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Investing in Fuel Cells: The Resurgence!

The Investing in Fuel Cells conference, organised by Nomura Code and Cleantech Investor, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, took place in London on 27 September 2012.  

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photos by David Spink

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John-Marc Bunce of Nomura Code, delivering the opening remarks at the Investing in Fuel Cells conference, addressed questions from what he described as “a cynical investor... or two”, who had asked: “Why organise a conference on fuel cells?” (given the sector’s difficult track record). His response was: 

A number of companies have competitive commercial products and are rapidly growing commercial revenues; a number of companies are approaching the tipping point for profitability; and the attributes of fuel cells will enable them to displace heat engines and batteries in many different applications.

Citing Pike Research, Jean-Marc noted that global revenues for fuel cells have already reached US$780 million and that the sector offers the potential for growth of US$50 billion in the next five years.

The keynote address at the conference was delivered by Richard Kemp-Harper of the UK’s Technology Strategy Board, who described the work of the organisation in promoting innovation in fuel cells and hydrogen in the UK. He described how the Technology Strategy Board programmes on fuel cells and hydrogen straddle the organisation’s energy and transport programmes.

The opening session at the event included presentations on High Efficiency Stationary Power by Ceramic Fuel Cells, Fuel Cell Energy and UTC Power. Karl Foger of Ceramic Fuel Cells kicked off with a description of his company’s SOFC technology, which is optimised for electrical efficiency, describing Ceramic’s Bluegen as ”the most efficient electric generator”. He also discussed the company’s business model, observing that the “Intel inside” business model doesn’t work for the sector. 

Kurt Goddard opened his presentation with the announcement that Fuel Cell Energy is: “megawatt class”; “stationary” and “base load power”. He was followed by Dave Flanaghan who observed that UTC has been developing fuel cells for over 50 years, having “got its start in 1958 developing fuel cells for NASA”. Flanaghan also noted that UTC has 1,000 patents either issued or pending in fuel cells. 

The presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session, chaired by John-Marc Bunce. Themes emerging ranged from the potential for cost reductions in the fuel cell industry to comparisons between working in South Korea and the US markets.

The second session of the day, entitled Rolling Out a Hydrogen Infrastructure, included presentations by ITM Power, Hydrogenics and Acta Energy. It was followed by sessions on Hydrogen Fuel Cells (presenting companies included AFC Energy, Riversimple and SOFC Power) and Innovative Material Solutions (with presentations from Ilika and ACAL Energy).

Highlights of the day included a somewhat contrarian view of the potential for fuel cells in the automotive industry from Ricardo Strategic Consulting’s Simon Arbuthnot. Conference speakers also included James Wilde of the Carbon TrustFuel Cell Today’s Dan Carter and Daniel Barrett of the London Hydrogen Partnership.

Extensive video footage of the conference presentations is available on the event website and from Cleantech Investor YouTube channel. A special Cleantech Infocus publication on UK Innovation in Fuel Cells and Hydrogen, published in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, is included in the latest issue of Cleantech magazine and is also available to download from here. Profiles and videos of each of the companies which presented to investors are available from the following link:

Investing in Fuel Cells 2012 

 

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