There’s a lot to be said for the old saying, “Build it and they will come”. After years of lobbying and several more months of negotiations, the federal government has finally provided key strategic funding for the fuel cells sector. The lion’s share of the $215-million package devoted to the hydrogen economy is being flowed into demonstration projects.
The rationale is simple. In an emerging sector like fuel cells, customers can’t be expected to open their wallets until they know what they’re buying. As this issue’s lead article explains, the fuel cells industry has long argued that support for R&D is only part of the solution. Major funding is also required to help companies demonstrate the benefits of their new technologies. And if Canada doesn’t provide it, companies will be compelled to go to jurisdictions where the importance of demonstration projects is recognized.
Canada has lost enough time dithering with the fuel cells file so it’s gratifying to see that Ottawa has gotten the message and acted accordingly. Now it has to come to grips with the fact that the funding is split over too many agencies and departments. The fuel cells industry needs to move quickly to maintain its leadership position, not wade through layers of varying terms and conditions. The suggestion that government should provide a single point for funding applications is also a good one.
Now it’s up to industry to demonstrate that the funding they’ve received is money well spent. The creation of new technologies, markets and jobs is the kind of return on investment Ottawa is looking for.