Climate and energy-related research and innovation (R&I) has an essential role to play in the EU’s deep decarbonisation, as part of the long-term climate strategy and European Green Deal flagship policy. The EU has considerable financial resources across multiple funding instruments to ensure R&I helps deliver climate neutrality – but these funds must be designed in a coherent and complementary manner to support clean innovation across the whole of the EU economy.
The scale of action required for the EU to meet climate neutrality by mid-century requires unprecedented restructuring of technological, economic and social systems in a short time window. The urgency of the need to tackle climate change, and the technological and social needs created by this, means the importance of innovation across all member states and their economies will continue growing. This reinforces the need for the EU to have a dedicated clean innovation policy framework that can deliver deep decarbonisation.
Adopt a solution-driven approach to innovation
EU innovation should be focused on delivering targeted low carbon aims and outcomes, that are delivered within a specific time frame. The overall effectiveness of innovation funding instruments can be maximised by ensuring they are focused on high level policy outcomes. Coordinating between funds towards reaching climate neutrality would help the development and deployment of clean innovation and enable deep decarbonisation.
Facilitate the deployment of innovative technology
Innovative low carbon technology often faces the challenge of being deployed within existing policies that do not always promote innovative or immature technology. Although EU policies on early innovation and giving a ‘push’ are largely successful, there remains insufficient ‘pull’ from markets and deployment-focused policies to ensure innovation reaches markets and commercialisation. EU innovation funds need to better support the deployment of low carbon technologies, not just their development.
Cover all stages of the innovation process
Innovation takes place across all stages of the development of technology, beyond just early stage research, extending through commercialisation, deployment and business models related to how the technology will be used. But not all funds have the same level of focus on clean innovation or individual stages of innovation, meaning it is unclear if there is sufficient support for the specific areas of the innovation process that need it most.
Ensure funds are socially and geographically inclusive
Innovation policies should be designed to improve social welfare for EU citizens as well as drive climate-related technological innovation. Achieving climate neutrality requires deep-seated changes to the way individuals and societies live and work, and how they use and interact with energy. Better understanding and support for the social dynamic of climate neutrality across all regions of the EU will be crucial for this next phase of technological development and innovation.
Read the full briefing, Delivering Climate Neutrality: Accelerating EU Decarbonisation with Research & Innovation Funding, here.