NERA Regional Hydrogen Technology Clusters

EOI Guidelines

NERA’s Regional Hydrogen Technology Clusters Seed Funding Program will support the development of hydrogen technology clusters across Australia to enhance local cohesion and capability in the hydrogen value chain. These clusters will accelerate and optimise the development of hydrogen technology and expertise.

Technology Clusters are ‘Geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialised suppliers, service providers, firms in related industries and associated institutions … in particular fields that compete but also cooperate.’[1] Many studies (see: European observatory for clusters and industrial change) have shown that dynamic clusters enhance economic development and accelerate:

  • New knowledge and capabilities
  • New technology and product development
  • New business start-ups
  • Private and public investment
  • Productivity improvement
  • Increased competitiveness
  • Export growth

Supply chain and technology development is being accelerated in many countries through clustering initiatives that closely align businesses around common agendas, addressing both opportunities for and impediments to growth. For example, Perth is home to a large subsea innovation industry that formed to deliver technology and expertise to Western Australia’s offshore oil and gas sector. Through NERA’s seed funding and support, businesses from across the value-chain have connected to establish a formal cluster — Subsea Innovation Cluster Australia (SICA) — in order to build a community that strengthens collaboration, innovation and the market expansion of the Australia subsea sector.

Many hydrogen-related technology clusters are already under development across Europe, Asia and the Americas, with cluster engagement being a key component of Europe’s Smart Specialisation’ strategy. Development of technology clusters centres on identifying regional strengths and then establishing collaborative growth partnerships across the value chain, led by industry with support from relevant government agencies, research partners and universities. Close interaction and exchanges amongst cluster members – who tend to be geographically proximate — underpins competition and also stimulates innovation.

NERA has demonstrated capability and experience in supporting the formation of clusters, with substantial learnings gained through the development of SICA and the Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG), which we will leverage to maximise each regional hydrogen technology cluster’s chances of success.

[1] Porter, M. E. ‘On Competition. Updated and Expanded Ed.’ Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2008.


Funding and assistance

To facilitate the formation of these clusters, NERA will provide seed funding of up to $100,000 for emerging hydrogen technology clusters across Australia and is now seeking Expressions of Interest (EOIs) from interested parties.

This program encourages businesses, public agencies, researchers and educational institutions to align and work together, to build on their competitive advantage, address opportunities and develop solutions to challenges that they otherwise could not resolve on their own.

It is envisaged that representatives of the successful cluster applicants will help NERA establish the National Hydrogen Cluster virtual network as members of a national steering group.

In addition to financial assistance, NERA will offer:

  • Guidance on eligibility and assistance in the preparation of your EOI.
  • Connections to other interested parties that are looking to submit an EOI in your geographic region (where relevant) to facilitate partnerships and strengthen your application.
  • Ongoing support and advice on the cluster development process, including the appointment of the cluster manager; design and/or establishment of a business led board; and fast-tracking cluster development and activities.
  • General guidance to ensure reporting obligations are met.


    Eligibility

    Who should submit an EOI?

    An EOI can be submitted by a consortium or a single organisation with a project proposal that demonstrates a clear commitment and capability to establish and/or grow a hydrogen technology cluster in a specified region within Australia.

    Consortium — Key requirements for a consortium are:

    • Involvement of a minimum of two independent organisations drawn from any combination of producers, small-to-large service and/or equipment providers. Consortium members must operate a business in Australia, or principally in Australia.
    • All consortium members should be committed to the cluster prior to the submission of the EOI.
    • Each consortium lead will be required to sign a funding contract with NERA and separately with their consortium members.
    • All consortium member businesses must hold an active Australian Business Number (ABN).

    Single entity — Submissions can be made by single entities on the condition that the entity will be forming the cluster on behalf of a wider group of members and interested stakeholders. The applicant must hold an active ABN.

    Cluster eligibility

    • EOIs may be submitted by a cluster, or on behalf of a cluster.
    • The EOI must demonstrate a clear commitment to forming and developing a hydrogen technology cluster for a specified region, inclusive of SMEs and open to universities and research organisations.
    • Activities undertaken to better understand consumer, customer or market behaviour are eligible, as are projects investigating value chain options.

    Awarding of funds

    The awarding of funds will be dependent upon the quality of the EOI, the potential impact of the cluster, the number of high-quality applications and the amount of funding sought. Funding is limited so it is highly recommended that you engage with a NERA representative (eoi@nera.org.au) prior to submitting an EOI application.

    Clusters will be able to apply for up to $100,000 (excluding GST).

    As seed funding, it is hoped that this initial NERA support will provide emerging clusters with sufficient time and resources to build momentum to leverage further funding, support and membership.


    Selection criteria

    EOIs will address the following questions:

    • What is the compelling case for a hydrogen technology cluster in the specific region?
    • What is the focus of your proposed hydrogen technology cluster?
    • What is the rationale for NERA funding this proposal and how will program funding be used?
    • How strongly is the application supported by other stakeholders (including financially) and how will you engage other organisations to join the cluster?
    • What are the key barriers (knowledge, capability and capacity) to development of the hydrogen supply chain and technology in the region?
    • How will the cluster enable its members to overcome these barriers?
    • What are the expected outcomes and how will they benefit the region and/or city, and the nation?

    EOIs will be assessed based on the following selection criteria:

    • Demonstrated suitability of a hydrogen technology cluster to the specified region.
    • Applicant capability and capacity to lead the formation and establishment of a hydrogen technology cluster.
    • Demonstrated support from other interested parties.
    • Applicant ability to leverage other funds.
    • Cluster risks and proposed control measures to mitigate risks.
    • Expected benefits and outcomes.


        What the funds can be used for

        If not already in place, it is expected that a dedicated cluster manager will be appointed. The main role of the cluster manager is to connect the cluster stakeholders, to facilitate the development of the cluster’s forward agenda and to catalyse collaborative development activities.

        Cluster funds may be used for activities directly related to the cluster, for example manager salary, office rent, consulting services, business equipment, and consumables for activities in Australia.

        Reporting on the use of funds will be required by NERA from successful applicants.

        NERA cluster funding will be payable by instalments as agreed with NERA and will link to agreed milestones.


          Award of funding and reporting

          The Cluster Funding Agreement will include full details of the proposed cluster including scope, milestones, deliverables, funding opportunities, governance and oversight arrangements, and reporting requirements.

          The terms and conditions of the funding and timing of instalments will be set out in the Cluster Funding Agreement between the project participants and NERA.

          When a Cluster Funding Agreement is fully executed, NERA reserves the right to publicly report on the progress and outcomes of the cluster, consulting with the cluster partners prior to doing so.


          Selection and Approval Process

          The following process and timeframe will be applied to reviewing, selecting and approving cluster proposals from NERA’s Regional Hydrogen Technology Cluster Seed Funding Program.
          Key dates:

          1 September 2020 –
          14 October 2020

          Applications open — The process includes a short EOI template that is completed online. This forms the basis of the cluster proposal which will be used to assess eligibility.

          16 September 2020

          Regional Hydrogen Technology Clusters webinar — NERA will deliver a 1-hour webinar to provide background on clusters and the seed funding program, explain the EOI process and address questions.

          15 October 2020 –
          30 October 2020

          EOIs will be evaluated by NERA, who may seek specialised assistance. Further information and supporting material may be requested by NERA when developing a shortlist. Shortlisted applicants may be required to present their EOI to a NERA selection panel.

          2 November 2020 –
          5 November 2020

          Successful applicants will be notified and sent a draft Cluster Seed Funding Agreement with NERA.

          30 November 2020 While NERA acknowledges that contractual discussions can take some time, NERA is aiming to have Cluster Seed Funding Agreements fully executed by all parties by the end of November 2020. Funding arrangements cannot commence until a Cluster Seed Funding Agreement is in place. Failure to enter into an agreement in a reasonable timeframe may result in withdrawal of the offer by NERA.


          Submission of EOI

          EOI submissions are to be provided using an online form. The form has mandatory fields. Please ensure you are able to describe your application in a clear, succinct way.

          The form will allow for up to three attachments at the end of the application.

          You can access the EOI form at the end of this page.

          NERA will not disclose EOI contents and EOI information, except:

          • as required by law;
          • for the purpose of investigations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or other government authorities having relevant jurisdiction;
          • to external advisers who may be engaged to assist with the EOI review process.

          No legal relationship will be created between NERA and any successful applicant unless a binding Cluster Funding Agreement is executed by both parties.

          NERA reserves the right, in its absolute discretion at any time, to vary or extend any time or date specified for an EOI round and can amend these guidelines and EOI terms and conditions. These guidelines do not form any legal arrangement between NERA and any other party.

          Questions about EOIs should be directed to NERA at eoi@nera.org.au and a relevant representative will be in contact.