Innovation

A critical driver of clean energy transitions

Through research, investments and collaboration, a wide variety of energy fields are being reshaped by technology improvements, reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and boosting deployment. Effective policies are needed to support the best ideas from lab to market.

Key findings

Global public low-carbon energy RD&D budget, 2015-2020

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Energy innovation spending is on the rise, with most government R&D funding going to low-carbon energy technologies

Almost half of the reductions we need depend on technologies that are currently only at prototype or demonstration stage. While the signals for investment in low-carbon energy innovation are positive, they are insufficient. Global public energy R&D spending, including on demonstration projects, rose slightly, by around 2% to USD 32 billion in 2020, confirming that public budgets were resilient during the crisis. Start-ups seeking to launch their first clean energy products onto the market continue to attract record levels of finance. However, company research spending in energy-related fields fell by around 2% in 2020, with around USD 89 billion tracked by our analysis.
Our work on innovation

The energy sector has a long history of disruptive innovation leading to sweeping changes in energy markets, mobility and society at large. Governments are increasingly looking to guide and accelerate the development of technologies for energy transitions and competitive advantage in a changing energy system.

The IEA works with policy and decision makers around the world to track innovation spending, patents and start-ups, model technology potentials, share good policy practice and promote multilateral collaboration. Notably, the IEA Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT) co-ordinates and promotes the development, demonstration and deployment of technologies to meet challenges in the energy sector.