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Guest Blog: UK developing fuel cell and hydrogen technology manufacturing and supply chain

By Richard Kemp-Harper, Technology Strategy Board

Over a number of years, the UK's Technology Strategy Board has built up a good relationship with innovative businesses working in the fuel cell and hydrogen sectors, and has been providing support that suits the needs of this developing industry.

We now have a number of innovative businesses in the UK with products for sale and partnerships with customers. It’s an exciting time to be involved, as the markets for these technologies are really taking off. Fuel cell electric vehicles will be coming to Europe in the next couple of years, sales of stationary fuel cells are growing significantly in several parts of the world, and you can buy portable chargers through Amazon.

If the UK is going to do well out of this, we need to help businesses take advantage of the market growth by helping them to reduce the cost of their products and increase the scale of production. And we’d like to see more suppliers in the UK, so that manufacturing and further development will stay here, and so that more businesses have the chance to export to a relatively small number of players around the world. 

We have some great capabilities in manufacturing in the UK, and we think that now is a good time for businesses working in other areas to see if they can be part of the UK’s success in these technologies. Therefore the Technology Strategy Board is investing up to £5 million in a funding competition to encourage the development of manufacturing capabilities and new supply chain partnerships to support the production of fuel cells in the UK.

For example, this could be in helping fuel cell companies go from hand crafting to automated production, or it could be quality assurance in an automated environment, or a technology to handle fragile membranes. Coating techniques, machining technologies, cutting, sticking and pasting! Anything that can help significantly increase the volume and reduce the cost could be of interest.

There also big opportunities in supplying components. This is a new industry, globally, and many of the components required are not quite right or are too expensive. Imagine putting a gearbox from a large truck into a Fiat 500. That’s what it’s like at the moment for fuel cell companies! But imagine if you could be the first to make that gearbox for the Fiat 500, and for all the other small cars out there in the global automotive market? It's a big opportunity.

So – do you have a technology that can help one of the number of fuel cell and electrolyser developers in the UK? Not sure? We’re trying to help you and others explore the possibilities. We have a collaboration event on Friday 23 November in London, to do some 'speed dating' with fuel cell companies to see if there is a connection.

And through the funding competition, we are then going to support some feasibility studies to help you understand the opportunity and what the possibilities are for your technology. This will be followed by some more funding to take the best ideas through into development.

The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency, with the goal of accelerating economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.  Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research, and the public sector, to support and accelerate the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges, and help build the future economy.

Posted 16/11/2012 by Steve Barrett

Tagged under: fuel cells , hydrogen energy , investment , government , manufacturing , supply chain

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