Global·FEATURES·Most Successful Women27.05.2024

Jane Yiying Zhang: Leading the Hydrogen-Powered Charge to our Green Future

Jane Yiying Zhang is redefining the contours of sustainable technology in Shenzhen's fast-evolving skyline. As the Secretary General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, and a proud recipient of this year's JESSICA Most Successful Women award, her career is a blueprint for integrating scientific innovation with strategic sustainability. Jane's roles have spanned the globe, from environmental research institutes in Scandinavia to NGOs and diplomatic agencies strengthening international cooperation where she has not only advanced clean technology but has also been a pivotal mentor and leader in youth innovation programs. Her work today is at the nexus of environmental research and practical application, making substantial strides towards a sustainable tomorrow.

Pioneering the Future of Clean Technology

Jane's path to clean technology is a story of personal growth and dedication. Her initial concerns about environmental protection transformed into a passionate drive to combat climate change through carbon emission reduction. Today, as the Secretary-General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, she is a leading advocate for new technologies and their commercialization, propelling the world toward a more sustainable future.

Jane Yiying Zhang, Secretary General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. JESSICA Magazine

Reflecting on her journey, she shares, "Choosing this path was a natural progression for me. It's been a transformative process, from initial concerns about environmental protection to the urgent call to combat climate change through carbon emission reduction. Now, my role is to promote new technologies and their commercialization, to build a more sustainable future. This is not a task for a single group; it's a collective effort that requires the involvement of policymakers, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and advocates like us."

Jane emphasizes the importance of collaboration and innovation in achieving sustainable goals. She believes that the most promising opportunities lie in the intersection of the need for energy transition and the rapidly developing technology, where diverse groups work together to drive meaningful change. "The path to a sustainable future is paved with collaboration and innovation," she asserts. "By harnessing the collective expertise of various stakeholders, we can develop and implement technologies that not only address current environmental challenges but also pave the way for a greener, more sustainable world."

The Intersection of Experience and Innovation

Jane's multifaceted career has profoundly shaped her strategic approach to sustainability. "I have worked in project management, consulting, government relations, and public affairs," she shares. "My career definitely reflects my personality and interests. I value the power of science and innovation, which is why I stay close to the technology end of my career path."

Jane Yiying Zhang, Secretary General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. JESSICA Magazine

Jane Yiying Zhang, Secretary General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. JESSICA Magazine

This diverse background has allowed her to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability. "Sustainability is an interdisciplinary, systematic issue that requires the engagement of all parties," she explains. Her extensive experience in stakeholder relationship management underscores the importance of collaboration in driving sustainable initiatives. "I have been involved in a lot of stakeholder relationship management, an area I find both challenging and interesting."

Jane acknowledges the complexities of international collaboration in recent years, shaped by geopolitical tensions, safety concerns, energy crises, and the pandemic. Despite these challenges, she remains optimistic about the potential for global partnerships in sustainability. "We have witnessed many ups and downs—more downs than ups—in terms of global partnerships, trade, and investment," she observes. "However, I see great opportunities in international collaboration on sustainability issues. These issues are global threats to our lives but also present significant potential for technological advancement, economic growth, and green development."

Jane highlights the strategic importance of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in this context. "The GBA stands out due to its abundant talent resources, industrial base, supply chain, and logistics advantages, and most importantly, openness and fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship," she explains. This region's unique strengths make it a pivotal player in fostering international partnerships and driving forward sustainable development initiatives.

"The development of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA), from scratch to now a Shenzhen-based organization with influences across the country, even overseas, would be my key accomplishment," she reflects.

Under her leadership, SHFCA has grown from a nascent idea into a major player in the clean technology sector, influencing national and international landscapes. This accomplishment underscores her dedication to advancing sustainable technologies and highlights her ability to foster collaboration and innovation. The impact of SHFCA's work resonates widely, driving the adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and setting a benchmark for future advancements in the field. Through SHFCA, Zhang has significantly contributed to the sustainable development of her community and beyond, paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future.

What is the future of clean technology? How can we shape a more sustainable future

Jane views the rapid commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as a pivotal advancement and a major part of a greener future. "The accelerating commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies is key," she notes. "This scale-up effect significantly reduces production costs and enhances product performance, making these technologies more accessible and efficient."

Jane Yiying Zhang, Secretary General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. JESSICA Magazine

She also highlights critical improvements in manufacturing and the development of essential materials. These advancements are crucial for the broader adoption and optimization of hydrogen technologies. "Improvements in manufacturing processes and key material developments are driving the industry forward," she explains. "These enhancements not only boost efficiency but also reduce costs, making hydrogen and fuel cell technologies more viable on a larger scale."

Moreover, she points to the growing integration of hydrogen with renewable energy sources and electricity networks. This synergy is vital for maximizing the potential of hydrogen as a sustainable energy solution. "The increasing focus on coupling hydrogen with renewable energy and our electricity grid is particularly promising," she emphasizes. "While some may regard hydrogen as the ultimate energy source, I see it as the ultimate energy carrier. Its diverse applications make it ideal for long-term energy storage solutions, addressing the rising demand and capacity for renewable energy. Hydrogen can be transformed into clean fuels, feedstocks, power, and heat, contributing to a sustainable and green future."

Nurturing the Next Generation of Sustainability Leaders

Jane's dedication to mentorship and fostering youth innovation is rooted in her formative experiences. "I greatly value my experiences in my master's program in Sweden and my first internship at the Stockholm Environment Institute," she recalls. "These opportunities exposed me to a broader world of research and sustainable communities, and I deeply appreciate the mentors I encountered." She believes in leveraging available resources and platforms to inspire and empower young leaders to create impactful experiences. "I strive to inspire younger people to keep their minds open to new experiences and opportunities," she says. One such initiative is a forthcoming collaboration with the School of Science and Engineering at CUHK Shenzhen. "This summer, we are initiating our first joint internship program, which will bring together students and companies in Shenzhen's hydrogen and fuel cell sector." By providing practical, hands-on experiences, she aims to cultivate the next generation of leaders who will drive sustainable development forward.

Jane Yiying Zhang, Secretary General of the Shenzhen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. JESSICA Magazine

She offers sage advice rooted in her long-term perspective on success and sustainability. "I consider myself a long-termist. Success in our work does not come easily or quickly. Sustainability is a lifelong commitment, likely requiring generations to achieve," she shares. In a world driven by instant gratification, she emphasizes the importance of patience and resilience.

"Set your goals, then give yourself more patience and space for errors. Start with what interests and inspires you the most and keep looking for the suitable path rather than the 'right' path. It is a long-term and dynamic process."

As a pioneering woman in the hydrogen and fuel cell sector, Jane is proud of the increasing female representation in this field. "Back in 2016 and 2017, there were few female faces in the hydrogen and fuel cell sector. I am happy to see more and more women taking leading roles in this field," she notes. She is dedicated to fostering a community that recognizes and values the contributions of women, encouraging greater engagement and empowerment. Her journey and advice serve as models for anyone aspiring to make a significant impact in sustainability, especially women.

A Truly Inspiring Woman in Sustainability

In a career marked by continuous innovation and thoughtful leadership, Jane Yiying Zhang is a significant force in sustainable development. Her recognition as one of the JESSICA Most Successful Women honors her profound impact on the field. Her approach, characterized by a rigorous commitment to technology and policy, continues to influence and inspire a global audience. As we look toward future challenges in sustainability, her contributions offer solutions and hope, guiding us toward more responsible and innovative environmental stewardship.

Written by: Jeremy Chapnick
Photos by: Raymond Chan