The State of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany intends to accelerate the development of a pioneering hydrogen economy. Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Prof. Andreas Pinkwart introduced the strategic cornerstones for this back in late 2020 with the hydrogen roadmap. With the decision to fund the H2UB, in which Open Grid Europe GmbH (OGE), Essen, RAG-Stiftung, Essen, and TÜV SÜD AG, Munich, are involved as shareholders, another milestone in the implementation of the roadmap has now been reached.
Minister Prof. Pinkwart: “Start-ups are the yeast in the economy’s dough: connecting young companies and industrial enterprises with established ones offers great opportunities for sustainable value creation and viable jobs. We are therefore delighted that North Rhine-Westphalia is the first federal state to set up a hub that promotes hydrogen start-ups across Europe and the creation of a hydrogen ecosystem.”
The five-year project, launched by OGE, is intended to establish a Europe-wide innovation cluster. The H2UB connects start-ups with established companies and research institutions, from North Rhine-Westphalia throughout Germany and Europe. With a variety of digital and analogue events on offer, innovative matchmaking formats and an accelerator programme designed specifically for start-ups, the H2UB combines the dynamism of the scene with the so far heavily research- and corporate-oriented hydrogen economy. The headquarters are in Essen, while plans are in place for further locations in North Rhine-Westphalia and other federal states.
After the successful initiation phase of the H2UB last year, which the State funded with 200,000 €, the H2UB is now moving into its stabilization phase. North Rhine-Westphalia is supporting this five-year project with funding amounting to approximately 4.5 M €. The project has a total volume of some 9 M €.
Jörg Bergmann, spokesman for the OGE management, states: “The market ramp-up in the hydrogen economy in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and Europe needs to be accelerated. To that end, a hydrogen ecosystem should be established along the entire value-added chain by developing innovative solutions from partners and start-ups.” Bergmann continues: “The objective is to create strong momentum in the developing hydrogen economy and thus contribute to the market ramp-up and the achievement of climate protection targets.”
Bernd Tönjes, Chairman of the Board of Executives for RAG-Stiftung, says: “In the Ruhr area in particular we have a lot of energy-intensive industries, so we know how important it is to promote new developments in the area – in the context of a secure energy supply, but also with a view to making the necessary reductions in CO2. Essen and the Ruhr region are ideal for the H2UB because of their central location. At RAG-Stiftung, we believe that our commitment will increase access to innovations and help to identify potential future investments.”
“To establish a successful hydrogen economy in Germany and Europe, we need a lively culture of invention, discovery and development,” says Reiner Block, CEO of TÜV SÜD’s Division Industry Service. “What we are bringing to the H2UB are our comprehensive expertise and decades of experience with hydrogen technologies, thereby helping to make technical innovations safe, reliable and marketable, which in turn establish the necessary trust and acceptance within society.”
The H2UB is also being supported and co-financed by notable companies and institutions, including Westenergie AG, CGI Deutschland, Uniper, MAN Energy Solutions and P3, along with the DLR, the GWI Gas and Heating Institute in Essen, the Centre for Fuel Cell Technology at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and, last but not least, the Essen Economic Development Agency (EWG). The H2UB CEO is Uwe Kerkmann, an experienced networker and business developer who has already implemented start-up and hub projects successfully.
Plans are already under way for the first events: Before this year is through, the H2UB will be hosting an event on the topic of “Hydrogen and Mobility”. (RAG-Stiftung/Si.)