The UK must invest in producing more graduates specialising in renewable technologies such as hydrogen if it is to cement itself as a global leader in the sector, according to Professor Joe Howe, executive director of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at the University of Chester.
He says that in order 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 more than 40 world-leading academics from across the country in the fields of low-carbon energy, renewables, the environment, transport and climate change, back calls by cross-industry group Hydrogen Strategy Now for the Government to lay the foundations of a UK-wide hydrogen strategy before it is too late.
There are 41 businesses backing Hydrogen Strategy Now, which employ around 100,000 people and have a value of £100bn in the UK. They are ready to invest up to £1.5bn in hydrogen projects and create thousands of jobs across the country.
Professor Howe said: “A hydrogen strategy is essential to the UK stealing a march and becoming a world leader in hydrogen now. 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.”
An example of how this can be done is the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre in cyber security at Queen’s University Belfast, which has been a world leader in its field for more than a decade, developing major research breakthroughs and producing more than 100 Masters graduates.
In an open letter, academics from the likes of the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Birmingham say 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 warns 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, including 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.