The European Commission (EC) has approved an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to support a range of hydrogen value chain initiatives.

The IPCEI Hy2Tech project aims to support research and development in the hydrogen technology value chain, as well as its first industrial deployment.

It was jointly prepared and notified by 15 European Union (EU) member states.

As agreed, the member states will provide up to €5.4bn ($5.46bn) in public funding, which could in turn attract an additional €8.8bn ($8.9bn) in private investments.

A total of 35 companies will participate in 41 different projects involving hydrogen generation, fuel cells and the storage, transportation and distribution of hydrogen, as well as end-user applications.

IPCEI Hy2Tech is expected to generate 20,000 direct jobs.

EC executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, who oversees competition policy, said: “Hydrogen has a huge potential going forward.

“It is an indispensable component for the diversification of energy sources and the green transition.

“Investing in such innovative technologies can, however, be risky for one member state or one company alone. This is where state aid rules for IPCEI have a role to play.

“Today’s project is an example of truly ambitious European cooperation for a key common objective. It also shows how competition policy works hand in hand with breakthrough innovation.”

Companies that are participating in the project include Alstom, Daimler Truck, Ansaldo and Neste.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton said the project highlighted the bloc’s efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

In May, Spanish energy utility Iberdrola committed a €3bn investment in green hydrogen as part of its efforts to expedite the European Green Deal.

The European Green Deal aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the EU by 55% by 2030 and make Europe ‘climate-neutral’ by 2050.