Brussels, 15 Dec 2004
'We are extremely lucky to have a corresponding technology platform,' says Eberhard Seitz of the Jülich Research Centre in Germany, coordinator of the newly established hydrogen and fuel cell ERA-NET HY-CO.
As with other ERA-NET initiatives, HY-CO aims to improve the coordination of national research and development (R&D) activities, in this case in the field of hydrogen and fuel cells, with the aim of establishing a durable European Research Area (ERA). The project was officially launched on 1 October with 2.7 million euro of EU funding.
The European hydrogen and fuel cell technology platform was established at the end of 2003, charged with developing a strategy to transform the EU from a fossil fuel-based to a hydrogen-based economy. Dr Seitz believes that the main focus for the technology platform over the coming months will be securing a significant place for hydrogen research in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). However, the HY-CO consortium hopes to work closely with the technology platform in its efforts to build the hydrogen economy at a national level.
'The technology platform has several boards and groups, including a Member State mirror group which gives EU countries a view on its activities,' Dr Seitz told CORDIS News. While this group can make recommendations to Member States on the basis of the technology platform's activities, it has no real means to implement them. 'But we do. [...] On a recommendation basis, the mirror group could identify areas for joint activities between Member States and the ERA-NET could act on that advice,' he believes.
The significance of achieving a better coordination of national research in this field can be seen in the fact that, despite increased EU resources for hydrogen and fuel cell activities in recent years, each euro spent at Community level is matched by four at national and regional level. 'From a quantitative point of view, an annual funding of 160 million euro will be coordinated by HY-CO,' states a consortium brochure.
Dr Seitz added: 'Despite some high profile demonstration projects in Europe, such as the fuel cell busses, there is still a great deal of research to be done, much of which will happen at national level. It is worthwhile doing this in a coordinated way, and we first need to decide exactly what research needs to be done.'
To achieve this, the 21 HY-CO partners will begin with an exchange of information and best practice which will lead on to the identification of common strategic issues. 'National views on hydrogen research are different,' explained Dr Seitz. 'For example, France might be more keen to apply nuclear technologies to hydrogen production, whereas Italy may prefer solar. We need to find areas of harmony in national strategies as our starting point.'
Once areas of common interest have been identified, the ERA-NET will then try to encourage Member States to launch joint activities. 'Our hope is that the next calls launched on a national basis will have some element of bilateral activity with international partners,' revealed the HY-CO coordinator.
When asked what incentive there is for countries with a strong track record in hydrogen research to open up their programmes to international competition, Dr Seitz quickly responded: 'These countries understand the need to open up their activities - they realise that you can't build a hydrogen infrastructure on your own.' If Germany, for example, with its strong track record in renewables research, wants to develop a hydrogen-based road transport infrastructure, it must realise that that infrastructure cannot simply end at its borders, he added.
Countries are also aware that in the long term, a successful hydrogen economy must rely on competitive markets for future products, which will require promoting the technology across international borders. Finally, Dr Seitz adds that: 'In light of rising oil prices, and with a growing awareness of the need for a strong commitment to renewables in light of trends such as climate change, countries realise that they have to do something quickly, and they realise that they must overcome the usual barriers and national considerations.'
For further information on the HY-CO project, please consult the following web address:
To find out more about the ERA-NET scheme, please visit:
For further information on Technology Platforms, please visit:
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