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Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance

In June 2022, the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) at the University of Cambridge and Laura Diaz Anadon, Professor of Climate Change Policy and Director of C-EENRG, delivered a policy workshop on strengthening the UK’s innovation ecosystem in the energy space to meet the government’s net zero target. This event brought together senior policy and academic experts from the UK, Europe, and the US to share and analyse the most up-to-date evidence, identify policy implications, and propose next steps.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss key steps the UK could take to strengthen its innovation ecosystem to jointly address the country’s climate, productivity, and fairness goals at a crucial moment in time for the climate and for the UK’s role in the world.

The outcomes of the workshop have now been published in an openly available report 'Strengthening the UK’s innovation ecosystem to meet net zero targets and advance competitiveness.' The report is co-authored by Florence Robinson Adams and Julia Amtmann, Centre for Science and Policy; Anish Chaluvadi, PhD Student in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoDTC), University of Cambridge; and Sergey Kolesnikov, Deputy Director of C-EENRG.

Three key takeaways from the workshop highlighted in the report are the following:

  • Urgency: Participants agreed that the current set of institutions in the UK’s innovation ecosystem is insufficient if we want to achieve net zero targets and were keen to stress the urgency with which we need to reform and restructure UK institutions if we want to achieve net zero targets.

  • Researcher autonomy: Participants agreed that there is a clear need for flexibility and researcher autonomy if we want to encourage clean energy innovation. This can be encouraged, for example, by low-hierarchical challenge-oriented funding structures based on the model of ARPA-E agency in the US. This flexibility, however, must be paired with clearly defined metrics of success.

  • Place-based policy: Participants shared the concern that at present the UK biases research and innovation funding towards the South-East, and that this approach fails to address the social challenges inherent in achieving net zero. A closer collaboration between national and local government, along with an increase in regional autonomy, will be necessary to achieve net zero targets.

Read the full report here

Read the news report on the workshop by CSaP: Innovating our way to Net Zero: Insights from a Policy Workshop