The Hunter will host one of 13 hydrogen clusters across Australia as part of a push to support growth and industry collaboration within the emerging multi-billion dollar green fuel industry.
The region's highly skilled energy and resources workforce coupled with expertise in advanced manufacturing were compelling reasons to locate the state's only cluster in the Hunter.
It also will significantly strengthen the region's case to become a national hydrogen export hub.
The cluster's partners include the University of Newcastle, TAFE, HunterNet, the Hunter Business Chamber, the Australian Industry Group, and the Hunter Hydrogen Taskforce.
It will receive $200,000 seed funding from National Energy Resources Australia to focus on key hydrogen projects both nationally and within the Hunter.
"The strong manufacturing base, existing infrastructure, research strengths and skilled workforce of the Hunter means the region has the capacity to be a global leader in hydrogen," Hunter Cluster interim chair, Boris Novak, said.
"The support from National Energy Resources Australia through this successful bid is a fantastic opportunity to leverage these assets to create a new hydrogen and energy economy that benefits the nation and assists the transition to a clean energy future."
The University of Newcastle will play a key role the project by sharing globally significant research with the cluster's partners.
"We can attract investment through our research capabilities in hydrogen. One of the great things about our region is our supply chains. If we can scale them up and equip them we can attract industry, which will in turn create jobs in the region on the back of this cluster," Alan Broadfoot, executive director of the university's Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, said.
"The overall strategy is a national one that we are now tapped into. What we are doing is putting another brick in the wall to strengthen the Hunter to be part of the engine room of the new energy economy.
The university is currently involved in several globally significant hydrogen research projects.
The Newcastle Herald reported last year on the work of Professor Behdad Moghtaderi who has developed a world-first technique that combines solar energy with water harvested from the air to create low-cost 'green hydrogen'.
The development represents a major breakthrough in the race to commercialise zero-emission fuel technology needed to make mass-produced hydrogen vehicles a reality.
Other projects include an industry transformation research training partnership with the University of NSW for the development of PhDs for the new hydrogen economy.
It is also part of a consortium that is researching the use of hydrogen in iron making.
A recently awarded Australian Research Council grant will also enable researchers to investigate how to convert coal into hydrogen through gasification.
National Energy Resources Australia chief executive Miranda Taylor said the clusters represented a crucial step in building the skills, capacities and commercialisation opportunities necessary to unlock Australia's potential to create a globally competitive hydrogen industry, which a 2019 Deloitte report estimated could increase Australia's gross domestic product up to $26 billion.
"Today marks a great step forward in Australia's capability in developing hydrogen technologies," she said.
"These regional clusters, all of which have the support of their state and territory governments, have been established around key, existing hydrogen projects and technology supply chains in strategic locations that have a demonstrated capacity to support them."
IN OTHER NEWS: