Laura Cuss • 08.08.23 •  2 mins

Hydrogen Capability Network sets sights on key challenges

Three months on from the Phase 0 launch of the Hydrogen Capability Network, Programme Director, Laura Cuss shares insights on the challenges in ramping up the UK’s hydrogen capability and the exciting opportunities that it brings across aerospace and beyond.

A little over a year on from the conclusions of the ATI’s FlyZero project, the Phase 0 launch of the Hydrogen Capability Network was a statement of intent for the UK. If FlyZero underlined the potential of liquid hydrogen (LH2) in powering zero-carbon emission aircraft, the Hydrogen Capability Network is about defining the conditions for this to become a reality, securing competitive advantage for the UK in the process.

As the sector embarks on pivotal technological change in the adoption of hydrogen this provides opportunity and challenge. The opportunity is for innovation and new entrants, but the challenge is reducing duplication across competing projects or initiatives which are working through the same fundamentals and challenges. There are areas that could be considered pre-competitive IP and therefore could readily be collaborative.

We want to make sure progress continues to happen but we must also ensure that there is appropriate alignment and coordinated action to address the challenges. We need to enable the UK to compete with or lead other nations for skills, research, supply chain, testing infrastructure and manufacturing.

The UK’s lack of domestic supply of LH2 at scale needs also to be addressed. We have capabilities and small-scale innovative producers that can provide the UK with low-level volume, but as demand increases the only current solution for the UK is imports. This has risk of securing the volumes required and leaves us vulnerable to price volatility driven by increasing demand and limited supply.

We must work with uncertainty. The exact timescales for hydrogen-powered aircraft entering into service at scale are unclear, but global coordination on infrastructure, and safety and certification is required to be ready.

Decarbonisation creates massive demand for green energy across multiple sectors and there is no certainty on where aviation will rank in priorities against other sectors, especially given the uncertainty on when the technology will be ready. However, our mission for the Hydrogen Capability Network is clear: we need to secure the hydrogen that UK aerospace needs to stay competitive on aerospace technology and in the R&D race, including to support sub-regional early adoption. The nations investing today will have a head start in securing a future share of the aerospace market.

The ATI’s Hydrogen Capability Network is looking to understand the LH2 landscape in UK aerospace with the aim of addressing these challenges and accelerating the establishment of a LH2 aircraft ecosystem. We plan to put forward a coordinated and collaborative path for the UK to capitalise on what will emerge as a new global market for LH2 aircraft, both environmentally and economically.

The Hydrogen Capability Network team is made up of nine experts in their fields engaging across the sector and beyond. We have secondees from Airbus UK, Rolls-Royce, National Physical Laboratory and the Health and Safety Executive. We’re working closely with High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the Hydrogen Innovation Initiative (HII) and Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure programme (ZEFI). And through the ATI’s governance, we report into DBT, DfT and DESNZ, while supporting the Jet Zero Council delivery groups.

The Hydrogen Capability Network is looking to engage with organisations with capability or interest in hydrogen technology and supply. To find out more or get involved, contact the team at