Quick question: How is the North West leading England’s hydrogen revolution?

Manchester is the UK’s largest climate tech hub outside the capital. Now the future looks even brighter with a new accelerator fund. 

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Climate startup support organisation Sustainable Ventures [SV] has helped more than 500 new climate-focused businesses launch since it was established in 2011. Last year, it announced expansion to North West England, taking advantage of a government-backed focus on hydrogen in the city. 

In partnership with independent technology innovation accelerator CPI, £1.5million is now available to help hydrogen startups scale over a period of 12 to 18 months through private investment. The aim is to help the, secure £5million in contracts by the end of that time. 

We asked Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Andrew Wordsworth, to expound on exactly what this means, and what the hopes are for cementing the region as a true European centre for environmental technology and innovation. Here’s what he had to say.

How long has the Manchester hydrogen hub idea been around for? What were the reasons the project began to take shape? 

SV announced its Manchester expansion in October 2023 as we’re launching our Manchester workspace later this year. Manchester is the largest climate tech hub in the UK outside of London with over 1,000 climate startups, and we are excited to help these startups scale up to turn Manchester into a leading European climate hub.

The hydrogen accelerator forms part of the Government’s wider efforts to invest in hydrogen innovation across the UK. The initial tender for the programme, put out in December 2023 by CPI, was specifically aimed at the North-West. Manchester was the city of choice to support the scaling and commercialisation of hydrogen innovation companies in the region.

How will Sustainable Ventures ‘catalyse’ new startups in the region? 

We will use our successful model of tailored business support to help startups in the region fine-tune their business models and accelerate the R&D of their solutions. We will also help the startups identify commercial partners leveraging our wider network. This model has enabled us to support over 500 startups to date. 

The real value of this accelerator programme in particular will be felt long after it’s been completed. It serves as a template to develop a larger programme of support that aims to generate over £50 million of direct and indirect co-investment funding into North West hydrogen startups by 2026.

What aspects of hydrogen research, development, and infrastructure rollout are being prioritised? 

The accelerator will be focused on applications with commercial potential across the whole hydrogen supply chain. This ranges from the production of hydrogen using renewable energy sources all the way through storage, distribution and end-use.

The hydrogen industry is still in its infancy, and one of our first tasks will be to identify which technologies have the best commercial application. Our extensive network of climate tech startups and stakeholders ideally places us to carry out this task.

Part of the aim is to bolster the reputation of hydrogen as a climate-friendly solution, what applications do you feel there is most ground still to make up in this sense? 

Much more research is required across all parts of the hydrogen ecosystem, including production, storage, distribution and consumption. 

Specifically, there are nine themes that the Hydrogen Innovation Initiative is focused on developing – conditioning, distribution and control, electrical and thermal management, heat generation, feedstock and carrier, production, storage, metering and monitoring and propulsion and power generation.

Which previous Sustainable Ventures startups do you feel have been particularly impactful. 

Airex: The smart-brick manufacturer that is helping to bring heating bills down while making homes more eco-friendly.

Solivus: The solar startup creating a revolutionary lightweight, fully recyclable energy solution for homeowners & the commercial sector.

Rovco: The company specialising in subsea technology, providing high-resolution underwater surveying and inspection services for offshore industries.

Find more information on Sustainable Ventures here.


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