Achieving the climate targets by 2045 will require an enormous transformation of our production and economic processes — this applies in particular to industry. As an industrial centre in the heart of Europe, the Ruhr region plays a leading role in Europe in the development and use of low-emission hydrogen solutions. The Hydrogen Report now presented shows how the ecosystem is driving innovation through initiatives by established industry, a strong research landscape and, above all, with many start-ups. H2 start-ups are bringing the necessary momentum to the hydrogen market ramp-up — the Ruhr region and North Rhine-Westphalia have developed into the leading location in Germany in this respect, although the potential is still far from exhausted.
Key findings of the study:
- Ecological transformation is the basis: Hydrogen will play a fundamental role in the energy transition in the coming decades — the 24-fold increase in new electrolysis capacities worldwide each year between 2014 and 2019 already indicates the enormous market volume of the sector.
- Research momentum is increasing worldwide: Hydrogen research is gaining momentum, as evidenced, among other things, by the significant increase in patents in the field of electrolysis. At the same time, Germany and Europe are in danger of losing out because of the lack of speed in transferring this knowledge into practice.
- More start-up investments in the H2 sector: The high attractiveness of the hydrogen sector is also reflected in growing investment sums. Investment in European startups increased from €6 million to €69 million between 2015 and 2020. And in the USA, investments in the triple-digit million range are already taking place.
- The Ruhr region is a leading H2startup cluster: Startups are a key vehicle for accelerating the development of the hydrogen economy. North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria account for more than half of these companies, with the Ruhr region and the Munich area standing out as clusters with 18 % each.
In order to be at the forefront of global competition in the hydrogen market ramp-up, the ecosystem in Germany and the Ruhr region must be further strengthened. In this context, three key recommendations can be formulated with the report:
- H2 research in the Ruhr Area should be application-oriented and even more broadly based . To this end, the funding of existing institutions must be evaluated and potential for expansion — especially at the interfaces to practical and cooperative projects — must be identified.
- In order to increase the number of H2 start-ups, there is a need for a cross-university contact point for those interested in starting up in this sector — comparable institutions in other fields of technology can serve as a model here.
- In order to accelerate developments towards the market, strategic partnerships should be pushed: To this end, it is necessary to strengthen appropriate formats for cooperation between startups and established businesses — there is a need for experimental fields that minimize effort and costs for both sides.