The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a ‘Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative’. Conceived as a public private partnership with industry in a leading role, it will receive €470 M from the Commission under the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), a sum to be matched by the private sector.
© Peter Gutierrez
The Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) concept is one of the major novelties of the Seventh Framework Programme. This new type of public-private partnership represents a clear decision to support research of long duration.
Current situation of research in the EU
Hydrogen and fuel cells research has received increasing levels of funding over successive EU Framework Programmes, from FP2 (€8 M in the period 1987-1991) to FP6 (€315 M in the period 2002-2007), but national funds are dispersed and there are still many technical and non technical barriers to overcome before widespread commercial availability is possible. Meanwhile, strong R&D competition is coming from other global players, not only the US and Japan but increasingly from China.
Need for new methods of co-operation
The research needed is often so complex that no single company or public research institution can perform it alone, but there are currently no agreed long-term budget plans or strategic technical and market objectives to encourage industry to commit more of its own resources.
Integration of EU R&D programmes, from fundamental research through to large-scale EU-level demonstrations, will lead to more technical breakthroughs that can improve performance and durability, and reduce system costs.
What is a JTI and what is it for?
The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen JTI represents a new way of realising public-private research partnerships at European level. It will bring public and private interests together in a new, industry-led implementation structure, ensuring that the jointly defined research programme will better match industry’s needs and expectations, and accelerate hydrogen and fuel cell technology acquisition and deployment processes.
This new form of research co-operation has a number of clear advantages. First, the JTI will contribute to reduced time to market for hydrogen and fuel cells technologies by between two and five years. More rapid improvement will be seen in energy efficiency and security of supply, while pollution greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
A pre-defined budget and a six-year time scale will raise confidence among both public and private investors and allow industry to make investment plans and better manage cash flows. With industry in the driver’s seat, together with the European Commission and the wider research community, all RTD and demonstration efforts will be integrated under common management, making it much easier to set budgets and timelines. In addition, the JTI will create stronger links between demonstration projects and fundamental and applied research projects, accelerating the pace of development.
Scope and deliverables
For the automotive sector, the aim is to achieve breakthroughs in crucial areas such as transportation and refuelling infrastructure, hydrogen production and distribution, stationary power generation and combined heat and power, and the development of fuel cell-based products capable of entering the market in the near term. Ultimately, such breakthroughs should enable industry to take the large-scale commercialisation decisions necessary to achieve mass market growth from 2015-2020.
For stationary fuel cells (domestic and commercial) and portable applications, the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen JTI will provide the technology basis to initiate market growth from 2010-2015.
The founding members of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen JTI are the European Commission and an international non-profit association representing European industry, known as NEW-IG. Its 60-odd members include such major players as Volkswagen, SNECMA, Centro Ricerche Fiat and Rolls Royce, all of whom have decided to act together to further research and innovation in this field.
A similar grouping representing the interests of the European research community could also be formed and become a member of the JTI.