N8 Research Partnership: Northern universities can be the catalyst to deliver government’s hydrogen vision


The N8 Research Partnership is the alliance of the North of England’s eight research intensive universities. The N8 is the driving force behind Net Zero North, which seeks to drive innovation for a net-zero recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic to unlock new business opportunities and create jobs in the green economy in the Northern Powerhouse.

Commenting on the government’s new Hydrogen Strategy, Dr Annette Bramley director of the N8, said:  “Last week, the publication of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel Report on Climate Change (IPCC),

Increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding could become part of daily life, while the safe 1.5C temperature limit may be broken in just over a decade. Catastrophe can be averted, said the report – but only if action is taken. Not tomorrow, but immediately.

“The government’s Hydrogen Strategy is therefore a pivotal milestone in the UK’s efforts to combat climate change. Indeed, this strategy is welcome confirmation that this government is prepared to deliver the ambitious actions required in order for our country to reach net zero. By strengthening the UK’s world-leading hydrogen sector and creating a low-carbon hydrogen economy that will create thousands of green jobs, the government is demonstrating the leadership required as we look ahead to COP26.

“The initiatives outlined in the strategy are particularly welcome news for the North of England which leads the UK in the development of hydrogen technologies. The regional strengths in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power and renewable energy combine to form the perfect springboard to accelerate the transition to net-zero for the benefit of our communities and economy, regionally and for the whole of the UK.

“It is this sort of integrated approach to the challenges of decarbonisation that we will deliver with Net Zero North.

“Immediate concerted action needs to be taken to create and grow a hydrogen economy and to rapidly develop our ability to generate and store green hydrogen at scale.  We therefore welcome the support in the strategy for both green hydrogen – derived from splitting water by electrolysis – and blue hydrogen, produced from fossil fuels with subsequent capture and storage of resultant greenhouse gases with man-made technologies.

“My colleague, Professor Lenny Koh, points out that the production of blue and green hydrogen coupled with its storage and use are crucial to support the hydrogen supply chain: ‘Acceleration of hydrogen research and innovation are essential in this direction, especially working in partnership between academia, industry and government to maximise the benefits to the UK supply chain towards a zero carbon future and develop skills base which are fundamental to support the hydrogen economy’.

“Professor Koh is based at the University of Sheffield, and her work is a great example of how Universities across the North are already innovating so that hydrogen can be used for heating and transport.  Research is underway in next generation nuclear technologies and renewable energy.  This low-carbon technologies innovation and business ecosystem in the North of England can generate jobs and level-up at the same time as meeting Net Zero targets.

“In a similar vein, the government’s commitment to explore how to support the development of transmission and storage infrastructure is vital. Hydrogen storage could be crucial for smoothing energy supply from on and offshore wind as well as helping industry to recycle waste heat.

“By bringing together businesses, further education, the public sector and our amazing research and innovation base, the North can work together to unlock the environmental and economic potential of hydrogen, and other low-carbon technologies.

“The IPCC report confirmed that policies must be enacted now, to protect our natural world while simultaneously creating a sustainable model of economic growth which also supports the health and wellbeing of future generations. It is absolutely vital that we move away from fossil-fuel derived energy sources and green hydrogen is one opportunity that we simply have to deliver.

“The N8, and our colleagues across industry, further and higher education in the North, look forward to working with the government to deliver the aims of this very encouraging strategy.”