Technology hub launched for Manchester SMEs

Technology hub launched for Manchester SMEs

A £4m technology hub will be launched at Manchester Metropolitan University to help Manchester companies create the next generation of carbon-neutral hydrogen fuel cells.

The Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre (MFCIC) will house the latest equipment for SMEs to develop hydrogen fuel cells to create green and emission-free energy, powering everything from our homes to our cars.

The Centre has been awarded £1.6m from the European Regional Development Fund for equipment currently unavailable to the city’s low-carbon SME sector, with the University funding the remaining cost.

MFCIC will produce advanced materials for fuel cells and next generation energy storage, utilising nanomaterials and 3D printing for example, and plan hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure for the region.

MFCIC builds on the establishment of the Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership (GMHP), which Manchester Metropolitan launched in 2013 as a venture between academia, industry and government.

It will also draw on expertise in the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and the SME-focused Centre for Enterprise.

Dr David Lambrick, interim pro-vice-chancellor for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: "This is truly a ground-breaking initiative to drive forward innovation in our SMEs, develop emission-free energy and firmly position Manchester as a worldwide centre of excellence in fuel cells.

"The big challenge for the 21st century is how we create a sustainable future while meeting demand for energy, which will only continue to rise in the coming years.

"Fuel cells are a fundamental part of the hydrogen economy and what we have at Manchester Metropolitan is the expertise in advanced materials, nanotechnology, smart grid technology and business development.

"We now have the MFCIC to break down the barriers for hydrogen-focused SMEs to access the technology to make the next generation of fuel cells to become a reality."

It is a key market that will help transform Manchester into a global fuel cell leader. Currently, 2,043 companies provide low-carbon environmental goods and services in Greater Manchester, employing 38,000 people.

The global fuel cell market is projected to grow by 10% over the next eight years. There are key government-backed hydrogen fuel cell projects in the UK, Japan, USA and Germany and major car manufacturers continue to refine new models of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Initially, the Centre will work with 50 Manchester-based SMEs over a three-year period. The project begins in December with engagement of researchers and SMEs, and the facility will be fully operational by December 2017.

Amer Gaffar, MFCIC Partnership Director, added: "This is very timely for Manchester with UK hydrogen infrastructure continuing to grow. Our aim is to provide the correct conditions for SMEs in the sector to develop new technology but also provide the space and support for new start-up companies to flourish."