ETI: Innovation to help UK meet its carbon targets

The UK needs innovation to help meet its carbon targets, but successful low carbon innovation should not just focus on technological breakthroughs, according to a new report by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Successful innovation has several critical components, including how to inspire market confidence and attract finance and investment as well as understanding the role that public policy will have.

The ETI report “Accelerating Low Carbon Energy Innovation in the UK” looks at the innovation challenge, identifies a conceptual model of the UK innovation system in low carbon energy and charts the critical components and challenges facing innovators.

It concludes that meeting the challenge of delivering safe, secure and affordable energy combined with substantial reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases will require significant innovation in new, low carbon technologies over the coming decades. Innovation will be required in the way the country’s energy is generated and delivered and the way in which it is used in homes, transport systems, industries, workplaces.

It will be easier to achieve this transition, at the scale and pace required, if there is a shared understanding of the drivers of new low carbon, energy technologies, the barriers that can impede their development and the key interactions required to unlock opportunities in the UK.

Describing the UK innovation system with an accessible and consistent framework for identifying these issues, helps to identify accelerated pathways for innovation and some of the specific challenges that need to be addressed.

The ETI’s Partnership manager Mike Colechin said: “The UK needs innovation to meet its carbon targets and that innovation needs to happen rapidly. If we don’t undertake innovation the transition to a low carbon economy will take longer and it will be more expensive.

“Many low carbon technologies will have to travel a long, expensive and risky innovation journey to get from initial idea to market. The conceptual model in the report provides a framework that can be adapted for different technologies and the innovation pathways or “journeys” they may follow.

“These journeys can be viewed from the perspective of the innovator, investor, policy maker or end user and the framework can be used to identify the different barriers or issues those stakeholders will face and the interactions that must take place at the different stages of the innovation chain.”

The report also highlights the importance of collaboration across a range of different stakeholders and the need for them to transfer knowledge and learning between each other.

Mike Colechin added“It is particularly important to encourage collaboration between the academic and business sectors and the government as it’s easier to achieve a transition with a shared understanding of the drivers of new low carbon energy technologies.

“Most low carbon markets are almost entirely driven by public policy but delivered by the private sector. Policy interventions are often needed and businesses need certainty so policy stability matters.”

The report can be found here.

Image: ETI