Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: EPSRC hydrogen programme to establish hydrogen research hubs

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Apply for funding to establish a hydrogen research hub.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for EPSRC funding.

You must have been successful at phase one of the hydrogen research coordinator opportunity to apply as principal investigator at this phase.

We will fund two hubs in total, one in each of the following areas:

  • hub for research challenges in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels
  • hub for systems Integration of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £12.5 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Funding is available for up to five years.

Who can apply

This is the second phase of a two-phase process.

This is an invite-only opportunity and only the successful hydrogen coordinators appointed from the first phase are eligible to apply as principal investigators.

In doing so, they will work with the wider research and innovation community through a multidisciplinary consortium that builds upon and enhances the outputs from the first phase.

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply.

Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Check if your institution is eligible for research and innovation funding.

Submissions to this funding opportunity will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

Scope

Hydrogen and hydrogen-based, low-carbon liquid fuels (alternative liquid fuels) are essential for the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gases by 2050. There is growing consensus of its role in the deep decarbonisation of the UK economy, and this is exemplified by the publication of the UK hydrogen strategy.

This opportunity aligns with EPSRC’s Engineering Net Zero priority, UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) strategic theme of Building a Greener Future and the UK’s Net Zero Research and Innovation Framework. Our investment in hydrogen will deliver whole systems approaches and solutions, which are resilient and adaptable to climate change, to decarbonise our economy and society, and create and deliver a sustainable net zero future.

EPSRC is looking to support two hydrogen hubs to drive forward the national effort in hydrogen research that is needed to facilitate this critical area of technology to meet industry and government needs, one in each of the following areas:

  • hub for research challenges in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels, led by the coordinator for research challenges in hydrogen and alternative vectors
  • hub for systems integration of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels, led by the coordinator for systems integration of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels.

EPSRC’s investment in the two hydrogen hubs supports the UK’s ambitions to transition to a zero carbon economy. We will work in partnership across UKRI, the hubs, and the public and private sector to unlock further growth in the area.

The hydrogen hubs opportunity is the second phase of a two-phase process designed to fund two multidisciplinary research programmes, which currently do not exist at the scale required to accelerate the development of hydrogen and alternative fuels and their whole systems integration in the UK.

Hubs will only be funded through this two-phase process if the identified programme requirements and funding opportunity criteria are successfully met.

First phase: appointment of the hydrogen coordinators

The coordinators must use the funding awarded to network within the research and innovation community to act as thought leaders, ambassadors and consensus builders.

Read more about the hydrogen research coordinator opportunity.

Second phase: hydrogen hubs (this funding opportunity)

Only the successful hydrogen coordinators have been invited to submit to the second phase of this opportunity to deliver the hubs for research challenges and systems integration of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels. In doing so, they will work with the wider research and innovation community through a multidisciplinary consortium that builds upon and enhances the outputs from the first phase.

It is fundamental to the success of both hubs that the coordinators have a key role in leading and driving the transfer of knowledge between academia, industry and policymakers through developing meaningful partnerships with users who are engaged in the research programme from the outset.

These hydrogen hubs are not a continuation or a next phase of the hydrogen and fuels cells supergen hub.

Proposals must demonstrably lie primarily within the remit of EPSRC, while recognising cross-disciplinary opportunities that arise within this context and must be within the scope of this funding opportunity.

Hub for research challenges in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels

This hub will provide a focus for the UK research community, working in close partnership with businesses, governments, and administrations throughout the UK to tackle research challenges that underpin the hydrogen production, storage and distribution parts of the hydrogen value chain.

This hub will discover and develop cross-cutting solutions to the cross-sector challenges relating to hydrogen and hydrogen-based low carbon liquid fuels. Examples include, but are not limited to, research challenges such as:

  • green hydrogen production
  • production of low carbon liquid forms of hydrogen
  • hydrogen storage
  • materials
  • utilisation
  • cost
  • safety
  • environmental impact
  • public perception and engagement.

They may also seek to address issues that will impact upon the hydrogen end-use sectors. These may include, but are not limited to, challenges associated with:

  • lowering costs of hydrogen technologies
  • increasing efficiencies of technological systems
  • materials science and engineering
  • hydrogen safety.

Fuel cells and blue hydrogen are out of scope for this funding opportunity.

It will operate as a flagship hub for UK hydrogen research, collaborating with and being informed by sector-focused research delivered through other UKRI programmes including industry, transport, heating, agriculture and the built environment.

Specific research challenges that the hub is expected to prioritise and align their research programme against include:

  • how do we significantly lower the cost of producing low carbon hydrogen at a range of scales
  • how do we best use hydrogen to decarbonise both the domestic and industrial sectors
  • where does hydrogen have the most impact in the UK economy both spatially and sectorally, and how do we realise that benefit
  • how do we best use hydrogen to decarbonise the transport sector
  • what is the potential for green ammonia to help decarbonise agriculture
  • how do we best use hydrogen to support decarbonisation of the power sector
  • how do we best support the implementation of hydrogen in the energy system?

Hub for systems integration of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels

In the context of this activity, integration means within whole energy systems and can include:

  • incorporation across different geographic scales from local, regional, national and international
  • integration across technologies
  • technology coupling requirements
  • trade-off analysis across technology options
  • whole systems approach.

This hub will take a view across all aspects of hydrogen across technologies, sectors, places and the whole energy system to understand how best to integrate hydrogen. These may include, but are not limited to, challenges associated with:

  • trade-offs associated with hydrogen integration
  • integration across sectors and across the whole energy system
  • technological requirements
  • emissions throughout the hydrogen value chain.

The hub will also explore necessary trade-offs and technology coupling requirements to allow the full potential of hydrogen, as part of a decarbonised energy system, to be realised. A whole systems approach is crucial to enable full exploitation of hydrogen into the energy systems.

It will allow assessment of hydrogen as a technology option from fuels for hydrogen production and the impacts of hydrogen on our world.

The hub must also deliver effective public engagement plans to co-create the research programme and outcomes, ensuring integration of hydrogen into UK society.

Specific research challenges that the hub is expected to prioritise and align their research programme against, working in partnership with end users, include:

  • what are the trade-offs for end-use of hydrogen
  • what are the trade-offs between energy vectors
  • how can we integrate hydrogen use across sectors and across the whole energy system
  • what are the technology coupling requirements for hydrogen in a decarbonised future and how do we achieve them
  • what are the emissions associated with all parts of the hydrogen value chain?

Hub expectations

Cross-hub interaction

The hubs must align their activities and work together to act as a national hydrogen research programme. The hubs should work across the breath of the research and innovation community, across all areas of the UKRI portfolio including but not limited to engineering, environmental, physical and social sciences, to identify key challenges, barriers and opportunities for coordinated activity.

The two coordinators are expected to work together, in partnership, to enable alignment and complementarity of the respective hub activities, ensuring facilitation of knowledge exchange to secure maximum impact from both hubs. They will establish co-leadership of the research agenda within this area, interfacing with and working in partnership with industry, policymakers, and other government departments to deliver the research activities to support the delivery of the hydrogen economy and to provide the research advice and evidence for policy input and development.

Governance and management

The hubs will share some aspects and membership of governance and management bodies that reflects the need for cross-hub working and associated researchers. These bodies will be required to include appropriate industry and policy representation. Advice from users should be appropriately used in the hub decision-making strategy to grow user engagement in terms of funding from the outset and an effective user engagement strategy must be in place to support this.

Contributing to place based agendas for hydrogen

Many places in the UK have ambitious plans to develop green hydrogen and low carbon alternative liquid fuels both as a contribution to achieving net zero, increased inward investment and as a source of high-quality jobs.

The hubs should relate to and connect effectively with local, regional (including where appropriate devolved administrations and their bodies) research and innovation ecosystems, drawing on and contributing to the local economy.

Coordinators should demonstrate how the hub will contribute to the strategy and delivery of national and regional priorities for green hydrogen including methods for deriving insights from places across the UK to shape and inform the programme.

Community engagement

Alongside this funding opportunity, EPSRC has supported a portfolio of research proposals as part of the production and integration of zero emission hydrogen opportunity. These create a platform of research on which the coordinators will be able to build. The coordinators are required to engage the recipients of the production and integration of zero emission hydrogen research opportunity to inform the development of the hubs.

However, no commitment has been made to provide follow-on funding for projects funded as part of the hydrogen research opportunity through the hydrogen hubs development. This is subject to the identified programme requirements.

The hubs will work in partnership, tackling cross-sectoral issues and providing leadership to the UK hydrogen research endeavour and the next generation of net zero researchers, innovators, and policy makers.

The hubs will act as a central focus point for collaboration with both existing and future hydrogen use sector research investments including our co-designed applied industry research programmes and other relevant programmes in the UK hydrogen research and innovation landscape.

A critical feature of the hubs will be their ability to tackle the most pressing needs of businesses, UK government departments, and policy makers across the UK to secure both UK commercial advantage and policy objectives. This will ensure effective two-way engagement, and information and knowledge exchange between all related investments and hubs to accelerate research and development.

The hubs are expected to engage proactively with other major complementary investments in the hydrogen and energy research and development landscape as detailed in Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s hydrogen funding landscape and the hydrogen investor roadmap. They are also expected to engage with any relevant research and innovation investments made by UKRI and other public funders, including hydrogen innovation investments funded by Innovate UK.

The hubs are expected to create demonstrable leadership on an international scale focusing on the UK’s hydrogen leadership role in in mitigating climate change through net zero.

Public engagement

Ensuring and increasing public awareness of the use of hydrogen across the energy system and the importance of delivering the Hydrogen economy is essential. The hubs are expected to deliver effective public engagement plans to co-create the research programme and outcomes, ensuring the solutions being developed are accessible and inclusive.

Policy partnerships and industrial engagement

Securing the engagement and buy-in of relevant users will be essential to the success of the hubs, and leveraging support from project partners is a requirement for this phase of the process.

At the full proposal phase, it is important for coordinators to demonstrate that they have secured meaningful project partner interest and contributions to the prioritised, proposed research programme. The coordinators should detail the planned approaches to elicit more leveraged support as further research activities are prioritised during the hubs lifetime. The coordinators should detail the cash and in-kind contributions project partners will provide, as has been agreed at the point of application.

To ensure that research outcomes from the hubs can be fully exploited by industry and policy at all spatial levels, EPSRC expect to see clear evidence of genuine, substantive partnerships, with co-creation and co-delivery of projects and activities, in addition to financial contributions.

In the hub governance procedures, advice from users must be appropriately used in the hub decision-making strategy to grow user engagement in terms of funding and numbers of users. To evidence your strong partnerships, coordinators are asked to include a user engagement strategy in their full proposals.

The hubs are expected to take an open and inclusive approach and to grow and evolve over the lifetime of the grant. To reflect this, it is expected that the coordinators should develop a flexible approach to the research agenda and priorities of the programme beyond the first 12 months of the hubs to account for changes in the landscape, emerging opportunities and industrial sector priorities.

Matching contribution

Given the commercial interest and needs for this critical area of technology, at application phase EPSRC expects the hubs to each evidence at least 30p of matched funding (from the private sector, and regional and civic bodies) to every £1 of EPSRC investment. Throughout the lifetime of the hubs, the number of project partners will increase and cash or in-kind contributions rising to a level matching the EPSRC funding contribution, of at least £1 of additional investment to every £1 of EPSRC funding.

The panel will be asked to assess evidence of stakeholder interest and contributions, in the context of the disciplines and sectors involved. Coordinators should make the case for why the total project partner support at full proposal phase, and planned approaches towards eliciting more leveraged support, are appropriate in the context and reach of their submission.

Host organisation support

The host organisations will also be expected to demonstrate substantial support for the hub through cash or in-kind contributions. 20% full economic cost contribution to any funded grant will not count towards the consideration of matched funding.

Host organisations should use the host organisation statement to clearly describe:

  • their long-term strategy for hydrogen and how this links to their role in the local, regional and national research and development landscape
  • how their hydrogen strategy complements the UK landscape
  • how they anticipate the hub will enable them to deliver their strategy
  • their intended approach to supporting the individual, their team, and their research activity to enable their full potential contribution to the UK to be realised.

Monitoring and evaluation

Coordinators should make provision in their proposals to track the hubs’ contribution and impacts to the UK’s hydrogen economy across the UK. Detailed guidance will be provided after the awards have been made but is it likely to include a mid-term review of the hubs and a final evaluation of the programme.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

As leaders in the community, hubs will be expected to embed EDI in all their activities throughout the lifetime of the hub. If funded, this will include identifying the specific EDI challenges and barriers in their own environment and developing a strategy to address these, with reference to EPSRC’s published expectations for EDI.

Hubs must ensure that they request appropriate resources to develop and deliver their EDI strategy effectively.

Responsible innovation and environmental sustainability

The hubs must follow the principles and guidance contained within UKRI’s environmental sustainability strategy, regarding the sustainability of the research methodologies used. The hubs must also consider the responsible innovation and environmental sustainability aspects of the proposed research approaches, and the associated outputs and outcomes.

Delivery of the UK hydrogen economy provides an opportunity for the UK to achieve more sustainable and clean economic growth and prosperity. This should involve the consideration of the risks, costs and trade-offs associated with different materials, technologies and approaches and an appropriate degree of application of tools such as life cycle analysis.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £12.5 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. We will fund up to two hubs.

Eligible costs

The coordinators are expected to request the funding required to achieve the objectives and outcomes they have proposed for the hub. This may include, but is not limited to, funding for:

  • the coordinators’ time to lead the hub, and co-investigators to provide the required interdisciplinary inclusive approach
  • staff to support the integration, coordination, knowledge exchange and publication activities of the hub
  • research staff and associated consumables
  • travel and subsistence
  • flexible funding to support agile research on emerging topics and to support the involvement of discrete parts of the community that would bring significant benefit to the programme but have not otherwise been engaged
  • funding to support impact activities (including stakeholder and user engagement, policy engagement and public engagement)
  • funding to support networking and community building activities, to enable engagement and collaboration across key disciplines and sectors, and with policy officials
  • funding to support governance, monitoring and evaluation activities.

The coordinators should retain flexibility within the overall programme of work to allow for the Hub to respond to emerging priorities and opportunities.

Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this opportunity.  Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.

Read more about EPSRC’s approach to equipment funding.

Duration

Funding is available for up to five years and must start no earlier than 1 April 2023.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: SI EPSRC Hydrogen Hubs 22.

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: SI EPSRC Hydrogen Hubs 22.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

EPSRC must receive your application by 10 November 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Attachments

The following attachments must be submitted with your application.

Do not upload any ‘other attachments’. If submitted, they will not be sent to reviewers or the panel.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

Advice on writing proposals for EPSRC funding.

Case for support

The case for support can be up to a maximum of 20 sides of A4:

  • two sides of A4 on your track record
  • 10 sides of A4 to address the assessment criteria
  • four sides of A4 on the technical annex
  • four sides of A4 on the management and governance strategy.
Track record

The track record should be two sides of A4. It must be based on the leadership team, focused specifically on experience of leading and coordinating complex interdisciplinary programmes in an inclusive way.

Address assessment criteria

Addressing the assessment criteria should be 10 sides of A4. This section should include:

  • overall vision and ambition for the hub
  • a description of progress made within the coordinator grant and how the applicants have inclusively co-developed the hub proposal with the broad, diverse and interdisciplinary hydrogen research and innovation community as well as other relevant stakeholders. This should also provide a description of the balance of expertise chosen to lead and support the hub activity
  • research programme and methodology: this should demonstrate how the coordinators have built consensus in the community, prioritised topics and evidence through their community engagement, and how these address relevant policy and industrial challenges, marker barriers and known market failures. This should be focused on high-level objectives, cross-cutting research questions and challenges and is expected to include flexibility to address emerging topics once funded. You should provide an initial plan alongside your approach to developing it as the hub progresses. Technical detail should follow in the four-page technical annex. This should also include details about how the research programme will be balanced between research carried out within the core of the hub and research facilitated by the agile flexible fund
  • planned coordination and integration activities: including the strategy and approach for connecting the broad and diverse interdisciplinary community, and for coordinating knowledge exchange across other research and innovation investments to identify key challenges and maximise the outcomes of the investment
  • collaboration and stakeholder engagement, including how the hub will engage with and deliver to address the needs of stakeholders from across the hydrogen value chain, providing benefits and impact to consumers, government, business (across a range of sector contexts) and other stakeholders. This should include details of the strategy for engaging with stakeholders including relevant government departments and user groups, as well as a user engagement strategy.
Technical annex

The technical annex should be four sides of A4. This is intended to provide additional information on the research programme (for example, on individual work packages or themes) for the expert reviewers.

Please ensure there is sufficient detail to allow peer review to assess the quality and ambitious nature of the research. There are no stipulations about the format of the technical annex, but it should complement the other sections of the case for support, primarily the section on research programme and methodology.

Management and governance strategy

The management and governance strategy should be four sides of A4. This should not focus specifically on the principal investigator but should demonstrate the strategy and track record across the proposed management team. It must include:

  • demonstration of how the proposed management structure and the team composition will enable them to manage an inclusive interdisciplinary hub
  • how equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded in plans for convening the hydrogen community, including in how:
    • the core leadership team will embed equality, diversity and inclusion into all activities
    • the diverse range of perspectives in the community will be reflected and encouraged
    • how the team will create an inclusive and accessible environment for broad participation
  • a day-to-day management strategy for ensuring individual research, coordination and integration activities meet the overall vision for the hub, and for use of resources
  • details of the strategy and planned governance of the allocation and management of flexible funding including consideration of appropriate equality, diversity and inclusion considerations
  • the planned governance and advisory board structures of the hub and how inclusivity will be built into stakeholder engagement. This should include details of how the two hubs will work in partnership, and how the hub will manage ongoing development and prioritisation of its programme of work in consultation with stakeholders and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • a monitoring strategy, which includes a logic model detailing the outputs and outcomes to be delivered by the investment made through the hubs. This should clearly articulate outcomes achievable within the hub lifetime and those that the hubs investment will enable in the longer term. Baseline key performance indicators should be defined for measuring the success of the hub in progressing towards these outcomes, with a plan for monitoring and the major decision points identified, and how these will be used to reassess the direction of the hub
  • a plan for engaging in the required monitoring and evaluation activities for the hub and how the hub will support UKRI in these activities.

User engagement strategy

The user engagement strategy can be up to two sides of A4. You must add this attachment under ‘additional documents’ in Je-S.

This strategy should describe how the coordinators will support the delivery of actionable solutions. The vision and programme for the hub must be designed and delivered in partnership with relevant users, including industry and government (UK and devolved as appropriate), regional or other local stakeholders.

Coordinators are required to provide details of the strategy for engaging with potential users of the research funded in the hub (resources for impact activities can be requested and must be justified in the application). This strategy should be reviewed and updated regularly as part of the formal management of the grant.

The strategy should cover how the coordinators will:

  • form new collaborations with users, including policy officials, industry and the third sector, throughout the hubs lifetime
  • attract additional co-funding (both direct and in kind) from new and existing project partners to reach a level similar to the EPSRC contribution
  • prioritise co-creation and co-delivery of projects with project partners from relevant industries, ensuring that user needs are forefront throughout the development and delivery of hub research and activities
  • make best use of the financial, in-kind and intellectual contributions of project partners to meet the needs and objectives of the hub
  • foster genuine and committed engagement with project partners, where project partners are a core part of the delivery team and develop strong relationships with the hub
  • determine the success of the strategy in delivering value to users and by what metrics and key performance indicators that are tracked throughout the hubs lifetime
  • coordinate and engage the wider hydrogen community, with detail on how the hub would identify and exploit potential opportunities to work with other existing UKRI investments, where appropriate, to maximise engagement and impact.

While applicants need to consider this strategy in their full proposal, UKRI recognises that flexibility is needed given the dynamic nature of this field and the programme.

You should therefore provide an initial plan alongside your approach to developing it as the hub progresses.

Work plan

The work plan can be up to two sides of A4.

It is not expected that this will be a Gantt chart for the full duration of the hub. It is expected that the work plan includes a comprehensive plan for at least the first 12 months, which relates to the management strategy to give appropriate milestones for when important decisions on the further direction of the hub will be taken.

The hub is encouraged to retain flexibility in the work plan to respond to emerging priorities and opportunities.

Justification of resources

The justification of resources can be up to two sides of A4.

It should include a narrative description of the need for the resources requested. Please ensure you justify all the resources you request.

CVs

CVs can be up to two sides of A4 each. CVs can be provided for:

  • named research staff including postdoctoral staff and research technical professionals
  • researcher co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time)
  • visiting researchers.

Project partner letters of support

This is an optional attachment, as information is required from all project partners in the Je-S form itself. There is no page limit.

You may include letters if inclusion of a partner is integral to an applicant’s plans and the letter is necessary to demonstrate the project partner’s commitment to delivering the aims of the proposal.

If included, project partner letters of support must be signed, dated (no more than six months before the opportunity closing date) and on letterheaded paper.

Host organisation letter of support

The host organisation letter of support can be up to two sides of A4 per institution.

There should be one statement for each host organisation involved (each two pages maximum), all attached as one document.

For co-investigators from other institutions, a host organisation statement is required from all institutions involved.

Letters should include the institution’s commitment to the hub for the lifetime of the award, and the alignment of the hub’s proposed vision to the institution’s strategy.

The statement should:

  • be on headed paper
  • be signed
  • be dated within six months of submission
  • state clearly the position held by the author.

Technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance

There is no page limit for this.

Proposal cover letter

The proposal cover letter is an optional attachment and can be up to two sides of A4.

This letter will only be seen internally by UKRI. You can express any other information you feel is relevant to your application.

Ethical information section

EPSRC will not fund a project if it believes that there are ethical concerns that have been overlooked or not appropriately accounted for.

All relevant parts of the ethical information section must be completed.

Guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

The proposal will be sent to external peer reviewers for their comments. When a sufficient number of quality reviewer comments have been received, the principal investigator will be invited to submit a response to the reviewers’ comments. The proposal will then be considered for funding by an interview panel.

The interview panel will assess whether the proposed hub meets the assessment criteria sufficiently. The panel may recommend conditions for EPSRC to impose before funding is awarded. Based on the panel’s recommendations, EPSRC reserves the right to seek further information from the applicants before awarding funding.

EPSRC reserves the right to request applicants to adjust costs in line with the budget available for this opportunity.

Feedback will be in the form of reviewers’ comments. The interview panel will be invited to provide any further feedback, where appropriate.

Assessment criteria

Quality of the proposed hub (joint primary)

Making reference to:

  • the novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology for research, coordination and integration, and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact
  • the clarity of the overall vision of the proposed hub.

Fit to opportunity (joint primary)

This refers to the alignment of the research programme to the scope and aims of this opportunity, making reference to:

Whole systems approach

Strategic importance of the proposed cross-cutting research activities and the degree to which they will increase understanding of ‘whole-systems’ approaches, and support the delivery of the hydrogen economy.

Community leader

Including:

  • clear and appropriate approach to collaborative leadership and advocacy for the hydrogen research and innovation community
  • transformative nature of the plans for connecting, networking, integrating, supporting and leading a broad, interdisciplinary, diverse and inclusive hydrogen community
  • strength of plans for working with and enhancing the broader investments within the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) portfolio to ensure the overall impact is more than the sum of the parts, and evidence of co-development of the hub with a broad, inclusive and diverse hydrogen research and innovation community
  • appropriateness of public engagement plans to ensure solutions being developed are accessible and inclusive.
Partnerships with policy and industry

Including:

  • clear broad stakeholder mapping and prioritisation and a clear strategy for engaging with and encouraging collaboration and knowledge exchange across the programme with business, policy makers including UK government and devolved administrations, the third sector and the public
  • appropriateness of the engagement strategy and strategic plan between the hub and industrial partners
  • the appropriateness and sufficiency of activities to attract insight from local and regional stakeholders across the UK
  • the appropriateness of planned activities to allow the generation and implementation of ideas
  • details of level of commitment from the industrial partners and how additional leverage will be accessed over the lifetime of the award
  • evidence that the hub research projects and activities will be co-created and co-delivered with users.
National importance

Including:

  • clear alignment and contribution to targets and priorities of the UK government and devolved administrations, as well as more localised, regional bodies such as civic bodies, local authorities or similar
  • evidence of the potential for the proposal to contribute visibly to economic and social impacts in places across the UK
  • contributes to, or helps maintain, the health of other disciplines
  • contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges or contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry
  • meets national needs by establishing and maintaining a unique, world leading research and integration activity
  • fits with and complements other UK research funded in the area or related areas, including any relationship to the UKRI portfolio and our stated strategy (which can be consulted using Gateway to Research).

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

This refers to the ability to deliver the proposed research, making reference to:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
  • ability of the management team to lead or manage a large, complex investment with sufficient support, infrastructure and resources for the day-to-day running of the hub.

Resources and management (secondary)

This refers to the effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

  • the appropriateness of the requested resources to support community building, responsible innovation and public engagement or to increase impact
  • the effectiveness of the proposed management structure and plans
  • the suitability of the proposed strategy for governance of the programme, including the flexible allocation of funding and inclusion of a broad and diverse community
  • the appropriateness of plans for integrating the views of stakeholders (including government), business and the third sector) as part of governance and advisory structures
  • effectiveness of the proposed monitoring and evaluation arrangements to ensure the overall EPSRC opportunity objectives are met
  • how equality, diversity and inclusion are embedded in the management of the hub and the delivery of activities.

Feedback

Feedback will be in the form of reviewers’ comments. The interview panel will be invited to provide any further feedback, where appropriate.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process, you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal. Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC conflicts of interest policy.

Guidance for reviewers

Read more information about the EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers.

Read the guidance on reviewing standard grants.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Energy and Decarbonisation team

Email: energy@epsrc.ukri.org

Ruqaiyah Patel, Joint Head of Energy and Decarbonisation, EPSRC

Email: ruqaiyah.patel@epsrc.ukri.org

Gerard Davies, Senior Portfolio Manager, EPSRC

Email: gerard.davies@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

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Additional info

Background

EPSRC’s engineering net zero delivery plan priority outlines that engineering and physical sciences research is critical to the discovery, development and deployment of solutions to:

  • tackle climate change
  • enhance sustainability
  • ensure economic prosperity.

Through investments supported within this priority area, EPSRC seeks to support a whole systems approach to technological solutions which will decarbonise our economy and society, and enable a sustainable net zero future.

The proposed investment in both hydrogen hubs will significantly contribute to our near-term activities in this priority area to deliver UK (and international) leadership in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels to support a green industrial revolution. Through these investments, EPSRC will deliver against the ambitions outlined in the UK’s net zero research and innovation framework to support multidisciplinary research solutions that will significantly contribute to the UK’s net zero ambitions.

Hydrogen and hydrogen-based, low-carbon liquid fuels (such as ammonia) are essential for the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gases by 2050. There is growing consensus of its role in the deep decarbonisation of all sectors of the UK economy, and it is exemplified by the publication of the UK hydrogen strategy.

Convergence of UK academic strength, policy need, technology maturity and business readiness in the UK means the time is ripe to secure significant global leadership, and secure hydrogen as a component of our future net zero energy system, utilising the technology to contribute to our decarbonisation commitments.

The report (June 2019) from the Committee for Climate Change states the UK should set and vigorously pursue an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, ending the UK’s contribution to global warming within 30 years.

It acknowledges this target is only credible if policy to reduce emissions ramps up significantly. This will require adoption of gas and liquid energy forms to meet energy needs that cannot be met through electrification across multiple sectors, and hydrogen in particular is highlighted by the report.

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

In any future scenario, three things will be critical:

  • the UK’s future energy system must include extensive electrification to enable a widespread transition to clean energy sources
  • solutions that decarbonise energy needs that cannot be readily met through electrification that rely on gas or liquid fuels (for example, industrial processes and domestic heating)
  • the ability to capture, store and utilise carbon dioxide from essential processes that cannot be decarbonised.

Growth of a new hydrogen economy is required as a solution for our energy needs that are not readily compatible with electrification. Hydrogen can be used as fuel for heat, fuel for transport, as a form of energy storage, a feedstock into industrial processes and could be distributed with only minor modifications to current gas infrastructures. As an alternative fuel, it will also increase the resilience of the UK’s energy system.

A three-pronged approach to hydrogen and its alternative fuels is essential to:

  • discover solutions to the problems we cannot yet solve
  • develop those solutions that we have discovered but are not yet ready for deployment
  • deploy those solutions that are ready, whilst researching solutions to the challenges that emerge during deployment.

Independent evidence and validation for investing in hydrogen

The following independent evidence and validation make the case for UK investment now.

Hydrogen is identified as one of the three pathways to 2050 being presented in the UK’s clean growth strategy, with a potential hydrogen demand of roughly 700 TWh by 2050.

The Royal Society published a policy briefing on green hydrogen production in 2018, in response to the UK government’s request to assess the different technological options of large-scale hydrogen production and their economic viabilities. It highlights that hydrogen has the potential to decarbonise domestic industry, transport and heat.

The recent EU Hydrogen Strategy (2020), published alongside the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration, recognises that these sectors (domestic, industry, transport and heat) are the lead markets for hydrogen production.

Although it also has the potential to contribute to wider sectors, for example through its use in land transport or as a feedstock for chemical production such as ammonia, methanol and kerosene for the shipping, agriculture, steel and aviation sectors respectively.

The demand for hydrogen in the energy sector will grow substantially towards 2050, provided hydrogen, fuel cell technologies, environmental regulations, effective policies and new business models are in place.

The Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has set out the UK’s capacity to support both green and blue hydrogen production. This twin-track approach is set out in the UK hydrogen strategy. It is recognised that we will need to build blue capacity now while developing capacity for deployment of green hydrogen in the longer term. This opportunity solely focuses on the ‘green’ or non-greenhouse gas emitting methods of hydrogen production related to this twin-track approach.

Hydrogen is a cross-cutting low-carbon form of energy, whose benefits are best realised when looking both within and across sectors noting that innovations in one part of the value chain (for example, end-use technologies) have implications for the rest of the chain, implying the need for an integrated approach.

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) investment in hydrogen

The current EPSRC hydrogen portfolio is just over £20 million which includes a number of critical mass investments supporting development of hydrogen and alternative fuel technologies in different sectors (this does not include training investments).

To date, UKRI has invested in hydrogen primarily through the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Supergen Hub (H2FC). The hub has been instrumental in addressing key challenges facing the hydrogen and fuel cell sector and thus has provided the necessary platform and focus for the development of these subsequent hydrogen hubs which will be able to support the community at the necessary scale to help the UK reach its net zero emissions targets by 2050.

These Hydrogen Hubs are not a continuation or a next phase of the H2FC.

The UKRI energy programme has identified hydrogen as a priority and sees huge opportunity in investment at scale to support the growth of a new hydrogen economy in the UK through a coordinated national effort.

EPSRC has invested in two hydrogen coordinators who will design an integrated, ambitious research and innovation programme working across the hydrogen value chain and its major use sectors in partnership with business and UK and devolved governments.

The expected investment from EPSRC in two hydrogen hubs will provide a focus on the research and innovation to support the development and delivery of the hydrogen economy focusing on the research challenges across the value chain and the systems integration of hydrogen in the wide energy system.

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended:

  • consequences
  • questions
  • ethical dilemmas
  • social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor, and to encourage our research community to do likewise.

Therefore, you are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

International collaboration

Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting:

  • intellectual property
  • sensitive research
  • personal information.

Grant additional conditions

You should read the additional grant conditions specific to this opportunity. They will be added to the supporting documents section shortly.

Coordinators funded in phase one

Details of the funded coordinators who are each invited to submit a bid as a principal investigator for phase two are:

Research challenges coordinator

Professor Tim Mays

University of Bath

UK-HyRES project

Systems integration coordinator

Professor Sara Walker

Newcastle University

Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT) project 

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 212KB)

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