Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge

The objective of the Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge is to develop, prove and commercialise novel polymer fuel cell technologies that have the potential to deliver a step-change in overall system cost

What are we doing?

We aim to deliver a market-oriented, end-user focused programme, which has the potential to accelerate access to new markets for fuel cell products, saving carbon whilst generating economic value for the UK.


Although fuel cells are already emerging in specific markets, they are currently too expensive for widespread commercial applications, such as road vehicles and co-generation of heat and power. A reduction in the whole fuel cell system cost of at least a third, at mass-manufacture volumes, could unlock a global polymer fuel cell market worth over $180bn by 2050. The UK market alone could be worth $19bn, with corresponding savings of 7MtCO2e a year. Our analysis indicates that UK research has strong capabilities in the area, and hence we are looking to spend up to £8m through the Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge to achieve this cost breakthrough.

How are we doing this?

We are currently running a competitive process to select the most promising breakthroughs that could meet the objectives of the Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge. The first stage of the competition, which called for Expressions of Interest, closed in November 2009. Following the review and selection of the Expressions of Interest received, a short list of consortia have been invited to submit a Full Proposal by April 2010.

Full details of the shortlisted consortia and their proposed projects can be found here. In summary, the lead partners of the 5 consortia are:

  • ACAL Energy: looking to deliver a non precious metal based cathode system, based on their FlowCath® liquid regenerating fuel cell technology, with organic synthesis scale-up experience from Endeavour Speciality Chemicals Ltd
  • CMR Fuel Cells: developing Pt-free alkaline polymer MEAs, in conjunction with the University of Surrey and Imperial College, London
  • Imperial College, London: developing a Flexi-Planar stack, allowing for MEA-agnostic design, choices of fuel cell chemistry and fault tolerance; in conjunction with University College London, Photomechanical Services and Imperial Innovations
  • Ionic Polymer Solutions: developing their innovative iCONTM proton exchange membranes (PEM) and ionomers for robust cycling and high temperature operation
  • ITM Power: development and optimisation of a suite of novel membrane materials, in particular their very high power density hydrophilic ionic polymers

Suppliers of services (providing e.g. testing facilities, system design or integration…) or system components can still get involved in the Challenge, if they can provide complementary capabilities to the short-listed consortia; relevant parties are welcome to contact us to register their interest in engaging with these consortia before the submission of Full Proposals in April 2010.

Fuel cell end-users and customers interested in the products developed are also welcome to contact us throughout the process.

Successful projects will be taken forward for grant-funded technical validation and industry engagement for 18-24 months. The concept shown to have the greatest impact will attract further co-investment via a commercial vehicle, in order to create or develop a world-class UK business, and secure major customer contracts.

Any other questions?

Email your enquiries via the contact us form or call Richard Taylor from E4tech on +44 (0) 203 008 6140.

Through the Low Carbon Innovation Group, the Carbon Trust and the Technology Strategy Board have been working together to coordinate support for fuel cell and hydrogen technology in the UK since 2007. The Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge and the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Demonstration Programme announced by the Technology Strategy Board earlier this month are complementary initiatives supporting, respectively, research on next generation technologies and demonstration of currently-available systems. The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Demonstration Programme is a £7.2m joint initiative between DECC and the Technology Strategy Board and will cover transport and stationary market applications and enable fully scaled up demonstration projects for technologies that have already successfully undertaken research, development and prototyping projects. Details of the Programme are available at the Technology Strategy Board website.

More info

Documents to download

Presentations from our launch event

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