Vision on green hydrogen

Paulien Herder 'Energy and resource transition cannot happen without connection'

For scientists like me, it is an incredibly interesting time in which we are living. Together, we face the unprecedentedly complex task of de-fossilising our economy. We now have to get rid of something we have been relying on for decades. This calls for pioneering innovations and not only from the scientific community. Knowledge institutions, government and industry stand together to accelerate innovations. Together, we are more than the sum of our parts.  

I started my career as a student in Chemical Engineering. The study focuses on the industrial application of chemical processes. It is a wonderful interaction between science and industry: how to develop new chemical products. This is perhaps why the field attracted me so much. Because it is exactly this connection where innovation arises. What does the professional field need and what can the knowledge field offer? This is action and reaction, just like a chemical process. 

Required connections

Sticking to chemistry, I see an interesting parallel with hydrogen. It always combines with other elements. Symbolically, it is the same with the green hydrogen economy. Green hydrogen, too, will never work if there is no connection: between the field of work and the field of knowledge, and between all the disciplines involved. All those disciplines must collide like chemical elements. This creates connections that take us further in defossilising the industry.

Technical, economical and social

Where to spot interesting connections? Look at the intersection of technical and socio-economic issues.
Because you might technically be able to come up with the most fantastic applications for the energy and resource transition, but are they economically feasible and scalable? And how does society react? How do people behave when it comes to certain innovations and what ethical aspects come into play? These are crucial questions if we want to successfully climb the ladder from fundamental research towards successful large-scale application.

“It is wonderful to be able to make a substantial contribution to accelerating innovation with GroenvermogenNL” 
“Our Human Capital Agenda is really going to help us educate and attract more people to choose careers in transition” 

Coming together in unique consortia

I enjoy engaging with and connecting many scientific disciplines. Environmental scientists, social scientists, all have a role in the transition. I am on the board of GroenvermogenNL purely because of my role to keep making connections. Through various programmes, the knowledge sector can work closely with business and society. For tangible calls and projects, diverse parties form unique consortia. It is wonderful to be able to make a substantial contribution to accelerating innovation with GroenvermogenNL.

Green chemistry and manufacturing industry

GroenvermogenNL is a ‘strongholder’ in the future of the Netherlands. On the one hand, because we need to start phasing out fossil resources. The signals the biosphere is giving us by now are clear. On the other hand, it is necessary to get a new industry up and running that is in balance with that biosphere. The task is to make our economy more sustainable and develop a green chemical and manufacturing industry, so that we continue to earn our money, precisely to pay for such sustainability and continue to live in prosperity and well-being.

Educating the young generation

For that future, my focus is also on educating the young generation to engage in the transition. Universities, colleges, mbo, secondary schools and primary education. All have to participate in this societal challenge. Our Human Capital Agenda, which recently delivered regional roadmaps, is going to help us train and attract more people to choose a career in the hydrogen transition.