Research the production and integration of zero carbon hydrogen

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Apply for funding to research zero emission hydrogen production and integration.

You must be a UK-based researcher who:

  • is employed by an eligible research organisation
  • does not hold a postdoctoral level fellowship.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £312,500. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects can last up to 18 months.

This opportunity will not fund hydrogen research related to:

  • distribution
  • storage
  • end uses, such as heat, industry and transport.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply.

Research grants are open to:

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

Check if your institution can apply for funding

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of the conditions below:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • hold a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee
  • hold an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages
  • hold fellowships under other schemes (please contact EPSRC to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis).

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an EPSRC grant.

Submissions to this opportunity will count towards the EPSRC Repeatedly Unsuccessful Applicants Policy.

What we're looking for

Scope

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 is exemplified by the anticipated publication of the UK Hydrogen Strategy.

We are looking to fund proposals which will develop solutions to:

  • advance zero emission hydrogen production
  • address challenges in integrating hydrogen into whole energy systems.

Synopsis

We are looking to fund up to eight projects of 18 months duration.

Proposals funded as part of this opportunity will generate a platform of research and outcomes in key priority areas upon which the hydrogen research coordinators (funded as part of the ‘hydrogen research coordinators’ opportunity) can further develop in their respective centres, subject to future funding.

Therefore, the recipients of funding associated with this opportunity will be required to:

  • engage and work with the hydrogen research coordinators in the development of their respective research programme plans
  • maximise the impact from both opportunities through sharing of findings and ongoing dialogue.

Please note however, that no commitment has been made to providing follow-on funding through the Hydrogen Research Coordinators Centre development. This is subject to the identified programme requirements and securing future funding.

Opportunity priority areas

Zero emission hydrogen production technologies

Research into forms of zero emission hydrogen production are included. In particular, research related to the production of hydrogen through electrolysis powered by renewable energy (also known as green hydrogen) is encouraged.

Examples of zero emission hydrogen production for the purposes of this call, are defined as those which do not produce any CO2 as part of the hydrogen production process. Engineering and physical sciences research to address the challenges associated with the production routes listed below are included but not limited to:

  • electrochemical techniques including electrolysis coupled with renewables or nuclear energy
  • biological production routes
  • solar-to-fuels routes to hydrogen.

It is the intention of this opportunity to fund hydrogen production techniques which do not emit greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the production of hydrogen through techniques which produce CO2 or any other greenhouse gases as part of the production process, for example steam methane reforming, are not in scope.

As such, any hydrogen production technologies that emit CO2 which is subsequently captured and stored (for example steam methane reforming coupled with carbon capture and storage) are also not in the scope of this opportunity.

Hydrogen integration

‘Integration’ can be taken to mean integration within whole energy systems that can include whole systems integration across technologies, technology coupling requirements and international settings.

The scope of this opportunity is limited to engineering and physical sciences research. The majority of the project must be in the remit of EPSRC. Proposals that do not fall within EPSRC remit or are not within the scope of the low emission hydrogen production and integration areas described will be rejected.

We will consider cross-disciplinary projects that contain elements of such that contribute to the production or integration of zero emission hydrogen.

Funding available

There is up to £2 million of EPSRC funding available to support up to eight individual projects. Individual projects may be up to £312,500 full economic cost, of which EPSRC will fund up to £250,000 (80% full economic cost).

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.

EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

How to apply

Applicants should ensure they are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. You should prepare and submit your proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select ‘new document’, then select:

  • ‘create new document’
  • council: ‘EPSRC’
  • document type: ‘Standard Proposal’
  • scheme: ‘Standard’
  • ‘Production and integration of zero emission hydrogen research’ call on the project details page.

After completing the application, you must ‘submit document’ which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. Applicants should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the call closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 2 November 2021.

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted.

Case for support

Up to a maximum of eight pages of A4:

  • two sides of A4 detailing your track record
  • six sides of A4 describing the scientific case.

Workplan

One side of A4.

The work programme should be illustrated with a simple diagrammatic work plan, such as a programme evaluation and review technique (PERT) or Gantt chart.

Justification of resources

Up to two sides of A4.

This should be a two-page narrative description of the need for the resources requested. Please ensure you justify all of the resources you request.

CVs

Up to two sides of A4 each for:

  • named postdoctoral staff
  • 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

No page limit.

These must be included from all listed project partners, be signed, dated (no more than six months before the opportunity closing date) and on letterheaded paper. The letter or letters must include an outline of how the project partner involvement helps to enhance the quality of proposed multidisciplinary research.

Proposal cover letter (optional)

Up to two sides of A4.

This letter will only be seen internally by UKRI.

Applicants can express any other information they feel is relevant to their application.

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.

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.

Further guidance on completing the Je-S form.

EPSRC guidance can be found under ‘additional information’.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Proposals will not undergo postal peer review but will be assessed by an expert panel of reviewers. The panel reviews, completed ahead of the panel meeting, will be shared with applicants. Applicants will have the opportunity to respond to comments in writing prior to the panel convening.

At the panel meeting, the panel will rank proposals against the assessment criteria and will be asked to make funding recommendations to EPSRC. EPSRC will decide on the number of proposals to fund within each category based on the quality of proposals and the available funding, ensuring a balanced portfolio of research is supported through this activity. Applicants will be informed of the panel outcomes as soon as possible after the panel meeting.

Individual feedback following the panel meeting will not be provided as part of this opportunity. However, applicants will get a chance to respond to the reviewers comments prior to the panel.

The panel will be composed of stakeholders with specific expertise in hydrogen production and whole systems integration techniques, as well as those with a broad overview of the hydrogen energy research area with expertise in the call area.

In the event of this opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, UKRI reserve the right to modify the assessment process.

Assessment criteria

Proposals submitted to this opportunity will be assessed on their fit to the scope of the opportunity and to the criteria listed below. Please note that EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals which are considered out of the remit of this call without reference to peer review.

Quality (primary)

Please comment on the degree of research excellence of the proposal, 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 and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact. For multidisciplinary proposals please state which aspects of the proposal you feel qualified to assess.

Fit to call (primary)

Make reference to:

  • the alignment of research programme to aims and objectives of funding opportunity.

National importance (secondary major)

Comment on the national importance of the research. How it:

  • 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 or industries
  • meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world-leading activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio
  • plans for dissemination and knowledge exchange with potential beneficiaries of the research.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

Please comment on the applicant’s ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators. The leadership quality and experience of the principal investigator.

Resources and management (secondary)

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

  • any equipment requested, or the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
  • any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Contact details

Get help with 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 a question about this opportunity

Dr James Tarver

Email: james.tarver@epsrc.ukri.org

Telephone: 07395 798 806

Dr Andrew Eustace

Email: andrew.eustace@epsrc.ukri.org

Telephone: 07738260033

The Energy Team

Email: energy@epsrc.ukri.org

Ask about peer review

Email: energypeerreview@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30 to 17:00
  • Fridays 8:30 to 16:30
  • closed on weekends, bank holidays and other holidays.

Additional info

Background

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 the role of hydrogen in the decarbonisation of many sectors of the UK economy, and 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
  • hydrogen as a component of our future net-zero energy system, utilising the technology to contribute to our decarbonisation commitments.

There are a number of production routes in existence which have been shown to be able to produce hydrogen whilst emitting low or no levels of greenhouse gases. However, many of these techniques still require further research and development:

  • to make them cost effective
  • improve efficiencies
  • other challenges to making them commercially viable.

There may also be new technologies which could advance low and zero-emission hydrogen production.

Hydrogen is not a ‘silver bullet’ to our energy needs or emissions reduction challenges. It is likely to be used in combination with electrification and other energy sources in a future energy system in the UK. It will be part of a suite of energy solutions which will help the UK reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Therefore, it is important that we understand how to use and integrate hydrogen alongside other energy technologies, and ensure they work in harmony together to meet the UK’s future energy needs.

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 (GHGs) 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 wide-spread 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 CO2 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 the following are in place:

  • hydrogen
  • fuel cell technologies
  • environmental regulations
  • effective policies
  • new business models.

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.

UKRI’s investment in hydrogen

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. Thus, has provided the necessary platform and focus for the development of potential subsequent hydrogen research centres which will be able to support the community at the necessary scale to help the UK reach its net-zero emissions targets by 2050.

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.

Alongside this call for research proposals EPSRC has launched a call for two hydrogen coordinators who will develop a consortium and programme of research for respective hydrogen research centres in 2022, subject to additional funding, and the identified programme requirements. These potential centres are expected to tackle:

  • cross-cutting research challenges in hydrogen production, storage and distribution including cost, efficiencies, safety and materials to name a few
  • the whole systems integration of hydrogen in a future energy system.

This call for hydrogen production and integration research proposals will create a platform of research and outcomes in key priority areas on which the centres will be able to build upon in low carbon hydrogen production, and its whole systems integration into the energy system.

Hydrogen production through steam-methane reforming and CCS is not included as part of this call, but forms of zero greenhouse gas emitting hydrogen production methods are included.

In particular, research related to the production of hydrogen through electrolysis powered by renewable energy (also known as green hydrogen) is encouraged.

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 applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC Framework for Responsible Innovation.

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 and personal information.

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