Technology scale-up to create 300 jobs

A Hull business which is scaling up a hydrogen generation technology solution is to create 300 jobs next year on the back of global interest.

HiiROC only launched in 2019 but is already making serious inroads into its mission to “impact global net zero” from its East Yorkshire base.

Its potential was recognised last night when it was chosen ahead of 11 other finalists, and 250 entrants, as the winner of the 2022 UK Tech Innovator competition run by KPMG.

“I feel like this is not only a win for us, but a win for the hydrogen sector to really get some momentum around an issue that will have a real impact on climate change,” said HiiROC’s chief executive and co-founder Tim Davies.

“Hydrogen is the great new fuel. You burn it, you make H20 – water – you don’t make carbon dioxide. It’s going to become a £2.5 trillion market in 20 years’ time. It’s a huge market and we’re in it.

“Why isn’t the whole world using hydrogen already? The problem with hydrogen is the production of hydrogen. Currently it’s steam methane reforming, which produces a huge amount of carbon dioxide as a waste product, or its water electrolysis – the new way of doing it, which uses far too much energy and costs too much.

“The planet needs a new way of making hydrogen. We believe we have that way. Our innovation is a world first and it is patent-protected.”

HiiROC’s technology decarbonises hydrocarbons, which is as cheap as steam methane reforming but doesn’t produce carbon dioxide. It strips off the carbon and stores it as solid carbon, so there is no global warming impact, and they use the hydrogen.

The company completed a £30m funding round last November with new investors including Melrose Industries, HydrogenOne, Centrica, Hyundai and Kia, who joined existing strategic investors Wintershall Dea and VNG. The fundraising valued the company at £175m.

The company is now running pilots in energy generation, storage, transportation, and industrial decarbonisation, and is working with cement giant Cemex and British Gas owner Centrica on different development projects. It has been invited to Abu Dhabi to be part of COP28 as a demonstration project.

HiiROC currently employs 60 people but will see huge growth when its plant opens next year, creating 300 more roles.

While the short-term presents challenges around which opportunities to focus on first, Davies said the “long run is pretty fantastic”.

HiiROC was selected by the judges at a live event at innovation hub Nexus in Leeds, the first time in its nine-year history that the Tech Innovator final had been held outside London.

Regional winners and selected runners-up pitched their innovations, explaining the company’s mission and the problem they were addressing.

Warren Middleton, lead partner for KPMG’s Emerging Giant Centre of Excellence in the UK, said: “HiiROC is a fantastic example of the growing number of innovative UK businesses who are proving that there is much opportunity for growth if businesses are prepared to think differently or come at the problem from a new angle.”

“The power of our technology sector to deliver impact on a global scale is more important than it’s ever been, and our UK innovators are a real success story,” added Middleton.

The two runners-up in the competition were London-based Magway, which has developed a magnetic system to move goods sustainably and at speed, and Warwick software scale-up Eatron Technologies, which has developed battery management systems for the automotive industry.

HiiROC will now compete against 23 other national winners at the global final in Portugal in November.