Systems theory for beginners

Over the past 20 months or so – since I started in my role at Australian Hydrogen Council (AHC) – I have regularly been struck by the different systems in play across the hydrogen ecosystem and our need to find a way to connect them both now and into the future.

There are the societal sub-systems of law, politics, economics and science, which are observed and negotiated by any actor in society. Then there are the sector sub-systems or communities that are touched by hydrogen’s potential: transport, natural gas, electricity, international trade and industrial processes. And each has its own sub-systems or communities, such as the car, bus, truck, forklift, marine and aviation aspects of transport.

For the hydrogen industry to reach its potential we need to understand and work with the way the various systems consider:

  • Their core values, such as the legality of practices (law), policies to help governments stay in power (politics), where the money is (economics) and what is and isn’t true/verifiable (science)
  • Risk
  • Time, and their key decision-making timeframes.

For example, we know that to develop the global hydrogen industry we need to secure investment, and that this is required to some degree into the long term – ten to thirty years. How do we do this? Well, we need to start with understanding how the economy ‘sees’ things.

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