When it comes to the clean energy transition, hydrogen can be a gamechanger. It’s the most abundant element in the universe and when produced using renewable energy, it creates zero greenhouse gas emissions. But there’s a significant barrier preventing its growth – transportation costs. Hydrogen is generally kept under high pressure in its gaseous form during transport and with its low density, it is prohibitively expensive to transport as a fuel alternative. Enter HySiLabs.

HySiLabs has introduced innovation that charges and releases hydrogen in a unique liquid carrier, making it both safe and affordable for wide-scale transport and use. Implications are significant, as with this evolution in technology, hydrogen could literally replace liquid fuel. Energy companies could deliver hydrogen to gas stations using existing trucks, and then customers could pull in to their local fuel station and fill up their electric cars.

According to president and CEO Pierre-Emmanuel Casanova, the HySiLabs team didn’t initially focus on the transport angle in its prototyping. Early vision targeted hydrogen development, distribution and sales. It was only as they began to validate initial prototyping that they quickly learned from Shell and other energy companies that storage and transportation were a critical – and unmet – need.

“When you create a startup, you want to do everything, and you want to change the world immediately,” says Casanova. “But we learned that if you want to have a real impact in the market, you need partners. And we knew that if we could facilitate the transportation, we could take part in the global energy transition.”

Those partners include Shell France. Since 2017, the HySiLabs team has received mentorship and coaching support from the Shell France team, connecting with four mentors who advised on strategy, technical approach, regulation, and industrialization. The Shell France mentor team also helped to shape the company’s longer-term vision.

“I’ve coached HySiLabs for a year, especially on strategy,” says Shell project manager and mentor Philippe Cracowski. “HySiLabs’ team is supporting a very promising technology that could be a gamechanger for the hydrogen market. It was full of learnings on both sides. Indeed, it was very exciting and refreshing to have the opportunity to engage with an entrepreneur driven by passion.”

As HySiLabs has continued to evolve, they outgrew the Shell France mentorship programme. Their relationship with Shell continues, however, with HySiLabs recently signing a contract with Shell GameChanger. Supporting start-ups and businesses on unproven early-stage ideas with the potential to impact the future of energy, the GameChanger programme provides companies with advisory support, expertise and seed funding.

“Our programme is aimed to help companies accelerate relevant and potentially disruptive technologies to market, so that Shell can use and benefit from them,” says Catherine Smura from the Shell GameChanger team. “HySiLabs showed a good fit with the four criteria against which we assess companies: novelty, potential value, fit with Shell and team, so we were keen to pursue a collaboration with them, and now excited to see that being started.”

Support isn’t limited to funding. The GameChanger programme will connect HySiLabs to relevant experts from across Shell to assist with de-risking critical aspects of the technology, in turn making the company more investible. It’s exactly this kind of non-financial support that Casanova recommends aspiring entrepreneurs focus on.

“Your network is so important,” he says. “When you have people around you supporting you, then you can do anything.”

You may also be interested in

Empowering a community through footsteps

In the heart of Morro da Mineira, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, we took a rundown football pitch and powered it with kinetic and solar energy to demonstrate our belief that a mix of innovative ideas can change the way we power communities. It’s time to see if it worked.