The Canadian government is awarding a C$13.6 million ($13.4 million) grant for the National Research Council’s Vancouver, BC-based fuel-cell and hydrogen industry as it officially opens the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Gateway – a technology demonstration and exhibit center.

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn says the grant reconfirms the government’s support for the work the NRC and its partners are doing to catalyze science and technology-based partnerships in Vancouver’s fuel-cell and hydrogen technologies cluster.

“Our government supports private-public research collaborations that accelerate the commercialization of hydrogen-based energy and alternatives that will lead to cleaner, renewable fuels,” Lunn says. “The time is right to develop solutions that respond to our environmental and energy-related challenges and create a competitive advantage for our country.”

In addition to the center, construction has begun on the only publicly available hydrogen-rated environmental test chamber in North America, the NRC says.

The Vancouver region already is home to what the NRC calls the world’s most sophisticated grouping of companies and organizations focused on fuel-cell and hydrogen technologies.

By 2016, when experts expect the global fuel-cell and hydrogen industry could total more than C$8.4 billion ($8.36 billion) annually, the NRC says its early strategic investments will have primed the Vancouver cluster to seize a significant share of the market.

Technology clusters are broadly based community partnerships between industry, academia and all levels of government focused on building a competitive advantage for Canada through research and innovation.

The NRC also is lending its support to Canada’s Fuel Cell Commercialization Roadmap, a government initiative that assembled 40 stakeholders to identify opportunities in fuel-cell research and development and map a strategy for technology commercialization.

The number of organizations that have partnered with NRC to bring pioneering technologies to market has doubled over five years, bringing the total to 19 industrial collaborations, 14 university partnerships and 10 international projects, the NRC says.

The NRC also has strengthened its relationships with three local universities to help develop and attract talent for local industry, establish hydrogen and fuel-cell consortiums, and leverage resources to build a knowledge advantage for the region and Canada.

British Columbia’s Hydrogen Highway – led by Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Canada and Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance – is an integral component of the NRC’s cluster strategy.

Envisioned as a key attraction at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the highway will extend 85 miles (137 km) from Vancouver’s airport to Whistler, BC.

The NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Research will be one of seven centers along the highway, providing hydrogen-refueling infrastructure as well as transportation, micro and stationary fuel-cell demonstrations.

The NRC also operates the Hydrogen Environmental Chamber, a public testing facility that is unique in North America. It can simulate the climatic extremes from polar to tropical environments – allowing small- and medium-size enterprises to test fuel-cell ideas and prepare innovations for international markets.