets.”