Slovenian and German startups secure €2.5m grant from EIC Transition for fuel cell project

The background:

ReCatalyst is a Slovenian start-up specialising in developing, producing, and supplying customisable next-generation platinum-alloy catalyst solutions. Their mission is to optimise the utilisation of precious metals. Ionysis is a German science-driven green tech start-up that wants to transition its latest innovations from the laboratory to the market.

Since 2020, these two companies have been collaborating successfully. Their collaboration is rooted in mutual enthusiasm for each other’s research and a shared ambition to drive decarbonisation through improved, greener, and more cost-effective hydrogen technologies. Together, they have been focusing on the technologies underlying the manufacturing of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), which currently offer a sustainable solution for decarbonising heavy transport.

Green hydrogen development and PEMFC technology uptake are associated with a few challenges, namely the scarcity of platinum and the environmental burden of fluoropolymers contained in the fuel cells. To solve these issues, new radical technologies are necessary to reinvent the heart of the PEMFC: catalyst-coated membrane. 

The essence of the project:

ReCatalyst and Ionysis are tackling these challenges with their innovative and proprietary technologies. They are working to establish European value chains for manufacturing PEMFC that are free of fluoropolymers and reduce the dependence on critical resources.

ReCatalyst provides a revolutionary and advanced catalyst material, the next-generation platinum-alloy catalyst. This material optimises the utilisation of precious metals, resulting in higher catalyst performance and durability. Ionysis, on the other hand, contributes its proprietary know-how in the direct coating of membranes and the design of environmentally friendly hydrocarbon ionomers and membranes.

The EIC Transition project, named ENABLER, is focused on making fuel cells for heavy-duty applications more cost-effective and environmentally friendly while enhancing their performance. This project combines the innovative technologies of the two start-ups to develop and validate fluorine-free membranes that surpass the current state-of-the-art performance and durability targets.

ENABLER is designed to enable companies to form long-lasting partnerships across the demanding value chain and accelerate the ramp-up and mass adoption of PEMFC technology. To evaluate the membrane assemblies in real-world applications, the established fuel cell stack developer, EKPO Fuel Cell Technologies GmbH, has joined the consortium as an associated project partner.

Services provided:

  • Assisting the startups in securing joint research funding from the European Innovation Council through the EIC Transition program.
  • Collaborating with consortium partners to prepare the initial business case and business model for partners throughout the value chain.
  • Developing concepts and methodologies, designing project activities, calculating the budget, and creating the proposal.

Project result:

In summary, the project sets the groundwork for the broader utilisation of hydrogen power by using platinum more efficiently as a critical raw material. The project’s potential impacts include a 50% reduction in platinum usage in the catalyst, leading to approximately 50% lower production costs due to the elimination of wasted platinum. This will significantly reduce membrane and PEMFC production costs for the system and original equipment manufacturers. The project also elevates fuel cell stack durability by reducing degradation and increasing efficiency. A reduction in fluoropolymer content contributes to environmental benefits.

The combined efforts of CIVITTA, ReCatalyst, and Ionysis have resulted in a successful EIC Transition funding proposal that brings EUR 2.5M to the partners.

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