Sustainability Research Institute

Exploring the Conditions for Innovation and Uptake of New Energy Technologies

Contact: Dr Tim Foxon

Funding body: Research Councils UK

Amount: £125,000

Duration: 2007-2012

This Research Councils UK Academic Fellowship is hosted by the Sustainability Research Institute, in association with the University’s Earth, Energy and Environment Interdisciplinary Institute. The research focuses on exploring the conditions for the innovation and take-up of low carbon technologies for climate change mitigation. A systems and co-evolutionary approach will be used to investigate how a transition to a low carbon economy could be facilitated through the co-evolution of technologies, institutions and business strategies. This approach draws on a range of recent work in innovation systems, complexity theory, evolutionary and institutional economics and industrial history. The need to take a systems view of innovation was supported by the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, drawing on work including a report for the Carbon Trust on ‘Inducing Innovation for a Low Carbon Future: drivers, barriers and policies’ (Foxon, 2003). This examined how innovation systems theory considers interactions between a range of actors, the importance of uncertainty and ‘bounded rationality’ of actors, and the role of institutional factors as drivers of, and barriers to, innovation.

Though the findings of the Stern Review were endorsed by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, it remains a huge challenge to understand in more detail and to implement a transition to a low carbon economy, particularly in view of the rising demands for energy services from China, India and other rapidly industrialising countries. This research will contribute to the challenge of developing an appropriate mix of policies to promote a low carbon transition in the UK, including measures to promote both R&D and deployment of low carbon technologies, as well as market-based instruments, such as emissions trading, and measures to overcome institutional and other non-market barriers to deployment.