Energy Technology Innovation Partnerships
Released 19 June 2019. Updated 2 July 2019.
In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on energy technology innovation as a means to reach energy policy goals and meet ambitious climate targets. International collaboration in research, development and demonstration can play an important role in identifying priorities, challenges and innovation gaps, as well as sharing best practices to improve performance, reduce costs and deploy key energy technologies. Given the growing complexity and interconnection of energy systems, co‑operation and networking can increase effectiveness, facilitate action and maximise the impact of innovation efforts.
Many partnerships around the world were designed to accelerate energy innovation, such as the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) or more recently Mission Innovation (MI). Important contributions are also being made regionally, for example under the EU framework, and through initiatives with a mandate broader than innovation, for example the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM).
However, despite the central role of innovation in global energy transitions and the potential of international collaboration, there is limited information available on the full landscape of multilateral initiatives and how they interact. As a result, the IEA is seeking to map and analyse energy technology innovation efforts, facilitate communication, and foster strategic engagement across platforms and mechanisms.
This immediate analysis aims to 1) inform discussions on how to support efficient co‑operation and information sharing across various mechanisms; 2) compare the structure and activities of four selected mechanisms: TCPs, MI, CEM and the European Technology and Innovation Platforms; and 3) lay out opportunities for future work.
Section A. Innovation to drive energy transitions
- Innovation processes from early-stage RD&D to deployment may take decades. Policy makers should take a holistic approach to RD&D funding for energy technology innovation, considering each effort in the context of wider processes.
- Public bodies are critical actors in energy technology innovation; the private sector also plays a vital role, especially to ensure that key technologies reach markets. Policy makers should explore ways to further tap into private-sector capabilities and investments.
- International collaboration may increase effectiveness, bring efficiency benefits and maximise the impact of energy technology innovation efforts. The IEA is enhancing efforts to track energy innovation, and can help facilitate multilateral initiatives and collaborations.
Section B. Mapping multilateral initiatives in energy technology innovation
- There are a growing number and variety of collaborative mechanisms relevant to energy technology innovation. They adopt different institutional frameworks, mandates, scopes of activities and technology focus areas, and may operate globally or regionally.
- Given the growing complexity of the landscape of international and regional partnerships on energy technology innovation, relevant stakeholders recognise the need for a better overview and broad mapping analysis. This could assist the IEA family to identify synergies and improve international strategies to advance clean technologies.
- An online, searchable repository of multilateral innovation partnerships may provide a valuable tool for decision makers and collaborative mechanisms to identify potential synergies between ongoing activities. The relevance and feasibility of such listing could be further discussed with the relevant stakeholders.
Section C. Comparative analysis of selected collaborative mechanisms
- The immediate analysis compares the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes, the Clean Energy Ministerial, Mission Innovation, and the European Technology and Innovation Platforms against five criteria: institutional framework, membership structure, sector and/or technology focus, scope and outputs of activities, and cross-mechanism interactions.
- Cross-mechanism collaboration. There appears to be at least some overlap in technology focus and/or activities across different collaborative mechanisms, possibly inducing risks of duplication, the dilution of policy makers’ attention, and fundraising and political support challenges. More in-depth and regular mapping could help identify areas for potential collaboration. Countries are often member of several collaborative mechanisms, which may enable or facilitate cross-mechanism collaboration.
- Private-sector involvement. There is substantial utility and interest from many of these initiatives in further deepening the engagement with private-sector actors to tap into potentially greater investments and capabilities. Future work could examine best practices related to private-sector involvement.
- Measuring outputs and outcomes. Further efforts could be undertaken to establish constructive evaluation and feedback frameworks within collaborative mechanisms. Delivering publicly available reviews of ongoing activities may help the innovation ecosystem identify areas for engagement across partnerships and enhance transparency.
In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on energy technology innovation as a means to reach energy policy goals and to meet ambitious climate targets. International collaboration in innovation, including in research, development and demonstration (RD&D), can play an important role in identifying common priorities, challenges and innovation gaps, as well as sharing best practices to improve performance, reduce costs and deploy key energy technologies. Given the growing complexity and interconnection of energy systems, co‑operation and networking can increase effectiveness, facilitate collective action, bring efficiency benefits and maximise the impact of innovation efforts.
Many multilateral partnerships around the world were designed to accelerate energy innovation, such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) or more recently Mission Innovation (MI). Important contributions are also being made at the regional level, for example under the European Union framework, and through initiatives with a mandate broader than energy technology innovation, for example the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM). The last decades have seen a growing number and variety of such collaborative mechanisms, operating under different institutional frameworks and mandates, with different scopes of activities and technology focus areas. However, despite the central role of innovation in global energy transitions and the potential of international collaboration, there is limited information available on the full landscape of these multilateral initiatives and how they interact.
As a result, the IEA is seeking to map and analyse energy technology innovation efforts, enhance communication, and foster strategic engagement across mechanisms. IEA member and partner countries, as well as the broader innovation ecosystem, would benefit from the identification of synergies to avoid duplication of efforts, conduct joint activities, and accelerate the development and deployment of clean technologies to achieve climate goals. The ambition is for this analysis to serve as a starting point in this endeavour, paving the way for further research in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders.
Section A of this paper introduces key concepts related to technology innovation processes as well as energy-specific trends in RD&D spending, and considers the benefits of international collaboration. Then, Section B examines selected multilateral initiatives relevant to energy technology innovation and existing efforts to map them, and provides illustrations of key global and regional mechanisms. Finally, Section C presents the findings of a comparative analysis among four selected mechanisms: TCPs, MI, CEM and the European Technology and Innovation Platforms (ETIPs).
Key conclusions from the analysis include:
- Apart from TCPs, non-legally binding agreements appear to be the preferred institutional basis, as collaborative mechanisms seek flexibility and responsiveness. The institutional framework should respond to the desired longevity and innovation activities planned by the initiatives. Overall, a binding framework may provide a stable foundation for initiatives undertaking RD&D activities over longer time spans.
- Countries from the IEA family (member countries, countries that are pursuing membership and Association countries) have the broadest participation across the selected mechanisms. Given the overlapping activities and mandates of the partnerships examined, it is a challenge for decision makers and innovators to determine which engagements are a priority and most effective. Policy makers and energy technology innovation stakeholders may benefit from an online and searchable repository of all innovation collaborative mechanisms classified by type, publicly available and regularly updated, which could be featured on the IEA Innovation web portal (iea.org/innovation) if materialised. Further discussions with the relevant mechanisms could examine the relevance and feasibility of such a tool.
- The analysis of selected partnerships reveals a predominant focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency and cross-cutting technologies, with the highest crowding on solar energy, smart grids, and carbon capture and storage. Given the competing priorities of national RD&D budgets, it has never been more important for innovation partnerships to work towards their visions as effectively as possible. To develop synergies and economies of scale where possible, and to minimise unnecessary duplication of efforts, collaborative mechanisms should regularlyexplore co‑location opportunities for conferences and meetings as well as co‑branding for relevant innovation activities.
- The effectiveness of innovation partnerships depends on a variety of factors, ranging from adequate allocation of resources to the governance framework, as well as engagements of key public- and private-sector stakeholders at country level. It is critical that partnerships take a strategic, proactive approach to engaging with stakeholders at the most advanced knowledge frontier as well as from markets with the highest potential for innovative technology adoption, such as the People’s Republic of China and India. There are considerable opportunities for further expanding stakeholder and additional market participation in the initiatives under review.
- Given the proliferation of multilateral efforts around clean energy technology innovation, there is clear potential for further and closer co‑operation across initiatives. Innovation partnerships would also benefit from greater visibility and support in high-level political platforms such as under the Group of Seven (G7) and the Group of Twenty (G20), and efforts under the United Nations and regional fora. There is an opportunity for the IEA to help support collaborative mechanisms in enhancing and streamlining co‑ordination among key initiatives.