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HYSYDAYS<br>1st World Congress of Young Scientists on Hydrogen Energy Systems

ISBN:
1-56700-230-7 (Print)

PROMISING NICHES: A SURVEY OF EARLY MARKETS FOR HYDROGEN TECHNOLOGIES

Paolo Agnolucci
Policy Studies Institute 100 Park Village East London

William McDowall
Policy Studies Institute 100 Park Village East London

Abstract

Recent theory from evolutionary economics and technology studies has focused on the role of 'niches' in systems innovation and technological change. Indeed, several technological forecasting theorists stress the need to identify and characterise 'promising niches' in order to identify the possibilities for managing technological change.

This paper responds to that need in the case of hydrogen technologies, exploring prospective niches identified in a review of the hydrogen futures literature: Auxiliary Power Units; Hydrogen Internal Combustion Vehicles; and Fuel Blends. These niches are characterised in terms of their constituent technologies, market potentials, and their prospects for seeding the transition to a 'hydrogen economy'.

Theory suggests that niches are important because they provide spaces for development and learning. Specific processes, which will be analysed with respect to hydrogen niches, include learning about technology; real-world user needs; social impacts; the networks of actors; and about relevant government policies and legislation. These niches will also be analysed through the economic concepts of internal economies of scale, network effects and external economies of scales. Other direct economic effects arising from the development of niches are the provision of a revenue stream and the development of material infrastructure and standards. Finally, niche success stimulates expectations about future performance, helping to mobilise resources and support. This paper discusses the importance of all these factors in each of the niche markets mentioned above and the extent to which these niche markets may facilitate the advent of an hydrogen economy.