Integrated hydrogen education in North Netherlands paves new ways in education
With SNN’s allocation of a €5 million grant for a 3-year hydrogen training development programme in the Northern Netherlands, regional educational institutions are joining forces. The programme, under the title ‘H2 Train & Learn Hub’ (H2 is hydrogen) is an unprecedented integrated approach of thematic education, research, training and (re)education at all learning levels. It should get qualified people from the region -both students and professionals- for the energy and resource transition available for the hydrogen economy being built in the Northern Netherlands. The ‘H2 Train & Learn Hub’ is a collaboration between the University of Groningen, Hanzehogeschool Groningen, Alfa-college, Noorderpoort, Drenthe College, NHL Stenden and New Energy Coalition.
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One of the drivers of the development programme is the fact that after 60 years, Groningen is no longer one of Europe’s main centres of natural gas. Based on the realisation that a social and economic hole is at risk as a result, a strong movement has emerged in the region to reinvent itself using the accumulated knowledge and infrastructure from the gas system. The widely supported plan is to play a leading role in the energy transition. Specifically, this involves the value chain of the new, green gases that will play a central role in our future energy system and as green raw materials in the new circular production processes. The basic variant of this, clean hydrogen, is central to this.
Sufficiently trained staff
A lot has already happened in recent years in the field of hydrogen in the region, so much so that the European Union officially declared the region Europe’s first Hydrogen Valley (hydrogen hub). Not only because of the large scale of new initiatives around green gases, but also because they cover the entire value chain: production, transport, storage and applications in industry, mobility and built environment. There is now an investment plan up to 2030 for more than 50 projects with a combined financial volume of around €10 billion. Various initiatives have also emerged within the knowledge sector to respond to the theme in education and research.
The whole hydrogen economy is still in its infancy. Real breakthroughs towards large-scale investments and further roll-out via SMEs and startups are expected in the coming years, but that does mean that the preliminary work needs to be done now. A crucial component of this is to ensure, in cooperation with companies, that there are enough skilled personnel for the new technology and applications. That process can now be started thanks to SNN’s allocation.
Praise Northern educational collaborations
Only recently, praise was given to the ‘University of the North’ (knowledge and innovation network of five Northern knowledge institutions) and previously initiated cooperation between Northern Dutch educational institutions for vocational, applied science and university studies. ‘Minister Dijkgraaf of Education and Science hopes that this example will “spread throughout the Netherlands”. Because by bringing smart heads and handy hands together, new knowledge reaches society faster,’ according to Nederlands Dagblad on 2 October last.
The continuous learning line that had already been started in the north on the topic of hydrogen is even extending this to adult education (in-service and retraining for entry-level and post-initial). With the ‘H2 Train & Learn Hub’ programme, the region is positioning itself as the place where the entire education chain on this theme is excellent and ahead of other European regions.
Innovative in the programme to be developed is the so-called challenged-based learning in which students of all levels and different disciplines work together on concrete company assignments – under expert guidance from the education system. Because students are involved in these kinds of processes during their studies, they experience how things work in practice in the energy transition. There is also innovation among the teachers and researchers involved: in the form of strengthening the professorships (vocational) and lectureships (applied science) and the development of new partnerships of professors-lecturers-professors, within which joint research is conducted.
This will raise the knowledge and innovation capacity in both education and application in companies in the regon to a higher level and also develop an exemplary position within the Hydrogen Valley North Netherlands.