The expansion of solar and wind power is well under way, but we still lack large-scale storage options for electrical energy. Green hydrogen is a potential solution, but it requires new business models. Hanken’s research into ecosystems is set to boost the hydrogen economy in Ostrobothnia
Green hydrogen technology has had a long path from discovery to the market. For decades, researchers have been looking into ways to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen and to recover the waste heat generated in the process. The commercial breakthrough has been slow in coming, but in recent years, the technology has received a new boost from large-scale applications for green energy supply.
In July 2020, the European Commission adopted a new hydrogen strategy as part of its pursuit of a climate neutral Europe by 2050, and green hydrogen is now considered an important energy source alongside other renewables such as solar and wind.
“At this year’s EnergyWeek in Vaasa, green hydrogen was found in many of the solutions presented by leading companies in the energy sector. However, Ostrobothnia still trails Central Europe in this respect,” says Kaisa Penttilä, Project Manager of the H2 Ecosystem Roadmap and PhD Candidate at the Department of Management and Organisation at Hanken in Vaasa.
Hanken plays an important role
The H2 Ecosystem Roadmap project is run jointly by Hanken, Novia University of Applied Sciences and Vaasa University of Applied Sciences VAMK. The goal is to establish wide-ranging cooperation involving green hydrogen in Ostrobothnia. In the long term, the region strives to become a leading player in this growing technology.
“In the project, we bring together a variety of participants to create new ecosystems for the emerging market for green hydrogen. Hanken can play an important role in this through its research into the commercialization of innovations and the creation of networks involving companies and organizations,” says Penttilä, who is working on a doctoral dissertation on business development at the ecosystem level.
Penttilä divides the participants into four groups: leading technology companies in the energy sector, their subcontractors, local consumer networks, and research and education organizations.
“Vaasa is home to several energy-sector companies, including Wärtsilä, Danfoss and Hitachi Energy, which have made big advances in technologies that can be used in the hydrogen economy. They play an important role in deepening competence throughout the region.”
Pilot project to spread expertise
As part of the project, a survey was carried out to determine subcontractors’ opinions about the transition to green hydrogen. Many respondents said they wanted to wait and see how things would develop.
“This group of small and medium-sized enterprises should actively participate in the pilot project to grasp what the transition will mean for their components and subcontracting services. If not, they risk falling behind on the global market.”
The third group forms an important local pioneer market for the decentralized energy supply enabled by green hydrogen.
“If households, villages and residential areas adopt an energy system based on green hydrogen, this will help raise the region’s competence level, boost local market growth and support the producers’ investments.”
New business opportunities
The fourth and last element involves improving competence through training and education at different levels.
“The focus is often on technological solutions, but new opportunities are also offered to business schools, as technology needs to find a market. Hanken can contribute with its expertise in leading, funding and developing new projects.
In the winter of 2021–2022, the H2 Ecosystem Roadmap project organized two seminars. A third will be organized in early summer, and a fourth in connection with the project’s conclusion in October.
“After the project ends, it must continue to be promoted by researchers who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the field. This must not end up as a project report tucked away in some desk drawer,” says Kaisa Penttilä.
Text and portrait picture: Johan Svenlin
- Kaisa Penttilä is one of the researchers speaking at Hanken Research Day on Tuesday 24 May 2022. Other participants are assistant professor Anna Aminoff, postdoc researcher Virva Tuomala, professor Ari Hyytinen and assistant professor Hanna Silvola. Come and get to know Hanken’s research – register for Hanken Research Day here!