Cranfield awarded £69m to spearhead hydrogen aviation hub development

Cranfield University has received its largest ever research funding award to develop a hydrogen technology hub at Cranfield airport.

The Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator (CH2i) will receive £23m ($29m) from Research England’s Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) and a further £46m ($58m) from industry partners and academic institutions, totalling £69m ($87m).

CH2i is expected to connect production, integration and use of hydrogen for Net Zero aviation and inform policies, services and regulatory practices to advance the hydrogen aviation industry.

By connecting and expanding existing facilities at Cranfield – the only European university with its own airport – the project will support R&D across the whole supply chain, from production, storage, transport and usage to assessment of the environmental impacts. CH2i will also demonstrate where hydrogen can be integrated into ground operations and aircraft propulsion.

Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, explained, “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.”

H2 View understands CH2i will include three infrastructure elements:

  • A Hydrogen Integration Research Centre – extending an existing facility to include new labs for advanced materials and testing for hydrogen-based technologies and a dedicated area to develop hydrogen pilot plant demonstrations, electrolysis and green hydrogen.
  • Investment into two separate test bed facilities that can support gaseous hydrogen and liquid hydrogen activity, fuel systems, storage and propulsion system integration at mid and high-technology readiness levels.
  • Develop Cranfield Airport’s infrastructure and increase its capability for safe operation and testing of future demonstrator hydrogen-powered aviation.

The university’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor Leon Terry, commented, “A key part of this initiative is achieving rapid innovation within a regulated, safety-critical context.

“This funding heralds a transformation in the hydrogen research trajectory, and our unique expertise and facilities puts Cranfield right at the centre of accelerating hydrogen development in the UK.”

The aviation industry is expected to be the largest source of carbon greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and work is being actively done to identify alternative methods for the sector.

You can read more about this in H2 View’s upcoming aviation magazine, our 50th edition! Hear from major industry players such as Universal Hydrogen and read about how the hydrogen economy has progressed over the past 49 issues.  


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