Multimillion pound investment to develop South West hydrogen supercluster

A hydrogen fuel cell buses stands at the station

Academic, civic and industry partners will work together to unlock the huge potential of our region’s hydrogen ecosystem providing solutions for storage and distribution, transport, and the energy sector supporting up to 100,000 jobs by 2050.

The project ‘GW-SHIFT: Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies’ led by the University of Bath and University of Exeter has secured £2.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of their Place Based Impact Acceleration Account awards (PBIAA).

Researchers from across the GW4 Alliance of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities alongside Swansea, South Wales, and Plymouth will work with 25 civic and industry partners, contributing over £1.5 million in additional funds and in-kind support, to maximise the enormous potential of the South West of England and South Wales hydrogen ecosystem.

Supported by a range of partners including the Western GatewayGreat South WestWest of England Combined AuthorityHydrogen South West and SETsquared, GW-SHIFT will enable cross-sector partnerships to drive the development of hydrogen skills, infrastructure and technology.

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. Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, water or solar.

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

Working with existing and identifying new partners the project will co-create low carbon hydrogen solutions for aviation and shipping, heating buildings, and the power sector. The Western Gateway Hydrogen Delivery Pathway calculates that investing in hydrogen infrastructure within the area could create up to new 40,000 new jobs and safeguard a further 60,000 existing jobs.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Great South West Partnership, added: “GW-SHIFT strongly aligns with the vision of the Great South West. It is designed to meet the needs of our businesses and foster the region’s emerging hydrogen cluster, while uniting world-leading industries, cutting-edge expertise, and innovative partners to drive impactful change. Our mutual ambition with the GW4 Alliance to support a hydrogen ecosystem holds immense potential for green growth in the Great South West.”

Professor Tim Mays, GW-SHIFT Principal Investigator and Co-Director and GW4 Net Zero Ambassador, University of Bath said: “GW-SHIFT will develop as a place based supercluster to accelerate the impact of research and innovation in sustainable hydrogen technologies in the South West of England and South Wales to secure the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target for 2050.  All partners are incredibly excited to be involved and look forward to working together over the next four years and beyond.”

Professor Xiaohong Li, GW-SHIFT Co-Director, University of Exeter added: “We are delighted to establish the GW-SHIFT hydrogen supercluster for the South West of England and the South Wales to support these regions to accelerate strategic and high-impact uses for green hydrogen. Not only will the supercluster bring together the academic institutions, civic organisations, and key industry partners in the region, but in the meantime the co-created projects and collaborations will enable us to move further and drive innovations.”

Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, said: “We are thrilled to secure funding for this ambitious collaborative project. The GW4 Alliance brings together academic expertise spanning the whole systems approach from hydrogen production, storage and distribution to energy system integration, policy and economics, public behaviour and acceptance. Working with civic and industrial partners sits at the heart of our mission to support a knowledge-intensive green economy.

“A thriving hydrogen ecosystem is dependent on innovation that draws upon the collective strengths of universities and business, industry and civic organisations. Our academics are at the forefront of new and innovative research and we look forward to working with a host of partners to accelerate the transition to sustainable Net Zero.”

The project builds on the South West England and South Wales’ unique strengths and emerging hydrogen ecosystem, including the highest concentration of Net Zero economy businesses in the UK. The region is also home to the world’s leading aerospace cluster outside of the US; who are backing hydrogen solutions to deliver the future of long-haul flight.

Our regions host nationally important R&D facilities supporting the development of hydrogen such as the National Composites Centre (part of the UK’s Catapult Network), Airbus ZEROe Development CentreGKN Global Technology Centre, the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean MobilityUK-HyRES, the South Wales Industrial Cluster and the University of Bath’s IAAPS – home to the first green hydrogen manufacturing plant in the South West.

In partnership with the Western Gateway (a pan-regional partnership for South Wales and Western England), the GW4 Alliance launched a vision for the development of a hydrogen ecosystem and earlier this year, along with the industry alliances of Hydrogen South West and the South Wales Industrial Cluster, held a national Hydrogen Conference with over 500 attendees to showcase the breath and scale of hydrogen activities and unlock green and inclusive growth opportunities across the region.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway, said: “Our Hydrogen Gateway conference in Newport brought together industry, leaders and academia to focus minds on the opportunity we have across the Western Gateway area.  Our research highlights our communities great strengths in aviation and innovation that present a huge economic opportunity for the UK to lead the world in developing new net zero solutions for hard to decarbonise sectors. It is great to see GW-SHIFT take this work to the next stage and we are proud that our partnership can help to support it.”

Andy Clarke, Chair of Hydrogen South West, said: “Hydrogen South West is delighted to be supporting the GW-SHIFT programme which will accelerate the research into hydrogen and its use in future emerging technologies. The GW4 Alliance has four world leading universities, and it is great to see academia, industry and civil partners coming together to collaborate and develop solutions for our Energy Transition and our planets most urgent need, climate change.”

Professor Miles Padgett, Interim Executive Chair at EPSRC, said: “I’m pleased to announce our first ten Place Based Impact Acceleration Accounts which will play a unique role in enhancing the capabilities of innovation clusters across the UK. A key priority for UKRI is to strengthen clusters and partnerships in collaboration with civic bodies and businesses, thereby driving regional economic growth.”

Science Minister, George Freeman, added: “The UK is already home to clusters of world-class science and technology talent, bringing together top universities, cutting-edge research institutes and enterprising businesses of all sizes and it is crucial we channel these hubs of scientific advance and growth to level up our country.”

GW-SHIFT’s collaborative projects will not only impact policy and our critical industrial base and economic productivity but importantly will also communicate research and findings to the public via roadshows and events, as well as providing materials and demonstrations to schools.

GW-SHIFT will develop a place-based supercluster that will accelerate the impact of hydrogen research and innovation in our region and help deliver the UK’s Net Zero 2050 target.