RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT NEEDS MORE SUPPORT IN POLICY IF THE UK IS TO LEAD TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION TOWARDS A GREEN FUTURE
With our world class institutions and researchers, Britain can lead the way by innovating solutions for a better future.
- The UK promised to double its public investment in low-carbon energy innovation and to promote increased international cooperation at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference.
- 5 years later, the UK’s R&D as a percentage of GDP is 1.71% and the government has only committed to its target of 2.4% of GDP invested in UK R&D by 2027.
- The government has a longer term goal of 3% of GDP but no target date is specified.
We propose the following to boost research and development in the UK:
- A target of 3% R&D should be delivered earlier than 2027.
- Low carbon R&D funding should be in addition to existing R&D expenditures.
- Invest in wind, solar, biofuels, biomass, small hydro, and geothermal and other sustainable fields. With R&D into green technologies, such as heat pumps, energy storage, plant genetics, and greenhouse gas removal, electric vehicle batteries.
- The Government must take a more direct role in providing existing R&D institutions and organisations with the funding to carry out their work. This should include grants for business enterprises and universities, and investment in UK Research and Innovation and private non-profit organisations.
- Investments in low-carbon R&D will facilitate the assimilation of low carbon systems into our daily lives by developing technologies that make it efficient, affordable, and comfortable to do so. These technological advancements will also help limit our consumption of scarce natural resources.
- Increasing public expenditure on low-carbon R&D is also politically attractive because low-carbon innovations have larger economic benefits than the carbon-intensive technologies they replace.
- The UK has the capacity to become the most innovative country in the world in fighting climate change and guarantee higher standards of living in terms of health and wealth.
LEARN MORE: POLICIES IN ACTION
Despite being the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, China currently ranks 47th by per capita emissions. This may be partially attributable to China’s solid lead in renewable energy innovation, having invested more than any other country in general energy R&D along with renewables R&D (mainly granted to academic institutions), accounting for 29% of the world’s renewable energy patents in 2016. The Renewable Energy Law passed in 2006 in particular spurred advancements in solar energy technology, through large investments in public R&D projects. China has already surpassed its 2022 solar power production target (first nation to pass 100 GW of solar capacity, aiming to reach 1330 GW by 2050), and is currently the largest manufacturer of solar technology, accounting for over 60% of the world’s total.
Japan ranks 3rd in R&D expenditure, with a global share of 9.5%. Japan also ranks 3rd when considering R&D as a percentage of GDP, allocating 3.4% of the economy to innovation. As part of the Cool Earth 50 Act (2007) and the 2012 growth strategy, subsidy programs aimed at stimulating low carbon technology research have been implemented. Japan holds the highest number of international renewable energy patents published from 2010 to 2019, for renewable sources in general and specifically within solar and fuel cell patent technologies.
More information on the policies in action
- CO2 emission by country.
- Meet the world’s number 1 R&D player in sustainable energy: the Chinese Academy of Sciences
- China is set to become the world’s renewable energy superpower.
- Lessons from photovoltaic policies in China for future development.