HI-ACT Researchers go on a mission to Paris to enhance cross-border research collaboration on Hydrogen

Authors: Dr Gareth Thomas, Dr Danny Pudjianto & Dr Adib Allahham

Between 30th January and 1st February, a small delegation of researchers from HI-ACT (Gareth Thomas, Danny Pudjianto & Adib Allahham) and our sister project UK HyRES (Tim Mays, Joan Cordiner and Qiong Cai) boarded Eurostar to Paris on a mission to strengthen cross-border collaboration on hydrogen research with key hydrogen stakeholders based in France. Plans are already ongoing to organise a follow-on event in the French Embassy in London by the end of April.

Day 1:
Day 1 began with a series of presentations on the side-lines of Hyvolution, one of Europe’s largest exhibitions of all themes related to hydrogen technologies. Here we heard presentations from Hynamics, Total Energies, and Air Liquide among others. It was fascinating to learn more about ongoing projects across France, as well as about corporate use and safety cases for hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels. Several important introductions were made which may result in fruitful collaborations in the future.

Following this we proceeded to the main exhibition where the UK was represented by a team from the Department for Business and Trade who were holding forth on the UK’s hydrogen strategy and reflecting on the ‘hydrogen moment’ which occurred just before Christmas when a raft of new projects was funded alongside a series of further announced.

The remainder of the afternoon was our own and before retiring to our hotel we had time to explore the main exhibition and it was refreshing to see many stands representing the French regions as well as the UK and Scotland. Danny and Adib came back reporting several useful new contacts to follow up on their return to the UK.

Day 2:

Day 2 saw us take an early morning cab to Thais to visit Institut de Chimie et des Matériaux Paris-Est (ICMCP) where we heard about some fascinating work on novel materials for hydrogen storage, and about an interesting project examining the feasibility of using photocatalytic water splitting to reduce costs at a French water treatment plant. Many useful discussions were had and colleagues from Hy-RES found a plethora of shared interests with their French counterparts in the field of material science.

We adjourned to the British Embassy in time for a light networking lunch and a workshop with representatives from the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, UKRI and the French National Research Network on Hydrogen and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Danny and Adib presented HI-ACT activities, visions, work plans, and some of the current scientific outcomes related to the role of Hydrogen in the future energy system in the UK.

Significant potential for collaboration was identified in the field of material sciences and hydrogen safety. Discussions particularly highlighted the strength of UK research and HI-ACT particularly in the field of systems integration, modelling, policy and social sciences and will feed into an upcoming UK-France science dialogue taking place later in February.

Day 3:

Day 3 rounded off our visit with a trip to Universite Paris-Saclay where we heard about integrated materials, economic and lifecycle analysis programmes with all present identifying a shared interest in critical resource availability and end-of-life recycling. We were taken on a tour where colleagues from Hy-RES expressed a certain degree of lab envy at the state-of-the-art equipment and new facilities! Potential for student and postdoctoral researcher exchanges soon ensued and continued over lunch which also provided Gareth with an opportunity to compare notes with colleagues on national landscape identifications and the economics of land-use change.

En-route back to Paris we thanked Sara Gill from the British Embassy for organising the trip and plans for a reciprocal trip by French researchers to the UK later in 2024, and follow-up scientific meetings to delve into the technical details of individual work packages and outline the scope of potential collaborations.

While materials science emerged as the key topic of the trip, it also highlighted the unique expertise available within HI-ACT for modelling the integration of whole systems rather than the performance and lifecycle of specific elements. We saw many hydrogen technologies being developed in the exhibitions and laboratories. As a consortium, HI-ACT can contribute to assessing the impact, role and quantify the value of those technologies in supporting decarbonisation, sustainability, and security cost-effectively.

This expertise positions HI-ACT and the UK well for future collaborations with our French colleagues as well as others in Europe and around the world.