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Johnson Matthey chief says the UK is lagging behind in the hydrogen energy race


Britain has lost its position as one of the leaders in the global race to develop hydrogen energy, chief executive Johnson Matthey warned, as he said the FTSE 100 group could attract more business to the US as Washington frees up funding for clean projects. .

Liam Condon said businesses would bypass the UK unless the country introduced more supportive policies and that an “incredible layer of bureaucracy” was holding Europe back from developing the infrastructure needed to support hydrogen energy.

“Great Britain has been a leader [in supporting hydrogen power]” said Condon, who since taking office Johnson Mattie in March laid out a plan for the 205-year-old industrial conglomerate to focus on developing sustainable technologies.

“But now we have to maintain competition with US policy, which has clearly moved forward,” he told the Financial Times. “Otherwise, investment will just flow to the US.”

Many countries looked at hydrogen energy as they set decarbonisation targets to meet climate goals. The UK, which aims to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, announced its ambitions to become the “world’s leading hydrogen economy” in 2019 when it announced a £105m grant for businesses to develop low-carbon fuels.

But in recent months, businesses have turned to the US, where the Senate in August passed The $369 billion Inflation Relief Act to support clean energy programs, which includes tax credits for hydrogen projects.

Condon said Johnson Matthey, which makes fuel cell components and catalysts for hydrogen power, is “reviewing further investment” in the US as it expects demand to grow in the country, adding that the group remains committed to the UK.

However, in mainland Europe, according to him, organizational obstacles are holding back progress.

“The money is there, the intention is there. . . but there is an incredible red tape that slows down that money actually getting to the companies,” he said. “It is unlikely that any individual private company can afford the construction of infrastructure [to support a net zero economy]. That is why we need the support of the state.”

Johnson Matthey is doubling down on hydrogen after a failed move to make chemicals for electric vehicle batteries. The group announced an exit from the business this year, months after it was touted to investors as the key to future growth.

Condon, who joined Johnson Matthey after Robert McLeod stepped down as chief executive following the fiasco, admitted the previous management had committed the “cardinal sin” of entering the business before securing clients.

He said the group, which has supplied technology for the hydrogen industry for several years, will now focus on core businesses and areas where it can be a market leader.

Johnson Matthey hoped to raise 300 million pounds from the sale of four more subsidiaries, Condon added, including businesses that make components for medical devices and measuring instruments.

Pursuing battery materials “turned out to be a bad business decision,” he said. “But the lessons from that were very important. . . for a new strategy and the introduction of principles that would ensure that we do not find ourselves there again.’

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