The Key Role Of Partnerships For Maturing The Hydrogen Value Chain

Groningen Seaport (courtesy of

Image courtesy of: Groningen Seaports

This is the second article in a series on the role of hydrogen in achieving net-zero by 2050, following on from the recent COP26 webcast co-hosted by NovAzure, we explore the value chain and the crucial role that partnerships must play for its success, recapping some key insights from the event.

NovAzure joined a panel of experts from Engie H2 Green, the European Union, the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and the regional government of the North Netherlands (SNN) to share experience and perspectives on scaling-up clean hydrogen in Europe.

NovAzure Co-Managing Director Jean-Jacques Jouanna explained that, despite supply chain disruptions caused by the global pandemic, hydrogen investment grew across all three value chain pillars 2020-21.  In the 1st half of  2021, Investment growth in Production was around 700%, whilst Storage and Transportation and Applications saw growth of around 200%.

Overview of investment activity in three pillars over the hydrogen value chain (NovAzure insight)

Jean-Jacques noted that, while this is an encouraging sign of things to come, the ‘chicken and egg’ problem of establishing a strong value chain hydrogen can only be addressed with strong partnerships and collaboration:  Production players require long term demand to attract investment and scale production, whilst Applications customers need a solid and scalable supply chain before shifting their operations to hydrogen.

Establishing the right partnerships with other players in the hydrogen value chain in order to present integrated, turn-key and frictionless offers to end customers is important in this nascent hydrogen eco-system.  If hydrogen start-ups can initially limit their dependencies on other parts of the value chain by packaging offers that are as stand-alone and incremental as possible, then this can allow their customers to make the shift to hydrogen whilst limiting their own risks.

Regarding the challenge to scale clean hydrogen rapidly, Nienke Homan, Regional Minister of the Province of Groningen, The Netherlands, noted the importance of creating a ‘warm nest’ to facilitate this:  a backbone of policy measures and infrastructure so that eggs will hatch, as it were.  Governments should have clear ambitions, concrete goals and be a launch customer for Hydrogen SME’s and start-ups, as has been the case in Groningen.

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU) highlighted some of the collaborative achievements of the last decade:  FCHJU has partnered with 287 hydrogen projects in Europe since the beginning of the programme.  In terms of Electrolysis success in the EU, there has been a 1000% increase from 100 kilowatts of electrolysis to 100 megawatts.  This proof of production capability has been a real draw for large corporations and investors looking for opportunities to deliver their decarbonisation strategies, demonstrating that public policy focus can create demand and confidence in the private sector. The FCHJU demonstrates that Europe is now a global leader in electrolysis technology.

Michèle Azalbert, Managing Director of renewable hydrogen producer Engie mentioned that locating operations in one of the so-called ‘hydrogen valley’ regions like the one in Groningen, The Netherlands, can provide some security to hydrogen users whilst storage and transport infrastructures are still in development.  These valley eco-systems, appearing in the UK, Norway, Germany and elsewhere, provide centres of R&D expertise and focus government and investor support for establishing viable business models.   Over time, these valleys may expand and link together.

Recent EU funding developments highlight that there is great momentum and opportunity behind scaling up and applying hydrogen technology in the current decade. The EU catalyst partnership was announced last week, which allocates €1 billion in funding between 2022-2026 towards technologies with potential to reduce GHG’s but which are currently too expensive to roll out at scale, with clean hydrogen as a primary area of interest. This is a significant step in achieving the aims set out in the EU hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe, and an encouraging boost for the European clean hydrogen sector. Interest from the private sector will likely follow these funding commitments. It is vital that this opportunity extends to all areas of the value chain in order to achieve integrated hydrogen systems which can allow Europe to further develop as a leader in the field.

Jean-Jacques at NovAzure explained that cross-industry and public-private research collaborations will be essential for addressing many of the remaining challenges to commercialising hydrogen.  For start-ups, public and private funding partnerships will be needed to unlock innovation by providing a resource runway over perhaps a decade to enable the delivery of market-ready solutions to reach fruition.

We hope that you find this series of articles useful and interesting.  Please let us know what you think at NovAzure, we welcome your enquiries:


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