£69million boost for hydrogen is largest ever research funding win for Cranfield University​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Investment will be used to develop first large scale hydrogen research facility at any UK airport
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Cranfield University is to spearhead the research and development of the first major hydrogen technology hub to demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a net zero aviation fuel.

The £69 million investment, creating the Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator (CH2i), is the largest financial injection for research that Cranfield University has ever secured. £23 million comes from Research England’s Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), with a further £46 million committed from industry partners and academic institutions.

A spokesperson for the project explained: “The demand for air travel is rising, with estimates that UK passenger traffic could increase from 284 million in 2016 to 435 million by 2050. Unless action is taken, aviation will be the largest source of carbon greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.

A new hydrogen technology hub is to be developed at Cranfield UniversityA new hydrogen technology hub is to be developed at Cranfield University
A new hydrogen technology hub is to be developed at Cranfield University

"In this context, the rapid development and scale up of hydrogen-enabled aviation is a critical part of addressing growing demands whist transitioning to cleaner air transport. With domestic aviation set a target of achieving net zero emissions by 2040 in the UK government’s Jet Zero strategy, CH2i will support the aviation industry to explore how to move towards the use of hydrogen at scale.”

Professor Karen Holford, chief executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, said: “This game-changing investment builds on Cranfield’s expertise in hydrogen research and will help the aviation industry to make the leap to using hydrogen.

“CH2i will integrate with other large industry research areas at Cranfield including our novel hydrogen production programmes and our Aerospace Integration Research Centre and the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre. Working with research and industry partners nationally and internationally, we will unlock some of the most significant technical challenges around the future development and deployment of hydrogen in aviation. It’s a very exciting prospect for our researchers, partners and for the aviation industry. It will help to build the pathway to net zero emissions aviation.”

CH2i will create a unique ecosystem at Cranfield, connecting the production, integration and use of hydrogen for net zero aviation, proving how the industry can decarbonise rapidly.

The research collaboration, linking into a new Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Aviation at Cranfield, will provide an environment to develop the production technologies, catalysts, materials, structures, storage tanks, aircraft designs and engines that are urgently required to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen in a net zero world. By developing new laboratories, at scale test facilities and airport infrastructure the project will deliver a transformation in hydrogen technologies.

Bringing together academia, industry, government and regulatory authorities, CH2i’s work will inform policies, services and regulatory practices needed to realise regional, national and international economic growth and skills development opportunities.

As the only university in Europe with its own airport, research aircraft and air traffic control facilities, Cranfield has a controlled airside environment which can demonstrate, test and advance new technologies, systems and processes at scale.

CH2i will also connect and expand existing facilities at Cranfield, supporting research and development across the whole supply chain from production, storage, transport and usage, through to assessment of the environmental impacts.

The project will also extend the existing Hydrogen Integration Research Centre.