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  • hammaad saghir

Cranfield University Secures £69 Million for Groundbreaking Hydrogen Aviation Hub


Image: CH2i facade concept image - Credit: Aiden Bell Anotherkind Architects


In a landmark move, Cranfield University has secured a whopping £69m investment to pioneer hydrogen-powered aviation technology by creating the Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator (CH2i), marking its most significant research funding boost.


The funding, comprising £23m from Research England's Research Partnership Investment Fund and an additional £46m from industry partners and academic institutions, will fuel the establishment of CH2i at Cranfield's airport. This cutting-edge hub will be a pivotal platform to showcase hydrogen's potential as a net-zero aviation fuel.


CH2i will house a state-of-the-art Hydrogen Integration Research Centre, along with dedicated test beds for hydrogen and liquid hydrogen applications. These will be bolstered by new fuel systems, storage facilities, and propulsion infrastructure. This transformative project will significantly enhance Cranfield Airport's capabilities in testing hydrogen-powered aviation technologies.


Moreover, the investment will facilitate the acquisition of new equipment, project management resources, and staffing, reinforcing Cranfield's commitment to spearheading hydrogen research and innovation.


"This game-changing investment builds on Cranfield's expertise in hydrogen research and will help the aviation industry to make the leap to using hydrogen," said Professor Karen Holford, chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University. "CH2i will integrate with other large industry research areas at Cranfield, including our novel hydrogen production programs 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. It's a very exciting prospect for our researchers, partners, and the aviation industry. It will help to build the pathway to net zero emissions aviation."


The development of CH2i aligns closely with the UK government's ambitious Jet Zero strategy, which targets achieving net-zero emission domestic aviation by 2040, reinforcing the nation's commitment to sustainable aviation innovation.


This milestone announcement follows the government's Future of Flight action plan, which sets ambitious milestones for piloted flying taxi flights, drone deliveries, and autonomous flying taxi demonstrations. Additionally, Skyports' recent agreement to establish the UK's first flying taxi testbed in Oxfordshire by 2024 underscores the nation's momentum in aviation innovation.


In parallel, Sustainable Ventures, Europe's most prominent climate tech hub, has been selected to support government-backed hydrogen start-ups in scaling their operations through its newly launched Manchester hub. Backed by £1.5m in private investment and aiming to generate £5m in commercial contracts, this initiative signals a concerted effort to drive hydrogen innovation and adoption across sectors.


"We share the consortium's belief that hydrogen is critical to decarbonising the most challenging areas of the economy and that it presents a huge opportunity for the UK, so we're pleased to have been chosen to lead the delivery of this vitally important programme," said Andrew Ruffler, Sustainable Ventures' northern director. We've been a trusted partner of government-backed bodies and local authorities for some time and are really excited to expand this work into the North West.


"Climate tech innovation is happening all over the UK, not just in London. The North-West is one of the most innovative regions in Europe, and this programme will accelerate its journey to become a leader in the fight against climate change while creating green tech jobs."

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