HIACT Researchers Foster Global Collaboration through British Council’s International Science Partnerships Fund

Author: Dr Yusuf Chanchangi

The International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF) is a programme that supports UK researchers and innovators to collaborate with international partners on multidisciplinary projects. ISPF promotes the establishment of strategic research collaborations between the United Kingdom and many nations. By engaging in multidisciplinary research and fostering innovation, the fund aims to attain substantial social effects in the realms of environment, public health, and technological advancements.

This ISPF global research partnership initiative aims to bring together academics, policymakers, and representatives from international organisations, with a particular focus on the ISPF’s theme goal ‘Resilient Planet’. From the 4th to the 6th of March, Dr Yusuf Chanchangi, researcher from HIACT and affiliated with the University of Exeter, travelled to Delhi with the purpose of enhancing international collaboration in the realm of renewable energy integration.

The main purpose was to engage with a wide range of academics, researchers’ government representatives from Japan, India, and the UK for a discussion and future collaboration in understanding potentials of HALFs across sectors and addressing challenges that could emerge during hydrogen integration in a future Whole Energy System (WES).

The symposium was not merely an assembly to explore ideas; it was a confluence of diverse expertise that resulted in an in-depth conversation across the realms of physical and social sciences. The event emphasised the need of promoting global sustainable energy solutions for a resilient planet. There is already an ongoing plan to continue some collaboration for a resilient planet project where hydrogen integration is expected to take a major role in accelerating clean energy transition.

Success! HI-ACT features in published Government Article

Our director Professor Sara Walker was successfully published in the October edition of the Open Access Government. This prestigious digital publication provides a platform for sharing extensive insights on key public policy areas worldwide from health and social care, COVID-19, research and innovation, technology, government, environment and energy. 

As the name suggests, the Open Access Government is an open access journal ensuring anyone can read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or cite the articles. Published quarterly, previous publications have included authors and contributors such as government ministers, European commissioners, members of the European Parliament, industry associations and charities. 

This particular edition, found here published on October 25th, encompasses 217 articles across 524 pages and focuses on a wide range of subjects across health innovation and technology, artificial intelligence, welfare and public policy, agriculture, energy and transport.

On page 494, link here, Professor Sara Walker uses the double page spread to set out how hydrogen may play a significant role for decarbonising the UKs energy transition. Prof Walker outlines the possible size of hydrogen demand in the UK, especially for sectors which are hard to electrify such as the energy intensive steel industry. 

Sara continues by emphasising the need for whole systems thinking and integration of energy systems, which has never been greater…cue HI-ACT! 


HI-ACT will develop forward-thinking hydrogen (and associated fuel) technology roadmaps; assess the supply chain availability and security; and quantify the opportunities, risks and dependencies of different use cases. 

We hope the article reaches new European and international audiences with the Open Access Government as it is a trusted source of information and parliament across the globe.

Reach out to us if you have read the article and would like to join us as we embark on this exciting journey or to find out more.  

To read the article and get in touch, click the links below: 

Website: www.hi-act.ac.uk 

Twitter: @HIACT_ 

Email: HIACT@newcastle.ac.uk 

Sign up to our mailing list: https://forms.office.com/r/MB9e6yynxE  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/hiact/  

HI-ACT animated video: https://youtu.be/nh84fBG1Aus?si=yAb8n8SBoAWD8iAQ  

HI-ACT Interview: https://youtu.be/LcZJtWHm8K0?si=Cj8xGgBg_AHkqHoA  

To view the article which contains all DOI information, click on the following web-based link: https://doi.org/10.56367/OAG-040-11114  

To view the full publication, please click on the following link: Open Access Government (pagesuite-professional.co.uk) 

If you wish to cite this article, please use the reference the below: 

Sara Louise Walker (2023), “The role of hydrogen in the energy transition”, Open Access Government October 2023, pp.494-495. Available at https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/article/the-role-of-hydrogen-in-the-energy-transition/168304/. 


HI-ACT team collaborate with sister hydrogen hub UK-HyRes in Birmingham for joint EPSRC launch

HI-ACT and our sister hub UK-HyRes recently came together for a joint 2 day launch event hosted in Birmingham. It was a great opportunity to outline both hubs planned activities and also explore the collaboration opportunities over the next 5 years.

Day 1: 26th September 2023

The first day of the EPSRC Hydrogen Hubs Launch event was dedicated to a public unveiling and celebration of the UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels () and the Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions Hub (HI-ACT). It was a day filled with insights, discussions, and a shared vision for the future of hydrogen in the UK.

Assistant Professor Dawei Wu, (HI-ACT Co-I, University of Birmingham), extended a warm welcome to Birmingham. Prof. Sara Walker (HI-ACT Director) and Prof. Tim Mays (UK-HyRES Director), representing the hubs, followed with their greetings, and thanked everyone for their contributions to this point. Councillor Lisa Trickett from Birmingham City Council delivered a keynote address, highlighting the importance of hydrogen in sustainable urban development and emphasising the need for a just transition that addresses fuel poverty.

The next session featured an overview of HI-ACT by Prof. Jianzhong Wu (HI-ACT Co-Director, Cardiff University), who introduced the whole systems integration challenges that HI-ACT is looking to address. He also discussed research that HI-ACT has already undertaken as part of the 12-month discovery phase, stakeholder engagement & next steps for the hub. UK-HyRES was positioned by Prof. Rachael Rothman, UK-HyRES Co-Director at the University of Sheffield. The audience also viewed a video message from The Rt Hon Chris Skidmore OBE MP, who stressed the importance of taking people along on the journey to net zero and the need for agility and flexibility as strategic drivers for change.

The plenary session introduced the Joint Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), co-chaired by Rita Wadey and Prof. David Grant (Energy Institute Director, University of Nottingham). The session also included fantastic presentations by Prof. Henry Tse on the opportunities that the Hydrogen Innovation Initiative (HII) partnership offers and Dr. Allan Simpson of Equilibrion discussed the role of Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen, who remarked, “It’s time to diversify our thinking”.

A panel discussion on “Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels in a Net Zero Economy,” chaired by Celia Greaves, featured industry experts: Bethan Winter – Wales & West Utilities – System Operations Manager, Prof Xiaohong Li – University of Exeter – Professor of Renewable Energy, Dr Mark Bankhead – National Nuclear Laboratory – Technology Manager Hydrogen and Helen McColm – Department for Energy Security and Net Zero – Joint Head of Hydrogen Theme.

It was a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights into the challenges and opportunities in this critical area of research.

The day concluded with engaging discussions in the “Hydrogen Futures – Meet the Investigators” session, where attendees explored future research opportunities and priorities for the hubs. This was facilitated by Nile, a facilitation company who have worked with HI-ACT on several occasions. It was an enriching day filled with knowledge sharing and networking, marked by a shared commitment to a sustainable future.

Day 2: 27th September 2023

The second day of the event shifted focus to cross-hub collaboration between the two Hub teams and the inaugural meeting of the Joint Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). It was a day dedicated to strategic discussions and future planning.

In the Cross-Hub meeting, Dr. Chris Jones led the UK-HyRES team, while Prof. Jianzhong Wu led the HI-ACT team. These meetings included discussions on joint case study projects and stakeholder engagement plans, fostering collaboration and project development.

Following a coffee break, the focus turned to stakeholder engagement planning. Dr Rajan Jagpal (UK-HyRES Researcher) delivered a workshop on stakeholder engagement and strategy.

Parallel to the Cross-Hub Meeting, the SAB convened for its inaugural meeting. This featured updates on HI-ACT and UK-HyRES progress from the Hub Directors, roundtable discussions, steer from the co-chairs, and SAB members contributed their thoughts on research challenges, systems integration, and stakeholder engagement, reflecting the strategic drivers for change set by Chris Skidmore and Lisa Trickett.

Prof. Tim Mays and Prof. Sara Walker warmly thanked all attendees and closed the meetings.

Both days of the EPSRC Hydrogen Hubs Launch event featured collaboration, knowledge sharing, and a shared commitment to advancing hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels research for a sustainable future. The event served as a vital stepping-stone towards achieving the goals of the Hydrogen Hubs and their mission to drive innovation in the hydrogen sector.

Watch this space for further exciting outputs from the joint launch event.

Date: 1st December 2022.

HI-ACT responds to recent government consultation on new business models for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure.

Following on from the government’s commitment in the British Energy Security Strategy to design new business models for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure by 2025, we asked our HI-ACT Cardiff team to consider the recent government consultation on the proposals for hydrogen transport and storage business models.

Q&A Session

Our HI-ACT team in Cardiff comprises of Professor Jianzhong Wu who is a Co-Investigator for HI-ACT and leads WP1, The Way Forward and is the International Theme Champion. Dr Meysam Qadrdan is a Co-Investigator on HI-ACT for WP1, The Way Forward and WP2, Whole Systems Understanding. He is also the EDI Theme Champion. Dr Modassar Chaudry is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Engineering at Cardiff University.


Q) Do you agree with Government’s analysis and vision for hydrogen network evolution through the different phases as described?


R) We agree with the broad principle that across the various parts of a ‘hydrogen eco-system’ one must start small-scale (production, pipelines, storage, and end users) with the likelihood of clustering around other parts of a hydrogen system or around industrial sites. From mid to late 2020s we also envisage various several clusters potentially joining together to form quasi-regional systems and emerging interactions with the other energy vectors such as the gas and electrical systems. By early 2030s, as envisioned by National Grid Project Union (National Grid, 2022), connection of regional clusters and hydrogen production centres to industrial, heat, transport, and power consumers could develop a national hydrogen backbone as large parts of the gas network are repurposed.


National Grid (2022), Project Union, Launch report, May 2022 National Grid



Q) In your view, do you agree that uncertain demand and supply and limited user base will be the predominant barriers in a growth phase of hydrogen network development?


R) We agree these will be the predominant barriers in a growth phase for development of hydrogen networks. Both (National Grid, 2022) and (ENA, 2022) envisage initial supply and demand to develop for industrialised clusters which then extends to blending (important for de-risking investments) for heating purposes in mid 2020s. Beyond this timeframe, a decision on 100% hydrogen for heat must be made in 2026 as this will set in motion decisions on the future of the gas network (how, where and when the gas system can be repurposed) and how hydrogen could complement the expected growth in electrical systems. This will also ensure the ‘demand’ and ‘limited user base’ issues are addressed which would in turn give confidence to investors.


National Grid (2022), Project Union, Launch report, May 2022 National Grid

ENA (2022), Britain’s Hydrogen Blending Delivery Plan’, Energy Networks Association, 2022


Q) Do you agree that government should develop a dedicated business model for hydrogen storage (subject to value for money and need) and that it should be designed to be technology-neutral?


R) We agree that a dedicated business model for hydrogen is required. Given that each storage is technologically different and are at various levels of maturity, we believe that this should be reflected in the level of support. For instance, above ground compressed hydrogen containers are more established and potentially require less support (operationally and in terms of project lead times) than large scale underground storage facilities in former depleted gas/oil fields. Additionally, aspects such as cushion gas will also need to be accounted for in a dedicated business model for hydrogen storage. The various volumes of cushion gas as a percentage of capacity were highlighted in the Gas infrastructure Europe report on Hydrogen storage (GIE, 2021).


GIE (2021), Picturing the value of underground gas storage to the European hydrogen system, Gas Infrastructure Europe, June 2021



Q) Do you agree that business model support should focus on larger-scale storage, or is there a need to provide further support for small scale storage? Please explain your answer and provide any relevant evidence.


R) Support should be provided for all types of hydrogen storage. Large scale storage needs more support as the development lead times are much longer and there is likely to be a requirement for cushion gas (GIE, 2021). There is a direct analogy with the gas system, where we have fast response and multi cycle storage facilities that can operate flexibly and on the other hand, we have seasonal capability which for example was provided by the Rough storage facility (Budinger et al, 2015; Fevre, 2013). Both types of storage facilities have served the UK well with different operating criteria. With renewable generation set to increase and demand becoming more difficult to predict, the flexibility provided by fast response hydrogen storage facilities (most likely be smaller scale) are likely to be important. Additionally, the value that large-scale hydrogen storage facilities could provide to security of supply should also be considered in any support package.


GIE (2021), Picturing the value of underground gas storage to the European hydrogen system, Gas Infrastructure Europe, June 2021

Budinger Keith, Harding Colin, Evans David (2015), Fast cycle gas storage, British Geological Survey, Sustainable Exploitation of the Subsurface Conference, 20-21 May 2015

Fevre (2013), Chris Le, 2013, Gas storage in Great Britain, Oxford Institute for energy studies, 2013


Q) In your view, should the build out of hydrogen transport infrastructure evolve through either a) a solely a market-led approach, b) a form of strategic planning, or c) neither?


R) We believe that a hybrid approach would combine the advantages of market and strategic-planning approaches. Allowing the market to innovate and develop hydrogen systems but supported by government through a strategic planner who can provide coordination and general direction in order to move hydrogen from stand-alone-clusters to regional and potentially national system. Like the UK, Germany also has ambitious hydrogen plans (Bundesministerium, 2020) which they hope to implement through a national hydrogen council (involves research, regulators, production, infrastructure owners and users) to co-ordinate the role out. In The UK, initially (early years) we support a market led approach to provide a multitude of ideas but as we move to more integrated systems, technical complexity (and across areas such as energy quality, blending, safety etc) will increase and this will require a strategic direction (co-ordinated approach involving inputs from users and owners of hydrogen infrastructure) to the development.


Bundesministerium (2020), The National Hydrogen Strategy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Germany), 2020


Q) In your view, should the build out of hydrogen storage infrastructure evolve through either a) a solely a market-led approach, b) a form of strategic planning, or c) neither? Please explain your answer and provide any relevant evidence.


R) If the overall hydrogen transport infrastructure is provided with strategic direction, we don’t believe it also necessary for storage. Storage is a very important component within hydrogen system development, especially the ability to manage supply and demand (short term and seasonally). If the overall strategic direction and planning is implemented for the overall transport infrastructure, storage will most likely be provided by the market to meet specific needs (balancing etc). But it will still require appropriate support from government (support for large scale storage to valuing the flexibility provided by fast cycling storage facilities).


The HI-ACT team continue to engage with government on policy in the lead up to the launch of the HI-ACT hub (currently planned for May 2023). Please watch this space for updates.


Please contact HIACT@newcastle.ac.uk if you have any queries.

Chief Scientific Advisors visit Hydrogen Homes!

October 13th 2022

The Chief Scientific Advisers (CSAs) to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Professor Paul Monks, and the Department for Transport (DfT), Professor Sarah Sharples, were in the University recently at the invitation of Professor of Energy, Sara Walker. They were here to visit the Northern Gas Networks research site, Hydrogen Homes, at Low Thornley in Gateshead, to learn more about the research Sara is leading into the potential of integrating hydrogen into the energy system as part of the transition to net zero.

“Newcastle University is leading a £12.5M EPSRC Hub on Hydrogen Integration. This was an exciting opportunity to tell Professor Monks and Professor Sharples about the Hub, and our creative partnership with Northern Gas Networks. We have been working with NGN on development of the Integrated Transport Electricity and Gas Research Laboratory (InTEGReL), a demonstrator for our excellent research on energy systems integration.”


At Hydrogen Homes, the CSAs were able to see hydrogen in use in heating and cooking appliances and had a presentation from the NGN team about their work on hydrogen blending (mixing with natural gas) for the village of Winlaton.

Most government departments have a CSA, who through the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Cabinet committee system advise ministers on all aspects of policy on science and technology. Their role is to bridge the gap between academic experts and government officials, and the visit represented a welcome opportunity to showcase our expertise and develop relationships with two key officials.


Ahead of the site visit, Professors Monks and Sharples attended a roundtable discussion on energy and electrification at The Catalyst, chaired by Professor Richard Davies and facilitated by our public affairs consultants, WA Communications.

For the first time, the roundtable brought together academic colleagues from across the University who are driving the University’s energy and electrification agenda to showcase the strength and breadth of our expertise in the University and the region.


Former DfT CSA Professor Phil Blythe and Professors Matt Boyle, Colin Herron, Rene Koglbauer and Dr Mark Ireland joined Sara, presenting our work on Connected Autonomous Logistics, Driving the Electric Revolution, the North East Battery Alliance, skills development and carbon capture and storage alongside hydrogen. The session also enabled our experts to hear direct from the CSAs about the main priorities within BEIS and DfT, and how the University can work with government to support the delivery of key national priorities.


Translating our research into policy is one of the many ways we raise the profile of the impact of our world-leading research. This recent visit and roundtable formed part of ongoing efforts to position Newcastle as a trusted source of research-based, solutions-focussed evidence for energy policy development.