Coalition building/project governance
What challenges did you face during the process of coalition building and establishing project governance?
Grande Region Hydrogen: Being a cross-border Valley along the entire hydrogen value chain, we wanted to ensure a high-degree of flexibility of all involved project partners. Operating in different regulatory markets with different legal structures, we were facing the challenge of setting up a legal entity that ensures independence for all partners while allowing for flexibility of our joint interest group.
North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley: The idea of a North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley between Slovenia, Croatia and the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy required political commitment from the political representatives of all three regions. This obviously brings along various challenges during set-up and development of the project – such as language barriers, joint communication, identifying representatives, establishing teams, securing funding, and building a legal governance model.
Hydrogen Hub Noord-Holland: The region of Noord-Holland has very ambitious plans for the development of a hydrogen infrastructure. In order to achieve these ambitions, the various players along the hydrogen value chain realized that establishing a form of partnership that includes governments, private companies, and the research community very much increases the efficiency in achieving a common goal – a sustainable hydrogen infrastructure for the region.
What specific measures did you take to overcome these challenges?
Grande Region Hydrogen: We jointly decided to set up a European Economic Interest Group (EEIG). All our Hydrogen Valley members are equal shareholders in the EEIG, while we still have the option to welcome additional partners to the group based on our constitution document. The established management board is able to provide guidance and structure internally while giving us a common voice as a Hydrogen Valley externally.
North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley: Most importantly, we ensured from the very first day that all parties and territories involved are always treated equally and all actions and key decisions are taken together. Having this agreement in place was – and still is – crucial to keep up the momentum of the project idea and have a high degree of trust and willingness to collaborate in place. From an operational perspective, a key measure was the set-up of our "joint working group", which represents the political regions through members of the hydrogen industry and research community. The joint working group serves as a steering group to the overall project while its local representatives can very efficiently coordinate the project development in the respective territories. In terms of project governance, we are currently in the process of establishing a AISBL ("association internationale sans but lucratif"), which is a non-profit transnational organisation structure under Belgian law. It will allow us to efficiently steer the development of the North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley while accounting for the interests of all three involved territories as well as providing a single voice of the project to all external stakeholders.
Hydrogen Hub Noord-Holland: A lot of projects were already under development individually when the Hydrogen Valley Noord-Holland officially started. Therefore, we already had a degree of interdependency between our members, which helps accelerating collaboration and knowledge sharing when working towards a common goal. In terms of project governance, we have set up a "roundtable" of different layers to manage this broad coalition of partners. This enables joint decision-making on the long-term strategic project direction as well as knowledge-sharing, networking and connecting on an operation working level up to bilateral talks between Hydrogen Valley members.
What learnings can other projects take away from your experience?
Grande Region Hydrogen: From our experience, for a cross-border interest group with various individual projects, coordination between the members is the key to success. A legal structure is very helpful to achieve this. We believe it was very important for us to set up a joint board that can steer and represent the different interests from the beginning. In addition, we also established a common vision and timeline between the individual project developers early on. Given that partners are active in different parts of the hydrogen value chain, this common vision really enhanced the degree of collaboration in the group.
North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley: An eye-level communication between all stakeholders is of the highest importance when setting up a project that builds on a large consortium. It not only helped us keeping our momentum alive so far, but really had an impact on the efficiency of our project development – for example enabling transnational connections between individual projects that enhance collaboration and save actual money.
Hydrogen Hub Noord-Holland: Establishing a continuous communication channel between project members on different working levels is a crucial part of the success of our collaboration. An important learning for others could be that for multi-partner projects, all partners should have "skin in the game" early on to ensure actual commitment and engagement.