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Global sustainability challenges and countries’ quest for prosperity: can energy innovation policy respond to both?

A. Conchado, P. Linares

Policies that try to promote innovation in renewable technologies have become widespread, with countries contributing to them in different ways, and being able to realize different benefits. Understanding how innovation outcomes get distributed can be crucial both to clarify expectations of countries’ innovation policies and to look for cross-national solutions to climate change. Yet, we lack frameworks that help us to understand how innovation activities and their associated outcomes get distributed across countries, and which do so in a way consistent with the pursuit of sustainability. In this paper, we propose the Outcome-oriented Innovation Framework (OoIF) specifically conceived for that. After describing OoIF’s structure and dynamics, we apply it to analyze the distribution of innovation activities across countries in the case of solar PV and wind technologies. We offer an indicator-based representation of innovation dynamics by country in the period 2000-2013, and discuss the importance of cross-national relationships using evidence from previous studies. These cases illustrate how the outcomes that countries have been able to capture from innovation in renewables vary in time and depend to a large extent on global dynamics. From the perspective of a country, this implies that national innovation policies targeting renewables should carefully consider the position of the country in the global innovation landscape, both to define policy expectations and to incorporate initiatives to better take advantage of transnational dynamics. From a global perspective, if the collective goal is to accelerate the transition towards cleaner energy systems, we need to make the global innovation system work as effectively as possible while ensuring viable paths for countries. In this regard, there seems to be great potential in cross-national collaboration, and indeed some initiatives following the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Change Conference seem to be moving in this direction.


Keywords: technological innovation, outcome-oriented innovation system, cross-national relationships, renewable technologies.

Registration date: 2017-03-31

IIT-17-043A


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