Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2010

Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors

by Rebecca Henderson and Richard G. Newell


A combination of concerns about climate change and energy security has recently led to significant increases in public funding for energy R&D. Some commentators are suggesting that these increases need to be sustained, and are advocating for increases of as much as three or four hundred percent, suggesting that the US needs a "Manhattan project" for energy. Other observers have discussed supporting innovation through a range of additional policy interventions, including tax credits, loan guarantees, IP policy, regulatory mandates, codes and standards. It is critically important that these kinds of interventions be thoughtfully designed since it seems probable that without major advances in energy technology it is unlikely that the world will be able to reduce green house gas emissions rapidly enough to avoid a substantial increase in the risk of significant climate change. This book hopes to contribute to the public debate in this area by pulling together a group of distinguished economists who have studied the role of public support in generating innovation in other sectors of the economy. Over the last few years relatively few economists have studied energy innovation in any depth, but there has been a substantial investment in understanding the dynamics of innovation in a wide range of other industries, including pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, IT and telecommunications, defense, chemicals and agriculture. We believe that there are valuable lessons in this research for the energy sector.

Keywords: Innovation and Management; Technological Innovation; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Research and Development; Pollution and Pollutants; Weather and Climate Change; Energy Industry;


Henderson, Rebecca, and Richard G. Newell. "Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-067, February 2010. (Revised February 2011.)