Who we are
The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) is a unique public private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration (RTD) activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe. Its aim is to accelerate the market introduction of these technologies, realising their potential as an instrument in achieving a carbon-lean energy system.
Fuel cells, as an efficient conversion technology, and hydrogen, as a clean energy carrier, have a great potential to help fight carbon dioxide emissions, to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons and to contribute to economic growth. The objective of the FCH JU is to bring these benefits to Europeans through a concentrated effort from all sectors.
The three members of the FCH JU are the European Commission, fuel cell and hydrogen industries represented by Hydrogen Europe and the research community represented by Hydrogern Europe Research.
FCH JU under FP7
The FCH JU is the result of long-standing cooperation between representatives of industry, scientific community, public authorities, technology users and civil society in the context of the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform. The Platform was launched under the 6th Framework Programme for Research (FP6) as a grouping of stakeholders, led by companies representing the entire supply chain for fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies.
The Platform concluded that fuel cell and hydrogen technologies can play a significant role in a new, cleaner energy system for Europe. However, if these were to make a significant market penetration in transport and power generation, there would need to be research, development and deployment strategies in which all the stakeholders are committed to common objectives.
The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform has indicated the way forward in a number of strategy papers, most importantly the Strategic Research Agenda ( 1.6 MB), the Deployment Strategy ( 3.3 MB) and the Implementation Plan - Status 2006 ( 3.3 MB).
Based on this shared vision, the FCH JU was established by a Council Regulation on 30 May 2008 as a public-private partnership between the European Commission, European industry and research organisations to accelerate the development and deployment of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.
FCH JU under Horizon 2020
On 6th May 2014, the Council of the European Union formally agreed to continue the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative under the EU Horizon 2020 Framework
Program. This phase (2014-20), will have a total budget of €1.33 billion, provided on a matched basis between the EU represented by the European Commission, industry, and research.
The second phase of the FCH JU (though the "FCH 2 JU") will reinforce this commitment to a real, strong, reliable European platform on fuel cells and hydrogen in which Industry, Research, and Local, National and European officials act together to address, through the technology, major socio-economic and environmental challenges.
The projects under FCH 2 JU will improve performance and reduce the cost of products as well as demonstrate on a large scale the readiness of the technology to enter the market in the fields of transport (cars, buses and refuelling infrastructure) and energy (hydrogen production and distribution, energy storage and stationary power generation).
The FCH 2 JU is set up for a period lasting until 31 December 2024. It brings public and private interests together in a new, industry-led implementation structure, ensuring that the jointly defined research programme better matches industry’s needs and expectations, while focusing on the objective of accelerating the commercialization of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.
Why fuel cells and hydrogen?
Fuel Cell and Hydrogen (FCH) technologies hold great promise for energy and transport applications from the perspective of meeting Europe’s energy, environmental and economic challenges. The European Union is committed to transforming its transport and energy systems as part of a future low carbon economy. It is recognised that FCH technologies have an important role in this transformation and they are part of the Strategic Energy Technologies Plan (SET) Plan adopted by the European Council. This is in line with the European Commission’s (EC) Communication “Energy for a Changing World – An Energy Policy for Europe”, the goals of the Lisbon Strategy and the European Strategic Transport Technology Plan.
Fuel cells, as an efficient conversion technology, and hydrogen, as a clean energy carrier, have a great potential to contribute to addressing energy challenges facing Europe. They will allow renewable energy technology to be applied to transport, facilitate distributed power generation, and help Europe cope with the intermittent character of renewables such as wind power.
Thus they will:
- Help fight carbon dioxide emissions
- Reduce dependence on mainly imported hydrocarbons
- Contribute to economic growth and create employment
Why a public-private partnership?
Europe is a technology leader in certain FCH applications and very competitive in others. However, the scale and scope of the research and market entry agendas for developing and deploying FCH technologies across the spectrum of applications goes beyond the capacity of single companies or public research institutions in terms of financial commitment, resources and capability.
- Overcoming barriers to deployment: There are still many technical and non-technical barriers to overcome before fuel cell and hydrogen technology is widely commercially available. A concentrated effort of all players is necessary, because the research needed to develop the technologies is often so complex that no single company or public research institution can perform it alone.
- Pooling together resources: EU Framework Programmes (FPs) have provided increasing levels of funding to fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, from 8M € in FP2 to 315M € in FP6. There are also national programmes with substantial funding, not to mention the significant investment by industry and research institutions in these technologies. Better coordination of all these sources of funding will bring gains both in efficiency and economic value. Under the FP7 programme, a pre-defined budget of sufficient critical mass - nearly € 1 billion jointly contributed by the members - and a 6-year timetable of the FCH JU raised confidence among public and private investors and allowed industry to make long-term investment plans and manage cash flows. Since 2014, the FCH JU has implemented its second phase under the H2020 Programme, with a ring-fenced budget of 665 million euros, complemented by at least an equivalent level investment from the industrial and research partners. This second phase will continue to contribute to the objectives of the Joint Technology Initiative through the development of a strong, sustainable and global competitive Fuel Cells and Hydrogen sector in the European Union. Member States and regions are also expected to align their efforts with the agenda of the JU, adding a leverage effect.
- Market focus:Without a consumer market, no technology can have a major impact. Industry's leading role in defining priorities and timelines of the JU, together with the European Commission and the research community, will ensure that the agenda is focused on market introduction of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.
- Tackling the market failure:As with many other emerging energy technologies, before fuel cells and hydrogen can become competitive vis-à-vis e.g. oil, a great amount of investment is needed, not only in R&D, but also in transport, storage and refuelling infrastructures. It is clear that the oil-based energy economy is untenable for both environmental reasons and due to the lack of oil reserves in the medium to long term. However, no single company has the resources to make the transition alone, because mass-market volumes are too distant, as is return on investment. This creates a market failure that prevails until a critical mass of RTD and infrastructure investment creates the conditions for the emergence of a competitive consumer market . The FCH JU's model of sustained public-private partnership is expected to help overcome this dilemma and bring the technologies to the point of market breakthrough.