Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, CEO Hydrogen Europe, said the Academy wouldn’t challenge any university but based on the model of the European Institute of Technology.

“It would bring together universities, applied science and knowledge centres to create one hub of knowledge to inspire curricula in the regions. It’s a combination of the centralised gathering of knowledge, and decentralised approach of applying it. We need to do it fast – we don’t have time to lose.”

Patrick Cnubben, Director Strategy Hydrogen College at the Green Energy Coalition, welcomed the idea of the European Academy, saying it “ticks all the boxes”.

“We need to scale up and speed up,” he said. “If you can’t share, you can’t multiply.”

Cnubben added that it runs an initiative called Hydrogen Valley Campus Europe, which is decentralised with several hubs.

Chatzimarkakis, representing more than 430 members, said there are already shortages of trained workers for the current renewables boom.

“There was not enough respect for certain handicraft skills, and we understand in the crisis that we need to show more respect to vocational training. When it comes to curricula, we need to foster exchange between industry and companies in the Hydrogen Valley, and universities. If we don’t do it, we will delay the process of transition.”

Robert Steinberger-Wilckens, Director of the Centre of Doctoral Training in Fuel Cells at the University of Birmingham, highlighted the importance of funding.

“A small investment of 50,000 euros into a career, or education over three years, would pay back big style. I’m not sure the European Commission is in a place to do this, but that’s a different way of viewing things. Students need to be aware of financial incentives and industrial opportunities that are waiting for them.”

He added that he keeps pushing the idea of micro-credentials for vocational training.

Ankica Kovac, from the University of Zagreb, said skills are the “important wheel” on the journey to decarbonisation and combating climate change.

“We need to upskill our knowledge and processes. The energy crisis today should be a trigger for new knowledge, to widen our horizons,” she said. “There is no growth without collaboration between industry, academia and policy.”

In conclusion, asked what the panel would say to President Ursula Von der Leyen if they were “stuck in a lift”, Chatzimarkakis said: “If we don’t put the same impetus on skills, like we’ve put on the Hydrogen Bank, then we will lose track, so put your focus on skills and the Hydrogen Academy.”

Cnubben said, “Hydrogen works, so invest in skills and the whole spectrum of education.”

Steinberger-Wilckens said Europe should develop a network of institutions that can roll out education, and provide the bedrock for industry to grow, and reverted to the key issue of financing.

“We need stipends, and real financial investment for technicians, students and academia. We need monetary incentives for people to move into this area.”