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Overview

What factors drive innovation in energy technologies? The role of technology spillovers and government investment

Joint project funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, joint with Prof. Venkatesh Narayanamurti (Harvard Kennedy School, USA), and Prof. Gabriel Chan (University of Minesotta, USA).

This project evaluates the role of technology spillovers in the development of three clean energy technologies: solar photovoltaics, lithium‐ion batteries, and solid‐state lighting. Although experts have made calls for increasing clean energy R&D, there is limited understanding of how to manage this investment. What are the best mechanisms, public programs, and private efforts that reflect the role of cross‐sectoral innovation spillovers in driving change? Theories of innovation point to the critical role of innovation spillovers in driving macroeconomic growth and progress in specific technologies, yet public policies that explicitly harness innovation spillovers are limited. We investigate the evolution of three critical clean energy technologies to detail the role of cross‐sectoral innovation spillovers in driving progress to date. We will take a mixed‐methods approach to quantify the role of critical spillovers, determine how the spillovers occurred, and identify opportunities for policy innovation to harness spillovers to accelerate future clean energy innovation. Our work relies on a mixed methods approach relying on an econometric analysis of secondary data sources (primarily patent data), original primary interviews with expert technologists in the field, and engineering modelling.

Project co-PI: Professor Laura Diaz Anadon

Cambridge Team members:

Dr. Sergey Kolesnikov

Martin Beuse

Michael Weinold

Publications:

Sun, B., Kolesnikov, S., Goldstein, A., & Chan, G. (2021). A dynamic approach for identifying technological breakthroughs with an application in solar photovoltaics. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 165, 120534. Link

Stephan, A., Anadon, L. D., & Hoffmann, V. H. (2021). How has external knowledge contributed to lithium-ion batteries for the energy transition?. iScience, 24, 101995. Link / Download PDF

Related policy and media publications:

Weinold, M. (2020). A Long Overdue End to Flicker: The 2020 EU Lighting Efficiency Regulations. Cambridge Journal of Science and Policy, 1(1). Link / Download PDF