Determinants of the Pace of Global Innovation in Energy Technologies
SANTA FE INST NM
Pagination or Media Count:
Understanding the factors driving innovation in energy technologies is of critical importance to mitigating climate change and addressing other energy-related global challenges. Low levels of innovation, measured in terms of energy patent filings, were noted in the 1980s and 90s as an issue of concern and were attributed to limited investment in public and private research and development RD. Here we build a comprehensive global database of energy patents covering the period 1970-2009, which is unique in its temporal and geographical scope. Analysis of the data reveals a recent, marked departure from historical trends. A sharp increase in rates of patenting has occurred over the last decade, particularly in renewable technologies, despite continued low levels of RD funding. To solve the puzzle of fast innovation despite modest RD increases, we develop a model that explains the nonlinear response observed in the empirical data of technological innovation to various types of investment. The model reveals a regular relationship between patents, RD funding, and growing markets across technologies, and accurately predicts patenting rates at different stages of technological maturity and market development. We show quantitatively how growing markets have formed a vital complement to public RD in driving innovative activity. These two forms of investment have each leveraged the effect of the other in driving patenting trends over long periods of time.
- Economics and Cost Analysis
- Electric Power Production and Distribution